Day 10, August 20, 2010
Our penultimate day! Having sort of burnt ourselves out on the city of Tokyo, we had arranged yesterday to go on a day trip out of the city to the famous Mt. Fuji! Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, weighing in at about 12,500 feet. It holds significant cultural value to many Japanese as it is the residence of one of the major Shinto gods (a goddess, actually). We woke up at about 6:30 and made our way down to the southern part of the city to meet up with the tour group and they picked us up there. Our tour guide was really interesting – very serious about her job, yet quite funny. She talked a lot about Japan and its culture on the way there and back, which was actually really nice to learn about about.
Fuji is about 120 KM outside of Tokyo, so we had a little over 2 hours of a drive. Unfortunately when we got there, the mountain was just covered in cloud, so our view was limited to a few hundred feet! We weren’t too disappointed though, as the air quality was superb and it was actually nice and chilly there, an excellent break from the heat of Tokyo (and the heat of Seoul). There were a great many hikers who were starting off their journey up the mountain from our stopping point (we stopped at station 5, about 2000 meters up; the top is station 10, and it takes from 4-6 hours to get there by foot – cars cannot go past station 5).
Luckily our tour was by no means finished! We drove for about an hour to the beautiful mountain town of Hakone where we first had lunch and then took a gondola up towards the top of a beautiful mountain. There we found a bunch of hot springs – REALLY hot springs, one of the only examples of volcanism in Japan (although there are 3000 hot springs, perhaps this is the most visible on the surface?). It looks (and smells) a lot like portions of Yellowstone park, for anyone who has been there. In some areas the scent of sulfer is extremely strong. We walked up towards a little hut at the top of the trail and purchased “black eggs”. These are eggs that have been hard boiled in the hot springs, which turns them black. Legend has it that eating one will make you live seven years longer, two will make you live fourteen years longer, and three will make it so you’ll never see a doctor again. We bought a five pack and tasted one while still near the mountain (they were SO HOT); tasted pretty good actually!
From the volcanic, we took a “pirate” ship (a ferry) across the lake in the middle of the town. It was GORGEOUS, set right in the middle of the mountains. It is fed by a spring, which makes it so it does not freeze during the winter, which is pretty interesting. It turned out to be a really lovely tour and we’re glad we took it.
We arrived back in Tokyo around 8:45 and found a really funky Japanese-Korean food place (although it didn’t seem very Korean). A lot of different kebab dishes and our waiter spoke English and had some good suggestions for us. A fantastic last dinner in a fanstastic food country
We leave tomorrow early afternoon, so we are hoping to get one more sight seeing objective accomplished in the morning.