Sunday, January 17, 2016

Best of a #Travelife 2015: A nice winter day spent walking the mountain trails of Hakone and a night at the hot springs

This is part of our series on the best experiences in a #Travelife for 2015.

Last year in January, in the hinterlands of Japan, living a Travelife, we spent a nice weekend at Gora Kadan, one of Japan's best ryokan, on a short but sweet visit to Japan mainly to eat at Noma Tokyo.

From Tokyo's Narita airport, we took a car straight to Gora Kadan, arriving just in time for a hot springs bath and a big kaiseki dinner. Then, the next day, we had a huge breakfast.

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So we decided to do a bit of walking in the mountains, in between all the eating and hot springs bathing we were doing in the luxury ryokan, to try and burn some calories.

I guess we were inspired to try and do at least 10,000 steps to "fulfill" the supposed minimum active exercise for a day, for a normal adult.


I suggested we take a car to the old Tokaido trail nearby.

It's not a long walking trail at all, but it's quite pretty, being by a lake.

And, lucky us, it was a most beautiful winter day so we had some truly lovely shots of Mount Fuji with the lake in front of it, as we walked.


This trail is surrounded on both sides by giant pine trees that must've been there from the first days of the trail. We tried to imagine how it must've been like, for a shogun or a samurai to walk this trail from somewhere in the western part of Japan, on the way to Edo, which is now Tokyo.

In the olden days, you see, the shogun and samurai were all required to pay homage to the great powers living in Edo at least once a year, and so they traveled this route or another one, quite frequently.

The things we imagined while walking that trail made me laugh, especially as the trail we walked along was quite short and already quite adapted to present-day.

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To get more mileage out of our walking, we then asked our driver to find another trail for us.

We went higher up the mountain this time, and then we walked down a rocky path that certainly made me feel like it was Throw Back Thursday (TBT), shogun-style. It was actually a Friday, but I guess you know what I mean.

There was no one else around and the path was not cleared for tourists the way the first path we walked on was. So it was easier to imagine the days of the shogun, this time around.



Then we ended up in a traditional farmhouse that had been converted into a simple tea house, where we had shiso (perilla) juice, amazake (warm, sweet sake) and some tokoroten noodles as a snack. 

The tea shop proprietess was quite happy to see two foreigners stopping by on this remote part of the Tokaido Trail on a winter morning, and so we had a very nice chat with her.

But what really made my day -- and I'll bet it made the day of my Travel Companion, too -- was when she decided to guess our age, as she was quite curious about us as foreigners.

She guessed mine a good ten years younger, which made me think that all that hot springs bathing, crisp mountain air and hiking really did me some good after all, last year in Japan, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

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