Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hakone Open Air Museum

In my short trip to Hakone, I managed to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum, which attempts to create a harmonic balance of nature and art by exhibiting various sculptures on its spacious grounds in combination with beautiful views of the surrounding valley and mountains.

To get to the open air museum, just take the train via the Hakone Tozan Railway and stop at the Chokoku No Mori station, one station before the Gora station. If you have the Hakone Free Pass, you only need to pay 1400 yen per person to get into the open air museum.

Take a look at some of the sculptures you can see around the open air museum.

The amazing thing is how well the sculptures look against the natural background. They even constructed what looks like to me a playground in the picture below. At least I saw a lot of kids within it, which was why I gave it a skip.

Out of all the open air museum exhibits, the Picasso museum is the only closed museum within the area. Just look at the Picasso museum against the mountain backdrop. Isn't it beautiful?

No pictures taking is allowed within the museum though. Please take note. There also some famous sculptures around like Van Gogh and Pablo as seen below.

There are also some amazing scenery around the area. Unfortunately, autumn has not yet come so the leaves have not yet fully turned.

There are also some interesting sculptures around like the one just below, with the person flat on the face. :)


There is a souvenir shop located within, together with a mini cafe that sells sandwiches and stuff where you can grab a bite before you go for your next stop.

That's all for Hakone due to time constraints. Next posts will be all back in Tokyo. Stay tuned... :)

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gora Park

In my short trip to Hakone, I managed to visit Gora Park. Actually, it's my wife's idea because she wants to take a look at the Craft House which is actually within Gora Park. :)

From the Gora station, just follow the signs which will lead you up a very steep hill. After all the climbing that I've done at Mount Takao, this slope was not a problem for me ... like real. :)

Show your Hakone Free Pass and you'll be able to get into Gora Park free of charge. Upon going in, you can easily find the Craft House. The signs make it quite easy to find.

After that, we wander around and I found the entrance to the tea house in Gora Park. The entrance looks so beautiful. There are also many owners walking their dogs around the park.

In the center of Gora Park, you will see the fountain and near the fountain, you will be able to see Rose Garden.

There are not many roses around the garden but below are some of the roses I took at Gora Park.

While taking photos of the roses, I also found a moth and a butterfly flying around the area. Couldn't resist trying to take a photo of these 2 beauties. :) Can you spot them?

Can you see the 2 insects? :) Stay tuned for more posts on Hakone...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Circling Hakone

In my short visit to Hakone, I attempted to circle Hakone using the Hakone Free Pass as that's the easiest way to circle the entire region and have a quick look at what Hakone has to offer. You can begin the journey from the Hakone-Yumoto station.

Train for Hakone Tozan Railway to Gora
With the Hakone Free Pass, you can start your journey around Hakone starting from the train above. You will take around 40 mins to reach Gora. Throughout the entire journey, you will see the train changing tracks several times along the way so don't be surprised if you find yourself stopping at a station for some time. Some times, the track is only one-way.

Upon reaching Gora, you'll need to transfer to the tram up to Sounzan. Due to the timing, there were too many people taking the tram so I didn't get the chance to take a picture of the tram. It will take about 15mins thereabout. From Sounzan, you'll need to change to the Hakone ropeway via the cable car you see below.

Cable car for the Hakone ropeway

Interior of the cable car for Hakone ropeway
On the first day, the day was quite clear as you can see from the picture below. However, on the second day, it was so cloudy that we couldn't see anything.

View from the cable car

View from the cable car
You'll need to transfer at the station called Owakudani to another cable car. This station is a good rest stop as they sell kurotamago (some boiled in sulphur) and ice cream, in addition to the usual souvenirs. You can also take the short walking trail into the volcanic zone to a number of steam vents and bubbling pools.  The smell of sulphur is quite strong in the air. :)

As you walk out to the car park, you can try to see if you're able to see the elusive Mount Fuji. I wasn't that lucky though. :(  I could only the base of Mount Fuji.

Below are some of the scenic views that you can see from the ropeway.

From Owakudani, you'll pass by Ubako station before reaching Togendai, the station where you can sit on a pirate ship to cruise around Lake Ashinoko. If you did not stop in any of the stations, you'll take about 30 mins to travel from Sounzan to Togendai. There is also a souvenir shop at Togendai and a restaurant if you need a rest, having something to eat and do some shopping.

From Togendai, you can choose to cruise to Hakone-machi and then continue to Moto-Hakone. You can take a look at the pirate ship at Togendai from the picture below, and the scenery around Lake Ashinoko.

On the ship, we even had students randomly stopping some people to ask them questions in English. It was so interesting... :)

We disembarked at Hakone-machi and we walked upwards towards the Cedar Avenue, which is across the road by the roadside. That's about a 10 mins walk. Below is a road sign by the road showing the entrance to the Cedar Avenue.

The cedar trees within are quite beautiful and the walk within can be described as tranquil. You can take a look at some of the pictures I took below.

After you walked to the other end of the Cedar Avenue, you can cross the road and you will see a bus stop nearby. You can take bus H back to the Hakone-Yumato station, which will take about 45 mins.

This makes one round trip around Hakone, all using only the Hakone Free Pass. You can visit Hakone in one day but I think it's better to stay at least 2 days so that you can visit some of the attractions near some of the stations. You may want to stay longer if you want to visit every attraction at Hakone, which we didn't. Of course you should not forget about the Ryokan, which is also one of the key attractions of Hakone.

Stay tuned for more posts of the additional places I visited in Hakone.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Food at Yama no Chaya

In my previous post here, I've talked about Yama no Chaya and I've mentioned that my next post will be all about Yama no Chaya's food.

Well, I did hear about luxury Ryokan before I chose Yama no Chaya but I did not expect my dinner to be an 8 course dinner that will last slightly over 2 hours. Wow... That's equivalent to the Chinese's wedding dinner.

This post will be dedicated to Yama no Chaya's dinner and breakfast. For dinner and breakfast, the attendant from Yama no Chaya will ask you on your preferred timing. Basically, the dinner timing will be dependent on when you wish to go for your onsen.

In my case, we had our dinner at 7pm and it ended about 915pm. So... Are you ready? Here goes.

You start off with green tea and the lychee sake.

1st - Japanese mushroom mixed with milk tofu; shrimp,shimeiji-mushroom and Japanese mustard spinach; Barracuda sushi; Carrot and Shrimp sponge cake; small taro with salted sea urchin; arrow head chips; buckwheat noodle sticks and ear of rice 

Close-up of ear of rice covering barracuda sushi and the carrot and shrimp sponge cake

2nd - Clear Bonito soup with Quail meat ball and Maitake-mushroom, potherb mustard and yuzu

3rd - Sashimi Tuna and Grouper

4th - Grilled Sea Bream and boiled Turnip in chicken stock; served with carrot, green onion and Ichimi-pepper

5th - Boiled Mangalica pork in Miso, served with shrimp potato, egg plant, and kidney beans; Grilled pacific saury with shuto, served with ginko nuts and green pepper; Roasted wagyu (ashigara beef), served with chinese yam and Balsamic soy sauce

Close-up of grilled pacific saury with shuto

Close-up of roasted wagyu beef

6th/7th - Roasted Mt Fuji Salmon and shitake mushroom with grated daikon-radish, served with salmon roe, japanese parsley and red raddish; Rice mixed with Matsutake-mushroom

Close-up of roasted Mt Fuji Salmon

This is the pot which was used to cook our mushroom rice

7th - Chef's special miso soup

8th - Purple sweet potato mousse and boiled ginko potato with Lemon, served with raspberry and mint leaf

For breakfast, we did not have the menu list so we were kinda eating blind. We also had an onsen before that so it didn't really cross our mind to ask what we were eating. Oops. :p

This is most of the breakfast set, which mains consist of yummy porridge, mini oden, eggs, fishcake, fried fish.

Close-up of the fish cakem egg and the fried fish behind.

Close-up of the mini oden

Close-up of the miso soup, that contains squid and meat too

Close-up of the yummy fish which is different from the fried fish I mentioned just now

This is the manju available when we first went into the room. I ate it only during breakfast. :)

That's all for the food at Yama no chaya. I've never been so pampered in my life. :) Stay tuned for my next posts on Hakone.

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