Last time we came to Japan, we went on a trip to Okinawa with Colin's cousin Tomoya and his wife Keiko. It was so special to get some concentrated time with them, and be able to see a new place together. We were very lucky that they were able to take time to do another special trip with us and this time we went to Hakone. Hakone is a region a couple hours away from Tokyo known for its hot springs, ropeway, and just general natural beauty.
In retrospect (though to be honest we kind of knew what we were getting ourselves into) this wasn't an ideal situation for Sloane. There was a lot about getting away for one night to this particular place that just wasn't toddler friendly, but you know when you're an adult and you just want to ignore those baby rules and live your life!? Yea that's what we did. I think the photos aptly convey why we were so willing to make it happen.
Hakone is a mountainous region and we got to use just about every method of transportation to explore it. We took a train that switchbacks up the mountainside, a funicular that pulled us steeply upwards, a ropeway over a steaming volcanic valley, and a sightseeing cruise that transported us across lake Ashi, giving us views of the massive torii gate on its shore.
The Hakone Open-Air Museum was our first stop and a perfect way to introduce us to Hakone. Gorgeous autumn vistas, art installations infused with fresh air, a hot spring foot bath to rest our weary feet. This was an ideal art gallery to take a toddler to, as she could explore pretty much anywhere she wanted.
We stayed in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel, which was something I hadn't done before and was definitely cool! It wasn't the fanciest place nor was Sloane the most compliant roommate, but it's something you have to do in Japan so I'm glad we finally did. The morning we woke up there, it was raining and mist was pouring across the multicoloured hills. I was able sneak out early enough that I had the onsen (hot spring bath) to myself, and listening to the rain drip onto the plants outside as I soaked in the steamy room was a dreamlike experience.
The Hakone ropeway soars up through the mountains and across a hazy red valley that gushes sulphuric steam. The Valley of Hell is truly a fitting nickname. The famous tourist edible here are black eggs, which are just hardboiled eggs that have been cooked in a sulphur hot-spring. They were a bit salty but mostly I don't remember anything because Sloane had a major meltdown at this particular point. Here is where I will emphasize to you that travelling with a 1.5 year old in a foreign country is not for the faint of heart. At least make sure you bring tons of deodorant because the tantrum induced anxiety makes you super sweaty.
Our last stop was reached by taking a boat across Lake Ashi to the town of Moto-Hakone. On clear days you can see Mount Fuji, but that was not the case. It was moody and misty and a lovely time to be inside watching the green waters slide by. From the town, we walked up the road a wile to get to Hakone Shrine and witness the giant torii out in the water. The drizzling rain made the forest shrine even more mysterious and beautiful, and it was a wonderful way to close our whirlwind Hakone visit.