Something else I’ve noticed so far is that you don’t give people behind the counter money in the hand – you put it in a little tray and they give you the change, then they take the money from the tray. Many times have I thrust my hand out, only to have them recoil and gesture to the tray. But now I’ve learned, so that’s one less gaijin move I perform daily.
We had breakfast at the same place as the day before (I was mostly keen for the iced tea they provided for free on the tables), we may as well be regulars there. I even keep getting mostly the same food which probably means I’ll have scurvy soon (at the end of this day this came back to me but I didn’t appreciate the irony).
Back at the hostel we packed up and booked another K’s House chain which is in Hakone – and has a nice view of Fuji and has a downstairs onsen etc.
While we were waiting a resident walked in and sat down, then pulled out a McDonald’s bag. I’ve never seen someone smile so sincerely at a paper bag before; he kind of laid it out in front of him and gently opened the bag to reveal a hot drink and a burger. I don’t know his story but I made up a few in my head about how he longed for western food, hadn’t had fresh buns in weeks and the like.
I posted a postcard to my workplace flaunting the fact that I’m not working and won’t be for some time, and then we set off for the station where we can finally use our JR passes (a odd for foreigners to use certain rail lines as much as you like within a set time period, after a lump sum payment) – that means no more paying for transport. It hit me that my pass was valid from he day before so I spent a fair bit that I didn’t need to, but it also meant checking to see if the lines I was travelling on we’re JR pass valid or not which would have been a lot of extra stress and effort in an already hectic day.
The train to Odawara was the longest we have taken, something like an hour, and seats were a luxury. The further out we got, the more seats began to open up, and I took to surveying the scenery – it’s interesting that so many places are so close together; alleyways are minute, and washing lines are on balconies or washing is strung down the sides of houses – and since it was such nice weather there were just clothes strung up all over apartment complexes.
Arriving in Odawara we flashed out JR passes and flew by the ticket barrier – however we had to buy a 4000yen pass for all Hakone travel which is about 50 bucks or something – but after travelling to the lake and back it was clear it would pay for itself by the next day.
We arrived at Hakone and Swang ordered a piece of mochi from a street vendor by handing up 1 finger and pointing with vigour at the mochi.
I let Swang continue taking the lead to the hostel and was surprisingly fine with the walk up the hill carrying both my bags. 15 minutes in, I was not. We took a “shortcut” because Swang was so confident and we ended up too far up the hill, and Google led us to a random hotel that was most certainly not out hostel. Swang went in to ask for directions and I popped a bunch of antihistamines and painkillers, which began to kick in when he finally appeared. Trusty iPhone Google led us to K’s house, which opened about 4 days ago and it’s bloody beautiful. It was also about 7 meters away/below the shortcut we took. It was funny when we saw it from our window view, but not at the time.
The dorm room was like a capsule hotel, a curtain to close your bed off from the other guests, lights and USB chargers inside the capsule, and Onsen downstairs!
We made it to the bus stop and used our day pass to get to lake Ashi where there is a view of Mount Fuji, and took all the photos.
We took a lot of photos and I accidentally said the word appleciate; I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so.
We popped into a store where I found some really nice mugs (all traditional like) and the lady tried to sell me them by telling me how pretty they were in Japanese (and it nearly worked if not for Swang telling me there would be more cups in Osaka). I struggled for a minute asking if I could buy a single cup, but Swang took pride in saying the word ‘setto?’ And pointing at the cups, which the little old lady took to mean Swang was a fluent Japanese man and said somethings I didn’t understand. I decided not to buy the cups.
We left and got some food in a small restaurant with a lovely warm atmosphere – I destroyed some tempura trying to break it up into manageable chunks, and hid the monstrosity from the waitress who kept filling our green tea cups. Swang tried to use the moist towelettes you are given before the meal to remove the Sapporo beer label from his bottle, adding some hot green tea to the towelette to make it wet, and was caught. However she then communicated to us that he could take the bottle home. Which he did. I also bought some chocolates from the convenience store – my favourite was a small biscuit base, with a white chocolate middle (that has a creamy centre) and a white chocolate slab on top with a panda face called Sakusaku panda, which I ate far too quickly to even attempt to sakusaku (if you liked that, then you REALLY missed out by not coming to Japan with me, because between Swang and I the lame language jokes are almost constant).
We commuted back to the hostel where I found I had quite an upset stomach; at least that didn’t happen on the 40 minute bus ride. I then dozed and sulked while Swang used the onsen, and finally fell asleep, tired and empty.