Hakone

We have been so lucky with the weather throughout our stay in Japan. Arriving in their Fall season, we expected traditional Fall weather (rain and cold) so we packed accordingly: Down jackets, long sleeve tops, warm jumpers, but we struck it lucky everywhere we went with temperatures on average of 20deg C (70F). It wasn’t until we got to Satoyama Jujo and also Hakone that we felt the Fall chill and were able to bust out the warm layers instead of our T shirts and light jackets. BTW – I’m not complaining, it’s just that when you’re lugging around heavy clothes in a case, you want to have a chance to wear them..

We had 2 nights in Hakone, we arrived at 3ish on Tuesday checked into our great guest house: Irori Guest House Tenmaku which was located 200mtr from the Open Air Art Museum (intentional selection). The guest house had a mix of dormitory and private rooms, all with futons on tatami floors with rice paper screens. At the heart of the guest house was a huge shared space where they cooked dinner on the irori (a traditional sunken hearth) in the evening (1000 yen pp). It was a great way to eat, stay warm and chat with fellow travelers.

Hakone had been highly recommended to us. Our primary destination was the Hakone Open Air Museum which comprised of a large sculpture garden, a Picasso Pavilion and a Sculpture Lab. There was also a ropeway close by which promised views of Mt Fuji before heading down to nearby Lake Ashi. On our main day there, the weather was grey, cold and cloudy which enabled us to wear our down jackets but did not present Mt Fuji in all it’s glory. (More to come on that).

The Open Air Museum was impressive, but after being thoroughly spoilt with Naoshima, we were a little underwhelmed by Hakone’s offer. Not that the sculptures weren’t impressive, they were, it was more that there wasn’t the space for them to breathe as they were crowding each other and battling for visibility. Naoshima’s Chi Chu Museum gave us nine pieces of art in one museum, here we had thirty nine pieces of art in a confined space. Naoshima raised the bar on art presentation.

The sculpture lab was my favorite part: an interactive space where you could use your body and voice to create art. Yes, I am still ten years old.

Overall, I think if we hadn’t been to Naoshima, Hakone would have been a richer experience for us.

We followed up the museum with a trip on the ropeway. I’ll keep the description of this experience brief as it was very crowded with tourists (like us) and also quite underwhelming. Again, we’d been spoilt by the mountains in Corsica and later the Himalayas so a ropeway over some mountains was *ok*. Also Mt Fuji was cloaked in cloud so we saw nothing..

The next day, however, (our day of departure) the sky was clear and bright so Trey took advantage of our late check out to head back to the ropeway to get the illusive shot of iconic Mt Fuji.

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