13th Apr 2012
Into the mountains
Lazy start in the Japanese bath in this fabulous spa hotel then excellent buffet breakfast before heaving our backpacks and ourselves onto the shuttle bus back to the station. Brought Hakone Free Pass for approx £33 - this will get us on all the trains, funiculars, cable cars, buses and pirate ships needed to complete the Hakone circuit. Very sunny and warm and increasingly picturesque as the first 2 trains wound their way up the increasingly steep valley. We gained 553 metres in height, partly via 2 switchbacks. Although a lot of development, the scenery is still largely unspoilt with wooded hillsides dotted with trees coming into leaf and cherry trees in full bloom. Beautiful. We arrived in Gora and rode one stop on the funicular to the final ryokan of the holiday. Too early to check in we left our backpacks there and headed for Gora Park.
We had intended to do several museums but were seduced by the sun, the lovely park and the threat of rain tomorrow and decided on Gora Park and the adjacent Hakone Museum of Art. The park was from the Meiji era (1858-1912) and modelled on European parks and had a fountain (albeit with turquoise water) and a rose garden and several hot houses. It also had a tea house and lots of cherry blossom. Magical. The Museum of Art was the inspiration of an artist and accessories magnate, Okada Mokichi. He developed a vision of the world based on fire, earth and water. He had some interesting ideas: that the environment was key; organic farming (known as nature farming in Japan) and the need for art to be available to all. He was castigated in 1947 for building an art gallery when the population was in such dire need and the money could have been spent on relief works. He also had some less interesting ideas, eg disease is good for you! Strolled back to the ryokan. This is lovely too; very light and airy despite the gathering clouds. Dinner was fantastic and very beautiful. It was the spring menu and there was a lot of delicate pinks and greens and a sprig of cherry blossom on one plate. It tasted fantastic too - well all except the jelly fish which tasted of jelly and fish! After dinner we relaxed in the outdoor onsen (hot spring bath) in the rain. Bliss - again!!