Taking the Tokaido
A wild, wet and windy night. Torrential rain and the van rocking in the gusts. The morning brings no respite as the rain is still relentless and forecast to be so until lunchtime. There is not a lot we can do, so decide to take a look at the Okada Museum of Art in Hakone.
We set off along the coast road, strewn with leaves, branches and the occasional rock, detritus from the storm. Of course, all the places along here that boast a Fuji view are overly optimistic.
Finally, we take Route 1., the old Tokaido. This is the route to Edo (modern Tokyo) that all the western Japan lords had to travel to pay tribute to the Tokugawa shogun. In this part of Japan, the Tokaido is a modest two-lane road winding through the mountains but in others this same route remains a major highway. As for the mountains, we can’t see a thing as we drive in fog most of the way.
Okada Museum of Art, Hakone
The Okada Art Museum is expensive but their exhibition of Linpa folding screens is worth the entrance fee. There are also a lot of ceramics on display from China as well as Japan. We spend a good deal of time looking at these though, really, we have scant interest.
The screens really did absorbed us, and we were there until closing. Some of these works were just fabulous. Busan Kimura was beyond words.
＊Okada Museum of Art ; 2800 yen / adult
From Hakone we make for Subashiri michi no eki in the Mt. Fuji foothills. It is still raining on and off but much cooler as we have gained some altitude.
The Eight Sacred Pools of Mt. Fuji-Oshino Hakkai
Subashiri michi no eki is a good place to stay. A little busy, perhaps to be avoided at weekends. It is also steeped in fog in the morning, so the fabled Fuji views are not available.
We set off and follow R. 137 from Lake Kawaguchi to the Kofu Basin. This is a spectacular route up the skirt of Mt. Kurodake for an impressive view of the basin.
Our objective, however, is the 8 sacred pools of Mt. Fuji. These pools were used for ritual cleansing before worshipers of Fuji made an ascent. This religious group has had its ups and downs through history but now, as the pools are included in the Fuji World Heritage, they, at least, have become a major tourist attraction.
Pool number 1
A helpful local informed us it was important to visit the pools in the correct order and that the one that features most prominently in tourist brochures is not one of the original sacred pools. Armed with this important information we set off for the first pool.
The number 1 pool, the largest of the 8, is located a good walk away from the car park. Consequently, we were the only visitors. This pool is full of large rainbow trout. It is a little overgrown and has a neglected aspect. There is a carousel pony in the bushes.
We were therefore unprepared for the milling crowds we found traipsing between all the other pools.
It must be said that these pools are of scant interest to anyone not into ritual bathing before ascending sacred Mt. Fuji to commune with god. This information is unlikely to go down well with tour operators and the shops selling knic- knacks and junk food.
We consider checking another Mt. Fuji place, but the clouds and mist show no sign of relenting, so we give up and head for Nagano.
Kiyosato Utsukushi no Mori 清里
At Kiyosato Utsukushi no Mori we make a stop to climb to the top of the hill to view the surrounding cloud. The flowers are all well past blooming and this plus the decaying, wooden walkway dripping in the mist create an atmosphere of gloom. Nevertheless a good and necessary walk.
Approaching this place, we pass through a strange almost, in its artificiality, Disneyland like place. This is the resort around Kiyosato Station an area artificial in the extreme.
Yatsugatake Kogen Line
After stretching the legs, we drive the Yatsugatake Kogen (highland) line and finally arrive at Kobuchizawa michi no eki. The Yatsugatake Kogen line we drove on another trip when the autumn colours made it really striking. Today, it is a pleasant drive through green woods.
At Kobuchizawa michi no eki we discover that the onsen is closed so we drive to Shinshu Tsutakijuku michi no eki for a bath. This bath is pretty good and has possibly been renewed as we have been here before but have no recollection of it. The outside bath is a little tepid. We return to Kobuchizawa for the night. It is quieter.
＊Tsuta-no-yu ; 700 yen / adult
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.