As we dragged our legs through the long 20-minute walk to the meeting point, I grudgingly commented that we should have stayed at Keio Plaza Hotel like everyone else since we can also save on transport to Disneyland.
"Would have cost us S$300-400 per night ok," the hubby remarked, "and it's so ulu, not even near to all the shopping."
Sighing, I did a mental calculation and realised that if we saved S$150 a night, we would have saved about S$600 per room ($1200 total)! That's S$1200 that we can spend on shopping, eating and even better accommodation in Disneyland (more on that later)! I was a bit more motivated to walk after that =D
|Keio Plaza Hotel|
On arrival, we met up with our tour agency (Experience Japan if I'm not wrong) and were led to our bus. Our tour guide was a very friendly Japanese woman who was really passionate about Japan. She took her job very seriously and took great pains to explain Japanese culture and customs to us.
|Our tour guide in the front of the bus, explaining our itinerary to us|
Having a local guide explain a country's customs and stories was one of the main reasons why we always try to include a tour in our travels. We learnt a lot of useful information from our tour guide! =)
Our journey to Lake Ashi at Hakone took about 1.5 hours (all of us slept soundly on the bus). We didn't pay for my kids (you have a choice whether or not you want to pay for a child under 6 years old) so they weren't supposed to get a seat on the bus. Thankfully the bus was not full so we could occupy the empty seats (otherwise we would have had to carry my kids the whole journey!).
When we finally arrived, we were brought to the dock where a ferry was waiting for us.
(We got a modern vessel even though they also had a traditional looking one)
|Clockwise from top left: Boarding our ferry;|
Neighbouring houses and shops (must be so nice to stay on the lake);
The dock where we were at;
Inside the ferry.
|Clockwise from left: With the kids and the Torii gate in the background;|
Lakefront Torii gate of the Hakone Shrine;
A very excited Baby Boy knows that we're going on an adventure.
We went to the deck of the ferry to experience the amazing view (and the cold) even more.
|At Lake Ashi with the wind in my hair|
|Selfies on the deck with a lovely view|
We were not even halfway done with taking our selfies before it was announced that the ferry was about to reach the dock and we were to disembark. "What?! So fast?!" we all complained. The 15 minutes went by too quickly in our opinion.
We arrived at a quaint and quiet little town, which also houses the Hakone-en Aquarium.
|Clockwise from left: My girl asked me to take a picture of her with the town and the mountains;|
Beautiful view of Lake Ashi from the shore;
Cute duckie boats lining the shore.
We were surposed to have lunch but as it was not ready yet, we spent some time shopping at the small Shopping Plaza.
|They sell all sorts of cool stuff such as this box of Mt Fuji chocolates|
We proceeded to the Japanese Restaurant when lunch was finally ready.
|Mum and my girl|
|This is the full set for each person! So much food! Thank God my girl didn't have a set (because we didn't pay for her tour package) so she could share our food.|
|Pot of rice kept warm on a fire (I don't particularly like eating rice but I love Japanese rice! *yum*) and delicious hotpot.|
|Group photo taken by our tour guide|
(you can tell my kids were enjoying their lunch!)
After lunch, we were supposed to go on the Komagatake Ropeway, located next to the Japanese Restaurant where we had our lunch. However, as the winds were really strong that day, the ropeway was closed for safety reasons.
We were brought instead to another ropeway, Hakone Ropeway, just 10 minutes away.
|Hakone Ropeway at Togendai|
|In a Hakone Ropeway photo booth|
|Hakone Ropeway cable car|
|Left: Queuing excitedly for the ride;|
Right: Mum with the view of the Lake Ashi and the mountains in the background.
|Group selfie after boarding the cable car|
|Clockwise from left: View on the way down;|
With my girl in the cable car;
Baby Boy had an awesome time riding the cable car even though the rest of us were less keen.
To be honest, I was hoping to see something good when we reached the first station but was really disappointed. The whole ride (up and down) to the first station was about 15-20 minutes but we spent about the same amount of time queuing up. I wouldn't mind it so much if the ride was fun however, it was really boring (definitely not as fun as our experience with the Scenic Cableway rides in Blue Mountain). Hence, if you've got choice, best to give this a miss.
We travelled to our next destination, Mount Fuji, which we managed to get a snapshot of on the way there.
According to our tour guide, Mount Fuji is known as a mystery mountain because you can only see it clearly during the winter however, visitors can't visit the highest station (the 5th station) because it is closed for safety reasons (heavy snow and strong winds). You can visit the 5th station during the other seasons (especially summer) but you might not be able to see the mountain (like my photo above) because the peak will be covered with fog.
Since we visited at the beginning of winter, all the stations are closed except for the First Station. Don't expect too much though as you can't really see anything from there.
|At the First Station, 1291m above sea level|
|Group photo with a glimpse of the peak in the background|
(Baby Boy was grumpy because it was freezing cold!)
The bus also brought us to the Yamanashi Prefectural Fuji Visitor Center where we found a spot on the 3rd Floor that gave us an even better view of Mount Fuji.
|Clockwise from left: My girl with the uber cute Mount Fuji Hello Kitty standee!;|
The beautiful peak of Mount Fuji;
Signboard on what to do at the Visitor Centre.
|Finally a decent photo of us with Mount Fuji, ironically not at Mount Fuji itself|
|Love this family photo of us.|
Too bad Baby Boy was cropped out of the photo because he was ready to take his nap in our Pockit Stroller
(although the Pockit Stroller cannot be reclined, my Baby Boy has had no problem sleeping in it).
And with that, we came to the end of our tour. If you've got more time, you should consider visiting Fuji-Q Highland, a themepark near Mount Fuji. We passed it by on our way back and thought it would be so cool to be able to go on rides with Mount Fuji towering in the background.
We were told that our journey back to Shinjuku could take any time between 1 to 3 hours depending on the traffic conditions. Thankfully it only took us slightly over an hour and and we arrived at Shinjuku just in time for dinner (it's actually not very late but the sky gets dark very early in winter).
|Found this interesting ramen restaurant along one of the streets in Shinjuku and decided to eat there|
|Left: Using a machine to order and pay. Very interesting although we needed a lot of help from the staff, who were thankfully relatively conversational in English;|
Right: Selfie at the bar tables.
|Our bowls of steaming ramen! *yum*|
I don't think that you can ever find terrible food in Tokyo (and by extension, Japan)! I can eat ramen everyday and not be sick of it *grin*
After dinner, we wandered around in Shinjuku and went to our favourite 100 Yen Shop that we shopped at on the first day to see if we missed out anything. The hubby and I finished shopping earlier than the Sister and Mum so we waited for them at the sidewalk. While waiting, I noticed many Japanese walking in and out of a very unassuming building located opposite where we were. I told the hubby that based on my gut feeling (which is usually never wrong), we should go check it out.
The hubby looked at the directory and realised that there was a 100 yen store at the 6th Floor. It turned out to be Can Do, a 100 yen store selling all sorts of stuff that were prettier and more artsy than Daiso and the 100 Yen Store! I was literally in heaven!
I mean, I could stay there forever! Love the 100 yen stores here. Hopefully one day Can Do can come to Singapore too and give Daiso a run for its money! *laughs*
(P.S: 100 yen stores are probably why we still had a lot of yen left after our trip haha!)
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