Day 6 - Mt. Fuji
|Friday, February 26: We were picked up from our hotel lobby at 8:00 AM for a full day tour. The first hour was spent driving around picking up other passengers and we passed through the heart of Ginza on the way.
|We were dropped off at Hamamatsucho bus station where we exchanged our vouchers for tickets, used the restroom, and stocked up on vending. Every passenger had an assigned seat, which was nice.
|We headed out of Tokyo for a nice, long drive.
|We passed this interesting cemetery on a hill along the way.
|Our guide passed around photos and told stories about kimonos and the Japanese royal family, shown here.
|We got further into the mountainside.
|Finally, there it was: Mt. Fuji, obstructed by heavy clouds.
|We stopped at a visitor center for a restroom break and a little shopping, and passed these little students in their matching hats and coats.
|Next, we started driving up the side of snowy Mt. Fuji.
|The roads around Mt. Fuji feature this silhouette of the mountain on the stop light and street sign poles.
|We passed one lookout point but there wasn't a lot to see in the rain.
|Our guide, Harumi, did her best to entertain and inform us even thought there was nothing to see.
|We made it to Mt. Fuji's 4th Station, but couldn't go to the 5th due to weather.
|There was no visibility and it was pouring rain at this point. Sometimes, we get lucky and sometimes not. We still considered ourselves extremely lucky to have seen the mountain in the sun the day before.
|Back down the mountain, it was lunchtime at the Highland Resort. We didn't choose the lunch option on the tour, so we had our pick of the hotel's three restaurants. We opted for the Chinese restaurant (accurately named "Chinese Cuisine") and selected a set lunch featuring chicken, rice, soup, pot stickers, and fruit wine.
|The dining room was beautiful. The best views of Mt. Fuji would have been at the tables by the window if there was anything to see.
|Dessert was a semi-solid something flavored with green tea and hot tea. Fancy!
|We met up with our group at the front of the hotel.
|Mt. Fuji remained elusive ...
|... but the hotel's evergreen garden was pretty.
|The Lake Ashi cruise portion of our tour got cancelled due to bad weather, so we substituted a cruise on Lake Kawaguchi instead.
|Before boarding the ship, Tom pointed to where we went up Mt. Fuji. We were now at the area in the upper left of the map where the "You Are Here" arrow is.
|Here is the lake.
|Here is us.
|Here is the lake again.
|That's Mt. Fuji in the background, barely visible
|Here is the back of the boat.
|Here is more of the lake.
|Back on shore, we had a little free time. We found a vending machine selling hot royal milk tea, which is the perfect beverage for chilly mountain weather.
|Here's one last shot of our boat and the cute swan paddleboats awaiting warmer weather.
|Heading out of town, we passed this spooky little elf statue on top of a time-and-temperature sign.
|Hey! Mt. Fuji started to peek out behind the clouds. We still couldn't see the peak, but it was pretty anyway.
|On the drive to Lake Ashi, our guide taught us all how to make origami Mt. Fujis. Ours were the best, of course.
|When we passed Lake Ashi, it was pretty clear why our lake cruise was cancelled: there were whitecaps on the water and waves crashing onshore.
|In place of the aerial tramway portion of our tour, we visited an art museum instead. The museum had a large lake-front room where we gathered to photograph the bleak weather outside.
|The museum had a great collection of kaleidoscopes.
|They came in some unusual shapes, ...
|... including this beautiful glass representation of Mt. Fuji.
|Let's look inside! This one made of flower petals is pretty great, ...
|... but it's pretty hard to top this one.
|In the large galleries, we played a game where we picked our two favorite pieces then compared notes. We nearly always matched because our taste in art is freakishly similar.
|Which ones would you pick?
|This amazing piece was a passionflower blossom woven from some sort of thick thread.
|When it was time to go, the two covered escalators that led up the hill from the bus parking were reversed so they led down the hill now.
|Debbie braved the rain for a damp photo of one of the two large Shinto gates bracketing the small town.
|Our tour concluded, one option for returning to Tokyo was to take the bullet train. We opted for the cheaper bus option. Once we realized that the entire busload of people had to go to the Odawara train station to drop off some passengers, we got off at the train station too. We pulled out our trusty Japan Rail Passes and booked first class reserved tickets for free. The other passengers were given general admission standard car tickets.
|We bought some Pretz and Coke Zero and watched several shinkansen fly by. Most trains bypass the smaller stations, but the slower Kodama train stops at smaller stations like this one.
|There was a handy train car map on the back of our trays showing where the restrooms, vending, and train staff were located.
|We reached Tokyo Station quickly and took our time wandering the subterranean malls. The Japanese people love Lego as much as we do.
|This amazing display featured ten different flavors of Kit Kat bars, including corn. Yes, corn. When we were leaving Japan, we ended up buying two boxes of flavors not shown here: Raspberry/Passion Fruit and Royal Milk Tea.
|We found the Smart Life Market, where everything is 315 yen (about $3.50). We had found this on our previous trip and Debbie bought dry socks here after a day in the Tokyo rain.
|So, of course, she looked at the sock display and was horrified to find cheap ripoffs of her favorite Daffodil Socks from the Sock Lady store in Vermont. She bought a pair as souvenirs and a pair to mail to the Sock Lady herself.
|Since she had packed these very socks in our luggage, we were able to confirm back in the hotel that the design was identical.
|We searched the mall for a restaurant that wasn't too smoky and wasn't too tiny and wasn't too scary, and settled on this Korean restaurant.
|It was a little smoky, but dinner was delicious and so was the beer. We started with a small pot of kimchee. Debbie's dish was served with a raw egg to mix into the soup just before eating it. The egg cooked almost instantly in the hot broth.
We made it back to the hotel and picked up dessert and the next morning's breakfast at the 7-11 adjacent to the lobby, then settled down for an hour or two of Winter Olympics coverage. Tom's complaint about US coverage is that they always listed the top three medals and then all of the US finishers. Here is proof that other countries do exactly the same thing.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy