The continuous drizzle did hamper our movements but we forged on. First, some lunch. Hakone-Machi is a collection of houses, a pier and a bus stop. It is a small place that is best seen on foot. A short walk from the boat pier is the “Hakone Sekisho”, Hakone Checkpoint. On the old Tōkaidō Highway between Edo [present day Tokyo] and Kyōto [old capital], this post under the governance of Tokugawa Shogunate, checked everyone who passed through. The restoration is great and with wonderful views of mountains and lake.
A stone path led into manicured gardens. We continued on along an avenue of old cedar forest towards Moto – Hakone. Through dense vegetation, views of the red “torii” on the water’s edge, gently swaying anchored boat and misty mountains came into view. Maple trees, still with green leaves, were planted along this road. It was a pleasant walk under a humid and wet climate. It was getting towards dusk. Does the public bus still run on this route to take us back to Togendai? This question began to occupy my mind. The brochures and time table we had were quite confusing. Even the locals were unsure.
While travelling through Sengoku towards Hakone, large undulating meadows were covered in “Susuki”, Silver Grass, one of the “Seven Grasses” of late summer. Zen philosophy states that a grass has the same status as the mighty pine trees or the glowing azaleas and deserved the same respect, attention and high regard.
Our journey continued towards Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture, as we prepared to leave our comfortable hostel in Kawaguchiko. Masuo dropped us off at the train cum bus station. We caught a local bus to Gotemba. En-route, we passed by a theme park with views of Fuji and the dense cedar forest of Sengen Shrine in Fujiyoshida town, the traditional starting point to climb Mt Fuji. The road wound through forested areas and small towns. We passed glassy Lake Yamanaka, the largest of the Five Lakes. However, today were a grey and cloudy day and no views of Fuji. At Gotemba, we purchased a convenient 2- day Hakone Free Pass which entitled us to use various modes of transportation within Hakone area. We caught another bus to Togendai, near Lake Ashi, “Ashi-no-ko”. The journey passed through some lovely open areas with undulating meadows covered in beige mass of flowing grasses – “Susuki”, Silver grass. Looking at them dancing in the mist is soothing. After negotiating through scenic Sengokuhara town, we reached our palatial hotel in Tōgendai. It was massive and white. It was our first western style bed. Our large room had a commanding view of the green pine forest, gray lake and the surrounding undulating mountains.
“ ….hotel was a white dot amongst a green and grey backdrop” – Navindd
We walked to the pier and hopped into a boat to sail across the caldera lake. For company, we had heaps of wide- eyed kids with minders in tow on a school trip. With colourful backpacks and identical yellow hats, they added colour to a rather dull grey and wet day. No views of Mt Fuji.
As we approached Hakone-Machi pier, the surrounding mountains were engulfed in heavy mist. The scenery was mystical. The combination of water, towns, thick forest and a red “torii” sticking out of the water was spectacular. In the shadows of rounded mountains, the coastal town of Moto –Hakone was drenched in mist and almost invisible.