Friday, April 11, 2014

A (First Class) Pirate's Life For Me!

This trip is the least prepared I have ever been for travel.  I blame this on my students - if I hadn't spent the last several months immersed in work, I might have been ready for it.  The notes in my travel journal leading up to last week are two pages in all.  I had more than that for last year's spring break in Shanghai, and I freaking lived there!  However, I did have a few things on the list, and the second one was to see Fuji-yama.  In our discussions about Tokyo, Blondie suggested that Hakone made a good day trip to do exactly that, so I went for it.

This was a little daunting, because I didn't have much to go on.  I was leaving from Kawasaki, and I couldn't find any definite information, so in the end, I just went to the station, and when I found a sign that said, "Odawara" (the switching point between the train from Tokyo and the one to Hakone) I crossed my fingers and bought a ticket.  I couldn't figure out how much it would cost, so I bought a platform ticket, figuring I would pay the difference at the machine in Odawara (that didn't quite turn out the way I'd planned, since it was actually a ticket that only lets you on the platform, but I got there in the end).

I have to say that nobody treats tourists like the Japanese do.  When I got to Hakone, I had no idea where my hotel was or how to get there, so I went to the counter for Hotel Reservations, and she was able to tell me three different ways to get there.  Again and again I was able to find help when I needed it, and the fact that I wasn't as prepared for this trip as I normally am didn't turn out in catastrophe the way I thought it would.  Getting to the lake was another way that I benefited from this.  The driver let me off right outside the boat office, and I was so excited that my cruise was coming in less than five minutes that I actually splashed out and paid an extra 500 yen for a first class ticket.
Ooh - luxury!
I was grinning like a huge idiot when I presented my ticket for admission into the first class cabin, and there's a possibility that I might walked around singing, "Royals," because I was the only one in the whole damn suite (okay, almost the only one - the other two first class passengers were up deck and getting snacks).

I found my way upstairs, where I particularly enjoyed the view of the people in steerage, huddled together at the other end of the boat and looking miserable.  I had a great view and all that space to myself, and yes, I might have laughed out loud because I felt privileged, all for the low, low price of about $5.  Who the hell says I'll never be royal?!

Of course, the boat was just about as cheesy as it could get.  The pirates on deck were a nice touch, as was the Roman masthead.  The sails and rigging looked great, but were completely non-functional, since the boat was motor-powered, although I really didn't care.  The fact that it was so ridiculously corny actually added to it, if you ask me.  When I got tired of it (and the wind and the chilly air), I went back to my opulent seat belowdecks, and basked in the sunshine and the view.
Peppermint enjoyed climbing the rigging.  She was also excited to have her picture taken with Fuji in the background...like she was in a Hokusai print!  I love Japanese printmaking, and have taught about it a few times now, and this was one of the reasons why seeing the mountain was one of the top things on my list this trip.

Avast me hearties!  I be a brave wench and was not afeared in the least to have me picture taken with yon scallywag!  After all, my own nephew the Dirt Devil is an aspiring sea dog (okay, okay, so he just likes watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, but I can hope I'm not the only wanderer in the family).  If I'd had anyone but Peppermint to talk to I probably would have spent the whole time speaking in blaggard; since you get enough weird looks traveling with an old, worn stuffed animal without talking to it, I stuck to humming "Royals," and giggling under my breath.

I have to admit, though - the solo flying is getting a little old.  I'm questioning now whether or not I should actually go to Tsagaan Nuur this summer after all.  I found myself almost as worn as Peppermint by the time I got back to UB.  Anywho...
As fun as it was to cruise around the lake (and it was), I came to see Fuji.  My mountain-spotting record has not been perfect this last year.  We did get a break in the clouds when I went to Everest base camp last summer, but it snowed the morning we hoped to see Tavan Bogd.  Sunday it was raining so hard that I had to buy an umbrella (which I then managed to leave on the bus that took me to my hotel), so I was worried that I was going to get skunked.  I guess I'm glad that it ended up being the Ghibli Museum that I missed, not Fuji.  Instead I got to see Fuji three times - on the lake, on the train back from Odawara to Tokyo, and on the plane flying back to Seoul, which was spectacular but I didn't get a shot of it.  I really would have cried if I hadn't seen this amazing scene.  The floating torii makes it perfect.
This is not the Floating Torii - the one you've seen pictures of is in Hiroshima, and I was NOT going there.  I can't imagine it being better than this one, anyways.  After getting off my cruise I took a stroll along the side of the lake (with my noisy little wheelie carry-on - it took me a little while longer to figure out that I should USE the damn luggage lockers) and enjoyed a little rest next to the lake, before making my way back to the docks, slurping up some ramen for lunch, and catching a bus to Odawara for the second highlight of the day.

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