Japan – Leaving Tokyo and Heading South

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Tuesday, 26 April 2016.

I left Tokyo six days ago, heading to the first stop of my southern trek across Japan, to the mountain town of Hakone.

Hakone is south of Yokohama, which is in the same prefecture, of Kanagawa, and east of Mt. Fuji, which is in the Yamanashi prefecture. It is an area well-known for its onsen, or hot springs, and due to its close proximity to Tokyo makes for a popular destination for the city-worn traveller and local.

After a much-needed break and relaxing time spent in the onsen, and a much more taxing time spent hiking, first with three girls from Israel and then the next day with two girls from Switzerland, I left for my next stop, Mt. Fuji. The views along the ridges, and from the peaks, of Hakone were fantastic and you really get to see Mt. Fuji and the surrounding areas from a sublime vantage point.

I had planned and intended to go to the five lakes district, on the northern side, of Mt. Fuji. However, after studying the train and bus lines, I discovered that I would have to back-track to Yokohama in order to get to my hostel. On leaving again, I would have to, instead of going around the western side of Mt. Fuji towards my next stop in Shizuoka, go back to Yokohama and then take the main Tokaido line back past the main stop of Hakone, Odawara, and only then after a few more transfers would I reach Shizuoka. Suffice to say, it would be quite a detour from my plan of travelling in a continuous direction and not back-tracking or taking the same route twice, if possible.

My research led me to the city of Fuji, which is just about in-between Hakone and Shizuoka. Being on the southern side of Mt. Fuji, I would be able to behold the majestic mountain, at a relatively close distance, and still be able to travel easily to my next destination.

And so I did. After exploring Fuji, and beholding the Mountain, and the beautiful waterfalls and forests of Fujinomiya, at the Shiraito falls, I reached Shizuoka in less than an hour by train. Shizuoka is different to the other cities of Japan that I have as of yet seen. There is a lot more green, forested, areas, in and around the city. They are also underground tunnels, instead of crossings, that pedestrians used to get from one side of the road to the other, on some of the main roads. This is a new sight to me and adds an agreeable difference to the city and its unique character.

Tomorrow I will explore more of Shizuoka, and search out the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine, where the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the great shogun of Japan, is buried.

– Starr

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