Friday, April 17, 2009

OAT Japan, Monday, March 23, 2009:

Day Trip from Gora, Hakone

A heavy overnight rain gave way to a beautiful sunny morning, so the prospects for a beautiful excursion were looking up.

Marie, the more venturesome of the two of us, donned her informal kimono, and made a pre-breakfast visit to the women’s
onsen. She said she was the only non-Asian among several nude women in the baths. She dipped only briefly in the 104°F water.

After that experience, we headed to a buffet breakfast with Western and Japanese offerings, more diverse than that offered by the Mets Shibuya. We then embarked on today’s first adventure: the funicular and aerial gondola ride to the
Owakudani (Great Boiling Valley) thermal springs area. We had a chance to explore some sulphur springs near the visitors’ center, and try the famous blackened eggs, hard boiled in the hot springs, supposedly good for longevity.

The bus then transferred us to the cruise terminal at
Ashinoko Lake (also known as Lake Ashi). We were treated to a half hour scenic cruise along the eastern shore on a replica of a medieval sailing vessel to the Hakone-Machi port. We were hoping for a view of Mt. Fuji, but it had become too overcast. At least it was not raining.

Several of us opted to walk the remaining distance to the
Hakone Hotel for lunch, where this view was taken. Machiko took us on a short segment of a cedar-lined path that was one of the few preserved original segments of the Old Tokaido Highway that is said to date to 1618. The road, with 53 checkpoints, connected ancient Edo (Tokyo) with Kyoto. This pathway segment and the recently reconstructed Hakone Sekisho Shiryokan (Hakone Checkpoint), that served Hakone (Station 45) now comprise a National Historic Site. A small museum was nearby.

We were treated to a most magnificent luncheon buffet at the Hakone Hotel in their Mediterranean-style
Il Miraggio dining room. The eclectic cuisine included Italian and other European dishes as well as diverse Asian offerings.

After lunch, we hopped the bus back to Gora. On the way, we stopped in at the
Hamamatsuya workshop, located in the village of Hatajuku, where specialists in parquetry and marquetry created their exquisite wooden objects. This kind of art is known as Yoseigi-Zaiku, a specialty of the Hakone region. The master craftsman went into much detail about the various techniques. Most interesting were the intricate puzzle boxes, at least as complex as the Rubik’s Cube!

The rest of the afternoon was free, so we had the bus driver drop us off at the Hakone Open-Air Museum, located at the
Chokoku-no-Mori Station on the Hakone-Tozen rail line, within walking distance of our hotel. We spent a pleasant hour strolling among the huge outdoor sculptures graced with blooming trees.

The interior of the large cylinder behind the cherry tree was a hidden gem, as can be seen from this kaleidascopic view of its interior!

Most impressive to us was the
Picasso Collection, which housed over 300 works in many media. The Collection featured a large assortment of pottery purchased from Picasso's eldest daughter, Maya Picasso, but also included a variety of paintings, prints, sculptures, and gold and silver objects. There were even several pieces of stained glass!

We enjoyed a light Japanese supper back at the hotel, then headed to our futons for the night.

No comments: