So the plan for today was meant to be using our 2 day pass to return to Hakone and experience an onsen. Adam and I had so far avoided the onsen experience over our two Japan trips because there was certain etiquette that we weren’t entirely comfortable with. Almost every onsen will expect people to bathe naked and we’re a bit too English and prudish for that. I mean I’m the kind of English that apologises to inanimate objects and spends the rest of the day going over an earlier point in the day when someone said Hi and I responded with some…weird sound. So to summarise, nudey bathing? No. Also as a result of the nudity males and females are segregated from one another. Neither of us really fancied being naked and alone in a bath of Japanese people. If I’m going to be naked in public I’m going at least need a conversation to distract me from the fact… and several bottles of tequila.
However Hakone offers an onsen with a difference. The ‘Yunessun’ onsen is more structured towards tourists with swimming suits worn, males and females mixed AND a whole host of ‘alternative’ onsen baths such as coffee baths, sake baths and even a red wine bath. Sounded like my kind of place! I dedicated our whole second day of the Hakone itinerary to chilling out in the onsen.
Our plans to visit the onsen first hit a snag when Adam and I were unpacking, having arrived in Tokyo. As I looked over at Adam unpacking his clothes I asked him where his swimming stuff was.
“What do you mean?” He looked totally bewildered, as if all the conversations I’d had with him about the onsen…showing him pictures… multiple times… hadn’t occurred at all.
Yep, he had totally forgotten it… so we made a note to try to find him some swimming shorts in Shinjuku at some point before our second Hakone day. Late in the evening on day 5, after returning from our wonderful meal in Shinjuku, I checked with Adam he still had his Hakone pass. Again a confused look crossed his face. After some searching it was concluded that he’d lost it.
So we looked at the situation. We were already going to have to find a few thousand yen in the budget to buy Adam swimming shorts and now we were gonna have to find him a few thousand more to buy him a train ticket…or we could skip Hakone and try something else for the day. Sigh.
After some deliberating and googling we decided to put together an alternative itinerary for the day and had a discussion about what we fancied doing. The day started simply with breakfast at 7-11 as usual, my chocolate milk and pink bread combination was pretty wonderful.
We first had a few ‘admin’ bits to sort out, namely we wanted to go to Shinjuku station and make reservations for the bullet trains we would be riding over the next week. It was simple, as I’d already looked the train times up on Hyperdia, and quick (I mean seriously people, if you can come to the counter organised that would be amazing. So many people we had to watch go to the counter and have to ask the non-English speaking person what train they’d recommend…so painful) . We looked around Shinjuku for a while too, entering some of the shops we’d been noticing during the week on our walks to the station.
Afterwards we went over to Akihabara for one of my ‘I need to try that’ requests. During the trip I’d seen these…things, for a lack of a better word. They looked like giant square cakes topped with an assortment of cream, chocolate and fruit. They always looked pretty amazing. Some googling had taught me they were called honey toast and THE place to have them was the Hanito Cafe, in Akihabara.
As they looked pretty big and since it wasn’t so long since our breakfast Adam and I decided to share one. This is certainly something I don’t regret, it was huge! It was 1500 yen and there were a few different flavours to choose from. Honey toast consists of a large buttery loaf, with the innards cut up into blocks so you can turn it into a sort of sweet fondue. There was a Japanese couple next to us that ordered one each. The woman was typically petite so I watched her thinking ‘yeah right’ and she wolfed the whole thing down! Some impressive eating there.
We then hauled our bloated stomachs around for a walk in the Shinbashi area. There are lots of skyscrapers in the area as it’s mainly a business district but there are some pretty courtyards and some statues to happen upon.
|Can anyone tell me what these statues are doing? Their best human centipede impression?|
Our main reason for visiting Shinbashi was the Ghibli clock. The giant steam punk style clock sits aside the TV tower and a couple of times a day spins into action with a 5 minute show, we were there for the 3pm showing. The clock was designed by Hayao Miyazaki, the director of Studio Ghibli, and is a must see for Ghibli fans. It is a HUGE clock, at over 60 foot wide, and as a consequence I struggled with a good photo or video of it.
We returned to one of my favourite places in the world, the Meji Shrine, and had a stroll through the forest. It was about 4pm and there was a really lovely light shining between the trees. We followed the paths away from the shrine and it was very quiet and peaceful, with not a soul in sight. It was nice that today had given us the time to take things at a slower pace.
We briefly stopped at a 7-11 so I could pick up some Hanami Dango, a great little sweet that’s very similar to mochi and absolutely delicious. I recommend picking up dango if you see any.
Our final stop of the day was Nakano Broadway, a shopping complex that we’d discovered whilst googling the night before, that is famous for its many stores selling anime goodies. It really had a lot to offer, Adam was running around like a kid in a candy store. They had a wider range of vintage memorabilia than we saw offered in Akihabara and Adam walked away with bags of both figures and cards. Unfortunately it closed a little sooner than Akihabara, with most shops being closed by 7.30pm.
We were so incredibly tired by that point that we just grabbed a plateful of deli food to take back to the apartment from a convenience store close to us and I followed that by some yummy strawberry mochi I’d picked up shopping in the day.
The day might not have gone as originally planned but we both had a really great day and were glad for the chance to see some things we would have otherwise missed.
Steps walked: 25,929 steps