Friday, August 1, 2008

Hakone Kosui

We had the most amazing day yesterday, and again, it's a shame Bob missed out on it. I've posted 170ish pictures out of the 455 I took in my Shutterfly album if you want to see them. One of the places we visited, Lake Ashi, is the picture in the header of my blog.

We went on a trip through ITT (Information, Tours & Tickets on the base) over to Hakone, about a 2 hour drive from where we live. The bus picked us up at 1 pm in our housing area, then we headed straight to the Hakone Ropeway. We took a cable car ride which was so neat. Once we left the station Sydney immediately yelled out, "Mom, we're flying!" The other people with us laughed and thought it was adorable. I told them that morning what we were doing, but I don't think she understood until we were there and saw it. Keanna was very excited, and both of them enjoyed watching the cable cars at the station just as much as being in the air. Had it not been hazy the view would have better, and in the winter time apparently there's an incredible view of Mt. Fuji, or as it's referred to here, Fujisan. We went over Owakudani (大涌谷) which translates into English as Great Boiling Valley. Owakudani is the area around a crater created in the last eruption of Mount Hakone 3000 years ago. Sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers can be experienced on a walk around the area. The area below us is actually used to heat the natural springs at Yunessun, the spa we went to in June.

When we arrived at the next station our bus was waiting for us to take us over to another area of Owakudani. This was something I didn't know we were doing, so it was a surprise. We got off the bus and saw sulfur vents, so it looked and smelled a lot like Kiluea Military Camp on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our tour guide was very kind, and since I was the only one there with little kids, and also the only one there without a spouse or friend, she stuck with us. We had until 5 pm to walk around, so I thought we'd walk around the shops, grab a bite to eat and get back on the bus. Well she held Keanna's hand and told me to follow her. She's Japanese and works for ITT; she was also the woman that was the guide when we went to the spa. Keanna and Sydney saw people eating ice cream and naturally they wanted one, but she asked them if they liked eggs and said she had a surprise. We took the short (though arduous) walk up to the boiling sulfur pools. On the way up the path there were little steps, and as she went up them Keanna was counting. Our guide was counting them too, only in Japanese, and she told Keanna to repeat her. They did the same thing on the walk down, and don't you know, Keanna's telling me she has ni (sounds like knee, translates as two) hands and ni feet. The views were absolutely stunning, but the smell was what you’d expect. Owakudani is famous for their 黒卵 (Kuro-tamago, or in English, black eggs) that are hard boiled in the sulfur pools. Supposedly, the eating of a single egg will extend one’s life by seven years.

The famous black eggs of Hakone are chicken eggs, and they have black shells because they're boiled right there in the springs. We had to try one, how could we not? They're sold in little bags with six for ¥500, so about $5. Keanna and Sydney love hard boiled eggs, so I knew they'd probably want to have one. The bag was so hot that I could hardly hold it, and when I got to the little table to start peeling them, I saw all the other egg shells (which was ironic because a sign right next to me said to put shells in the trash), and that got the girls even more excited. I burned my finger tips trying to peel them, but it was worth it. I let the others cool before peeling them, and out of the six I was able to eat half of one. Keanna finished that one off and had three more, and Sydney had two. They tasted just like any other hard boiled egg I've ever had, and obviously the girls enjoyed them, and added 14 and 21 years to their lives [respectively]. Once they cooled off Keanna wanted to peel her own. She looked to be having trouble, so a man standing next to her helped her. He said something in Japanese, his wife giggled and Keanna handed him the egg after he gestured for it. But aside from our appearance, we really did fit right in there. From the way the girls were eating those eggs, you'd think we would have been there before! I couldn't help but laugh when I saw the sign warning people of the temperature of the water near us. "Dengerous! 80º C of temperature of the pond."

When we were done we headed back down the trail and the girls had an ice cream and I had a nice cold bottle of water. Before we got down there we saw a small basket of eggs in a small transport car getting ready to be brought to the stores below. And when we were walking up the hill we saw one pass overhead, but didn't know what it was. The boys sitting across the table from us were making a mess since their ice cream was leaking from the bottom of the cones. Keanna grabbed the container of wet wipes I had and handed one to their mom and said, "Your boy dripping." She giggled softly with her hand over her mouth like a lot of women do here, and said "Arigato" to Keanna. Keanna replied with, "Oh you're welcome," and continued eating her ice cream. The mom bowed when they got up to leave and I said "Sayonara" and the girls waved to them. It was sweet, and it was nice to see Keanna be attentive and caring the way she was.

We hopped back on the bus and headed over to Lake Ashi. We arrived with enough time to eat and walk around before meeting to get on the ship at 7:15 pm. The girls and I walked around a couple of shops and ate dinner. We saw other people in our tour group (about 30 total), but everyone kind of stuck to themselves. The restaurant we ate at had an English menu which was nice, because unlike the others I've been to, there are pictures in the menus. My favorite example of "Engrish" was "Fried Pond Smelt." Have no idea what it is, and I wasn't brave enough to try it. I did however have shrimp tempura in miso soup with udon noodles. So good, one of my favorites actually, and I'm happy to say I actually know what it is before ordering! The girls each had a side of rice and split my soup with me. Afterward we walked around, saw a few interesting things...a really big Hello Kitty, a mug that said "Pee" on it, a beautifully lit street with lanterns and a really big hydrangea bush.

The ship was really nice, and very large! I took this picture of another one right after we finished eating. Ours looked just like it except it was black. We went up to the top deck to reserve our spot. Fireworks started about 30 minutes after we left the pier, and far off in the distance was a torii gate that I really wanted a picture of! Unfortunately we weren't close enough to get a picture of it, nor we were close enough to the shore to see the obon, or Japanese lanterns floating in the water. If we go back next year, I wouldn't go with ITT, but will go on my own and stay on shore where the action is! But we had a wonderful day and night and got back home around 10:45 pm, and all went right to bed!


newsjunkie said...

Sounds like an awesome day! But "Fried Pond Smelt" isn't Engrish, Smelt is a kind of fish that is found in lakes. We have them here in the US too.

Shari said...

Sounds like you had a great day! I love these blogs. Makes me wish I was there with you. It's great the girls are enjoying it and fitting right in!