Japan 2015 Day 04: Hakone

Weather: overcast, humid, and afternoon rain: low 18°C, high 25°C

Accommodation: Kimi Ryokan

Eskil almost woke up at 5:20 am, but luckily Scott swapped pillows with him and he went back to sleep until 7:30! Hooray! We dressed then had breakfast at Anderson near Ikebukuro station. I enjoyed some curry buns (sort of a savoury doughnut); Eskil loved the brioche.

We took the Yamanote line to Shinjuku and found the Odakyu Tourist Service Centre. We bought Hakone Free Passes, then immediately got on a train (after sneaking through a barrier as we weren’t sure where to put the ticket and could see the train on the platform). The Hakone Free Passes would give us free travel to and around the Hakone area, where we would be exploring today. We were on the slow train rather than the shinkasen. The train conductors have quite a performance as they walk the train, bowing as they enter and leave carriages, check for passengers at the stations, and signal the driver, etc. We were soon travelling through dense suburbia rather than dense city, and this eventually gave way to countryside and smaller towns. Unfortunately Eskil was soon over the excitement of a train journey, so he wasn’t as excited by the narrow gauge train on switchbacks as we thought he would be.

Dance on the train

Hakone Open Air Museum was a short walk from the Chokoku No Mori Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway – and passed Woody’s Café (Toy Story themed).
I was SO frustrated when we got to the entrance and saw that Woods of Net was closed! It was something I’d been looking forward to for Eskil; I’d even shown him photos of it. It is a gigantic sort of knitted sculpture for children to climb in. However it was a strangely lovely museum. It is hillsides you wander through and see lots of different sculptures.
Hakone Open Air Museum
Exploring the Hakone Open Air Museum
Checking out Henry Moore's Family Group
I had originally found out about the Hakone Open Air Museum when my friend Rita sent me an email with amazing staircases around the world, and Symphonic Staircase was one of them. It was really stunning!
Symphonic Staircase, Hakone Open Air Museum, by Gabriel Loire
Walk this way
After climbing it we went to the café nearby – which oddly didn’t have food (although it did have decent iced coffee and Eskil enjoyed some soft serve ice cream). Eskil and I soaked our feet in the hot spring foot bath (warm and with oranges and lemons floating in it – this area is known for hot springs and onsen).
Hakone hot springs foot bath
Eskil’s favourite sculpture was the Curved Space Diamond Structure (aka The Soap Bubble Castle) by Peter Jon Pearce. He loved climbing up and through it – and I was a bit worried we would have trouble getting him out! It partially made up for my Woods of Net disappointment.
Curved Space Diamond Structure by Peter Pearce
E in Curved Space Diamond Structure by Peter Pearce
Look for the E!
There were other things that made the museum lovely for a visit with a child – like a labyrinth to play hide-and-seek in and whimsical statues. Or just mist rising up in odd places.
Fun Maze
And suddenly a mist

We had lunch at a rather expensive buffet, but Eskil could have kaga age (fried chicken) to his heart’s content.
Lunch with a view, Hakone Open Air Museum

When we were finished at the museum it was back to the small gauge train for 1 more stop to the cable car! After the cable car we should have been getting on a ropeway, however due to volcanic activity in the area this was replaced with buses. This was very disappointing as Eskil would have LOVED to ride on it (and I had been showing him photos of it for months), however the steaming hillsides with singed looking vegetation showed us that this closure was obviously a good thing!

Eskil was in for a treat next though: pirate ships! He was very excited to see them.
Captain and his crew
We had a trip on the red one, the Royal II, but we were interested to see that the name of the green one was Vasa!
Pirate ships!
Shaking hands with the pirate
Lake Ashi
We had a 40 minute trip on Lake Ashi; unfortunately with the cloud cover (it had started raining at the Hakone Open Air Museum) we didn’t see Mt Fuji from the ship. We disembarked at the Hakone-machi Port and waited under a canopy for our bus to Odawara train station.

As it was getting late we bought some lovely breads to eat later, then caught our train back to Tokyo. The train was quite full at times, and Eskil eventually fell asleep and slept through us transferring trains. He didn’t wake up until we were walking home. We stopped at 7-11 for beer, then had dinner and beer in the lounge after 8 pm (quite a late night for weary travellers). We were in bed by 9 pm, and finally mummy had a good sleep!
View from bed

More photos can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cragg-ohlsson/archives/date-taken/2015/09/16/.