Despite my humble bragging of having been to Japan four times, I’ve never made the trip to Mount Fuji. Sure there is usually some quintessentially hipster pride about never having gone to a particular tourist trap, but what I actually felt was a bit of embarrassment at never having gone to a national icon of Japan. In a way it’s a lot like not seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Stonehange in the UK (I didn’t do this) in terms of global recognition but as for cultural significance that’s a whole new level. Mount Fuji has been a muse for artists for centuries so much that pilgrimages are made to it every single day regardless of the season. Poems, odes, stories and artwork in various mediums have all been created in its name. Heck it’s even featured in Hokusai – ukiyo-e art I could visualise it in my sleep after seeing a million times – but I had never noticed tiny Fuji-san in the distance until that trip.
Fun fact, it is actually quite difficult get a photograph with Fuji-san. This selfie is probably our best attempt with a view of the mountain and of our faces. See other failed attempts below. All photos are taken at the tourist look-out point and at the first gate. Most tour groups will go all the way until the 5th gate provided the gates are not closed. So we may have failed a bit too fantastically by choosing to go on a day where it is not safe to proceed even beyond the first gate.
I am in this photo.
Fuji-san is in this photo.
After a bit of photoshopping, this is the most photogenic I am able to get the both of us!
Turning back at the first gate also means our tour guide and bus driver are stuck with us till the end of the day with no Mount Fuji to visit. But as this probably happens quite often they bring us around to do a bunch of other things.
I really do admire the integrity of the Japanese to always give 110% in whatever they do. My tour guide for example did not stop talking about everything a tourist could want to know about Japan or Hakone. Most tour guides do this but even when she ran out of things to say she proceeded to attempt to teach us Japanese, play Bingo with us and organise a ‘How well do you know Hakone’ quiz.
Also when we were a tiny bit behind schedule for lunch, she walked the length of the bus specifically to offer one sweet per person to um, tide us over or something. Probably completely unnecessary but it was such a sweet gesture.
I love springy udon noodles but I wish they came with something other than tempura. That is one typically Japanese food item I can never get behind.
After lunch we ride the sky gondola to Owakudani, a volcanic valley in Hakone.
It was nice to get out and see more rather than being stuck in a bus all day.
Owakudani’s special is kurotamago or black eggs hard-boiled in the active sulphur vents and hot springs. They smell a little bit of sulphur but are otherwise still very delicious to eat.
Owakudani’s yuru-kyara, Kurotama and Piyosuke! If you’ve seen the crazy cute and slightly creepy images of kumamon on the web, that’s Kumamoto’s yuru-kyara. ‘Yuru’ which means relaxing and ‘kyara’ from character refers to local mascots used to promote tourism. Apparently the annual sales for kumamon in 2012 hit 29.36 billion yen. And personally, I definitely see why because yuru-kyara is so cute! Expect to see more of them featured as I visit other parts of Japan.
Catching a pirate ship. There was a Captain Hook onboard!
Last shot of Mount Fuji before we head back to Tokyo via shinkansen! Quick rest at the hotel before we embark on an 8 pm dinner reservation at Kushimura (click for address details). This came highly recommended by the concierge at our hotel.
Another thing that I endeavour to work on with blogging is to just be more gosh darn polite about asking people for photos. I will admit that I don’t always do this, but every time I see a flock of tourists just swarm any one person trying to do their job it definitely makes me uncomfortable. A phrase which I started using non-stop in Japan was “写真 は できます か?/ Shashin wa dekimasu ka” Which I think is some terrible cave man way of saying ‘Can I have a photo’. Kevin if you’re reading this, please leave a comment detailing the proper sentence structure!
It’s another hole-in-the-wall style restaurant that probably seats 25 people tops. It’s also a new experience for us to be surrounded by salarymen (and women) who had just got off work and are having a few drinks. The tables next to us were quite rowdy but in a jovial sort of way. When you see office workers on the street they always look so uptight and in a hurry to go somewhere, here they are just super relaxed.
I don’t really remember all the different parts of the chicken that we ordered unfortunately. But my mom is a pro when it comes to eating yakitori, no offal is too weird for her tastebuds!
I ordered some eggplant to attempt to balance out the meat ratio but it was clearly in vain considering how much chicken we ordered.
And of course my stepdad and I must have our tamagoyaki, this time it is cooked with negi.
Hot pieces of tofu straight off the grill is incredible especially when it’s super cold outside. Salted ginkgo wasn’t too bad but I only ate it because of the saying that ginkgo helps improve your memory.
Bacon wrapped asparagus (I think) and my grilled salmon pieces!
Grilled renkon or lotus root is a firm family favourite although we usually have it in Hong Kong style 莲藕汤 (ling ngau tong) made with peanuts.
More, more, more chicken
My one true yakitori love is definitely shimeji mushrooms. They are so meaty and bouncy plus packed pull of flavour. And then there’s chicken soft bone on the side for my mom.
And last but certainly not least are grilled scallops, plump and juicy little things.
We decided to roll home since the restaurant wasn’t actually too far away and there’s a lot of people about and lights to look at in Roppongi. It is Christmas Eve after all.
Ending the night with some sweet desserts back at our hotel. I usually drag my feet whenever my mom suggests we do something touristy but I’m really grateful for finally being able to see Mount Fuji! Rounding the day off with yakitori and my family that loves to eat just made it all the better.