Monday, 7 June 2010

Japan - The first black eggs

Hello everyone!

Let's pick up from where we left off. It's 3.30am, and we have just rocked back to the hotel room rather intoxicated. We have to be awake in about three hours to get on a train for our Saturday adventure. The train was due to leave Shinjuku, a few subway stops away from us, at 7.30am.

My eyes struggle open upon hearing a noise. I lean over to the right to hit my phone, but the noise keeps going. It's the alarm from the clock in the room. The clock that says 8am. BUGGER. Stuff is thrown into bags, and we are bombing it along the subway system to desperately try to get the 8.30am train. This is where the swapping on subway lines becomes really irritating. We got to Shinjuku, but then had to maneouvre around the place to find one of the private lines.

We arrive at the required line at 8.31am, but mercifully the train was still there. RUN!! We jump on, and seconds later the train pulls out of the station. Not an enjoyable start to the day, and certainly not helpful for the hangover, but at least we were on our way.

We were meeting Fumy at the end of the line, about 80km to the west of central Tokyo. The journey is supposed to take a little over an hour, which meant that Fumy was probably waiting for us just as we were getting on the train. With no phone, she might get a bit concerned, so it was up to us to let her know our situation. Lots of people on trains have phones, so I set about asking a young man if I could use his phone; doing hand gestures and the slow talk as well. 'Sure you can' was his response. Turns out I had picked an English major who was moving to BRISTOL in the next month! Outrageous. I chatted to him for a while, letting him practice native conversing almost as a thank you.

The train isn't particularly busy, and we have time to catch up on our rest and enjoy the view. As you can see, some people became pretty content with life on the train. We got to the final destination at around 10am. Fumy and her boyfriend Zac greeted us. We must have looked a right pair with our heads drooping and shades on indoors to prevent people from seeing how tired and drained we looked. Fumy and Zac rented a car, and we were soon on our way.

Where?! I hear you cry. Well let me tell you. Actually, let me show you first.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, we had made it out to Hakone, one of the best places to see Mount Fuji from. It was another hour's drive from the train station, so it's pretty far out, but was definitely worth the trip. It was clearer than the camera suggests, so we had a pretty good view.

In fact just about the only problem we were encountering was the stench of the place. It wreaked of sulphur. No, I had not eaten something rotten the night before. The reason there was such a pungent smell prevalent in our noses is because Hakone is famous for its hot springs. Hot springs which wreak of sulphur. You get used to it, but it's not something that's transmitted in any photos. Unless they start redeveloping smellovision. They may as well try, now that they're on the 3D stuff.

One of the other famous aspects of Hakone is a special food they produce. Black eggs. None of that white supremacist stuff out here, black power all the way! It's pretty clever what they do, actually. They soft boil the eggs in the water, heated naturally by the springs, and then fish them out when they are ready. They're called black eggs because...shock horror...hold on tight...the shell turns BLACK whilst being boiled! WOW! So you buy these eggs - bags of 5 for 1000Y, so about $10 - peel off the soft shell, and eat the inside. You want to know the best bit? Each egg you eat adds THREE YEARS to your life. So I'm now going to live until, what, 27? Zac had two - wonder if you could become immortal if you ate loads. Actually, you wouldn't, you'd die from having such a high level of cholesterol. And probably get sulphur poisoning.

The setting was spectacular. I would have taken so many more photos but my camera was on its last legs as a result of us videoing a lot of our karaoke session the previous night. Before anyone mopes about having a charger, I charge it off my laptop, cheers. Anyways, we appreciated the glorious view for a while - during which an old, drunk Japanese man asked if I spoke Spanish - before heading towards the lake situated at the bottom of Mount Fuji; Lake Ashi.

On the way we stopped off at a spectacular traditional Japanese temple. It was surrounded by forestry, which made it seem a world away from Tokyo. Zac said that this is where many of Tokyo's gazillion-billion population head for a quiet weekend. Bet it's not so quiet when that happens, but they weren't out in force on this day. Strange that, as it was a Saturday morning.

One of the things that I did at this place was to make a wish at the main praying point. I can't remember exactly, but it involves bowing, then doing something else, then doing an exaggerated bow, before chucking a few Yen into the bowl bit in front of you. Then you make a wish, bow again, and move on. I did something similar at the Trevi fountain in Rome. That time I made an outrageous wish, and it actually came true. This time my wish was a lot more likely to come to fruition, and ultimately did. As if I'm telling you what it was though. Would spoil the magic of the story!

Soon we were down at the lake. Stunning. Possibly the second-best lake I've ever laid eyes on - nothing will top Lake Bled - and perfect weather in which to enjoy it. And what better activity to do when faced with such a beautiful setting - swan pedalo races! The 'racing' aspect didn't last that long - my legs were still a wreck from sports day and we were both a bit tired - but it was a great way to see the lake. We spent a while trying (and on the whole, failing) to formulate pirate jokes as a pirate ship was about to depart, and them dreaming about which of the very nice condos we would be living in in later life, before deciding that we were all a bit hungry.

So our Saturday, when we eventually got round to starting it, was thus far fantastic. But it gets better, you know. There is one thing we were yet to do - possibly the most Japanese (or stereotyped Japanese) thing of them all. Find out next time...

Love you all


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