Hakone is one of those places that every person from, or living in Tokyo has been. It’s kind of like Blackpool or Skegness for English people. We were the exception to that rule until last weekend, when we finally made the trip over there.
My initial impressions were pretty downbeat, truth be told. We arrived on a Friday and the place was crawling with Japanese tourists/old people. The trains was so crammed that a father used his child as a means to lever me away from the opening door. You’ll be surprised to know that this isn’t the first time this has happened in Japan. I have also, had an instance where a mother, paying absolutely no attention to anything except the train board, dragged her child right into my elbow. The child was obviously dazed, but the mother simply told her that it was dangerous to not look where she was going (priceless). The trend has also caught on here of spending an hour in a coffee shop looking at your phone, the children – depending on how active they feel – either going wild or staring numbly into space. A* parenting. Mobile phones have indeed make our life easier. They have also made it much easier to be a complete and utter tool.
Once Friday was over and done with, the short break got a lot more pleasant, the trains becoming freer and the scenery being unobstructed by the clamouring hordes. The cable car ride was particularly stunning, giving a great view of mount Fuji which was fortunately – for once – not completely covered by clouds.
Another highlight was the Yunnessan hot spring resort, which while being far removed from a traditional Onsen, was still good fun. We had the chance to bathe in a variety of hot baths containing green tea, red whine, sake, anti-ageing chemicals and chocolate. There was even one with a high salt concentration in which you couldn’t stay below the surface without a firm hold of something.
I was teaching a man the other day whose passion is cars (a real pain for me, who has little to no interest in them whatsoever). We eventually got onto the subject of brand loyalty, most specifically for brands that are Japanese. He said many long-winded things, the core of which being that many American and European cars (with the exception of German) are unsafe, whereas all Japanese cars are exceptionally safe and trustworthy. I really had to bite my tongue to stop myself from mentioning the Toyota recall disaster – Japan’s biggest car manufacturer.