Welcome to Part 2 of my 25 day Japan extravaganza!
So far we've quickly visited Nagano, Tokyo, and Nikko. Read on for my itinerary through Hakone, Nagoya, Takayama and Kanazawa!
Day 8 - 9 : Quaint Ryokan in Hakone
People told me and I echo the sentiment : you gotta stay in at least one ryokan.
Since ryokans are all about atmosphere and mood, I basically just searched google for all the ryokans in Hakone and picked one with nice pictures. I saw Yama no Chaya, and knew I had to stay there. This ryokan has rooms with your own personal onsen! And each room comes with a 'moon viewing balcony.' What a treat!!
We arrived a bit earlier than check-in, but they kindly got our room ready and let us lounge with some tea.
Mike got a massage while I enjoyed listening to the birds on the balcony, then we both bathed and got ready for dinner.
One of the highlights of staying in a ryokan is the multi course kaieseki style meal, where you spend an hour or two having the course served to you in your room. Much of it is traditional Japanese food (with lots of stuff I didn't quite understand) but don't worry, the person who serves the food to you will explain what everything is for you.
"Tofu made of bamboo shoot paste, milk, & bonito stock.
Sushi made of snow crab.
Boiled greens (ashitaba, urui, kogomi) soaked with seasoned soup stock.
Wild edible plant (nobiru) served with miso sauce.
Castella cake made of carrot, fish paste, & white of egg.
Fried Chinese yam served with cavier.
Japanese pond smelt fish (wakasagi) fried and then seasonsed with sweet vinegar."
. . .definitely a lot of new flavors for me!
...and then we got to the squids with the eyeballs. We both gave it a valiant effort. Not the biggest fans. D:
But dessert came and saved us from the icky eyeballs!
The ryokan had a few more hot springs in the building including an outdoor one which we were able to reserve for private use! So Mike and I were able to relax in the beautiful outdoor garden atmosphere together! ...have I mentioned how much I am in love with these onsens!?
The next day, we left all our luggage at the ryokan and set out to explore the Hakone Loop (or Hakone Round Course) using the Hakone Free Pass we purchased. Although you can do the loop in either direction, for some reason most people start at Hakone-Yumoto and go counter clockwise, so I heard an awesome pro tip to go the other way (clockwise), starting with the pirate ship. This was fantastic advice, as we didn't encounter any lines to get on the rope-ways but saw tons of lineup going the opposite direction. (Thanks travel charm!)
One of my goals of coming to Hakone was to see Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, it was too hazy to see it that particular day. It turns out it's actually on the rarer side to clearly see Mt. Fuji. Sounds like it might be similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in SF; always hazy!
Alas, seeing Mt. Fuji remains on my bucket list.
Day 9 - 11 : Nagoya
I thoroughly enjoyed every city and town we visited, but if I had to put a ranking on all the places we went, Nagoya might be on the very bottom. Maybe it's because all the places up until this point had been SO AMAZING that in comparison Nagoya didn't stand out so much? But if you are curious about seeing a city with a down-to-earth 'salary man' lifestyle of Japan, Nagoya might be a good candidate.
We spent a good chunk of one day exploring Nagoya castle and the grounds there. The cherry blossoms were now starting to fall off the trees, resulting something that felt like the scene of a romance movie.
Inside the castle is a really intricate museum with miniatures of the grounds, samurai armor, and other interesting historical displays.
Since Michael enjoys science, we checked out the Nagoya City Science museum.
Inside the museum was a really detailed Marvel exhibit! So that was a bit unexpected.
And that concludes our visit to Nagoya. Next up, Takayama!
Day 12 - 13 : A Wet Bike Ride in Takayama
We hopped on a bus from Nagoya and arrived in Takayama, our short exploration into Gifu prefecture. Once we arrived, we headed promptly to the Hida Folk village.
Hida Folk Village is an open air museum showing the traditional houses and huts from the region. You can freely walk into the houses, where inside is a mini museum showing tools they used, historical photos, stories from the era, etc. It was really cool learning about life in 17th century Japan. Walking into these old houses felt a bit like walking back in time.
After that we had some delicious noodles, and went to bed early. The next morning, we embarked on a bicycle tour of the area through Satoyama Experience cycling tours.
The tour was really great! We got to learn about the village and its history, how rice is made, bought some delicious local rice treats, and tasted some local sake. We did get poured on a little bit... but we weren't going to let rain stop us from our adventures!
While visiting Gifu we discovered the pleasures of Hida beef.
Oh. My. Goodness.
I have never tasted such delicious beef before in my life! I can only imagine that Kobe is just as good or maybe better?! It's now on my list to find out for next time.
Day 13 - 14 : Still Soggy in Kanazawa
I decided to visit Kanazawa because of Kenrokuen, one of Japan's best landscape gardens. The weather was still being a bit moody, but it didn't stop me from going to the garden! I came all this way and I wasn't going to miss out because of some lousy rain!
It did start hailing AND thundering, which I've personally never experienced happening at the same time so that was neat! It also had the added benefit of reducing the crowds. ...Also how often do you get to see cherry blossom trees get pummeled with hail? And I love thunderstorms so I didn't mind.
If you like Japanese gardens, you'll like it. If you are indifferent about Japanese gardens, you might get bored there.
One thing that surprised me about Japan is how GREEN it is. Maybe it's because I live in LA and so I'm used to droughts and everything being brown, but there just seemed to be more shades of green there than I ever thought possible! Sometimes things seemed to glow because of how vibrant the greens were.
The rest of our time in Kanazawa was very laid back. At this point we were both enduring a bit of a cold, (maybe from getting poured on while bike riding...?) and so we took it easy for a few days.
After the gardens I quickly visitied Kanazawa Castle
Kanazawa was a really friendly town. I'd love to see it again when the weather is nicer!
After this, it was time for Kyoto, my most anticipated destination!
That concludes Part 2!
Sophie is a video game developer who has a variety of passions including yoga, traveling, and photography.