It’s nice to get up and do something on a free day, but always a bit of a dilemma, as free days are often great opportunities for sheer laziness, and lie-ins. But jet-lag is a good thing sometimes, as it solves this dilemma by jolting you wide awake in the middle of the night…so by the time morning comes you’re glad to have an excuse to leave the hotel room.
So this morning we are meeting in the lobby to take a train out of Tokyo to the south, to a place called Hakone. I get down to meet Laurent Quenelle, a fellow violinist, who is talking to a friend of ours called Kyoko. She comes in very useful during the course of the day, as it turns out, as she lives in Tokyo, so she knows her way around! Joined by Chi -Yu Mo, Tom Goodman and Sarah Quinn, we start out on the metro, grabbing some coffee on the way. After some deliberation about whether to get a day pass, or just to pay for our transport and various attractions along the way, we opt for the former, so we have to do as much as possible to get our money’s worth.
So we arrive at the Open – Air museum at Hakone, which is a spectacular exhibition of sculptures set in a beautiful park, with spring on the agenda, judging by the scattering of cherry blossom on the trees. Also there is a Picasso museum here, showing a small collection of his lithographs and sketches, as well as an abundance of painted plates and bowls etc. This sounds like a travel guide, but it’s well worth a visit, if you find yourself in the area.
After the museum, we’re all in need of refreshment, and I have a sugar low from working my way through the packet of minstrels I have with me for sustenance, and we go in search of something more sensible to eat. We end up in Gora, where the speciality is Gyoza, but end up going for noodles and tempura in a small but busy restaurant, where I can’t decide what to eat, and the dishes look small, so I order 2, but that turns out to be too much, and I’m afraid I can’t manage it all. As we leave the restaurant there is a lorry covered in lanterns playing music. The young people inside are playing traditional Japanese chamber music, Kyoko tells us, normally played at festivals, but she thinks they put it on for the tourists, which I think is very nice of them.
Onwards and upwards, we take the funicular railway to the cable car, which is a switchback railway…it sort of zig-zags up the mountain, and there are two drivers, one at each end, who stop the train at each change of direction, and get off to swap places. It’s quite a procedure. The cable car then takes us to the summit, where the air is thick with sulphur from the springs coming up into pools in the rocks. Here you can buy boiled eggs with black shells from the sulphur, and apparently eating these eggs adds seven years to your life. This is lucky because we are warned that breathing the fumes is extremely hazardous to the respiration, and can be fatal. So most of us eat at least one egg….I mean….. how could we not, under these circumstances?
Back down to the cable car, and there is an idea to take a boat across a lake with spectacular views of Mount Fuji, and another to go into a spa and bathe in the hot springs from the mountain. The area has many of these spas, but we don’t know where exactly, and the group splits into 2, with two of us deciding to do the boat trip and the rest going off in search of ‘Onsen’, which is the Japanese name for these baths.
We all make it back to Tokyo, tired and hungry, where the remainder of us find food and sake at a very cool restaurant in Ropponghi, said to have inspired a scene from the movie – ‘Kill Bill’.
After leaving the restaurant, we think about going for a night cap, but it’s getting late, and there’s a rehearsal at 10 in the morning, so we head back to the hotel for a much needed kip.