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Hakone – Day 1

This weekend, my friends and I planned a trip to Hakone, Japan. At Hakone, there are hot springs, a fantastic view of Mt. Fuji, and the great wilderness. It is about 1 hour or so away from Tokyo, so I took the Romancecar to get there. I would say Hakone is one of the funnest trips I have taken by far.

The trip was spontaneous. One day at work, I was sitting in the activity room with my friend. We had no students for the period, so we talked about travelling and where we wanted to go. I brought up that we should go to Hakone with our group of friends and she didn’t hesitate to agree.

That night, we asked messaged the group chat of about 8 people to see if they were able to go. With a majority of positive responses, I planned out the trip that night and my friend booked the AirBnb.

Next thing you know it, all of us were at Shinjuku station (aside from one friend, who wasn’t able to make it) trying to buy the Hakone Free Pass – a ticket that covers the round-trip to and from Hakone, as well as most of the transportation in Hakone.

The Hakone Free Pass was about 5,700 yen. However, because we decided to take the Romancecar (a fancier train that allowed us to sit in groups of 4), we had to play a supplement fee and the total ended up being about 6,810 yen each.

We boarded the train and took off without much of a hitch. We spent the hour talking and playing games amongst ourselves. It was a good chance to get to know the friends that I wasn’t actually super close to because no one was actually on their phone unless they were taking pictures.

Everything went smoothly as planned, but I knew it wouldn’t last long. As soon as we got to Hakone, we faced the biggest problem: getting to the AirBnb.

The buses in Hakone are incredibly different from Tokyo. Because Hakone is such a small town and is located in the mountains, the buses were always super late and the bus stops were located out in the middle of nowhere. It was the strangest thing to see a bus in Japan arrive 10 minutes late. When we did get on the bus, we got off at the wrong stop and had the option of either walking to the next stop or waiting 40 minutes out in the cold for the next bus.

Walking sounded way more appealing that night, considering we could explore the town while going to our next stop instead of standing around for 40 minutes, so we chose to walk. Little did we know this would cause us to get even more lost than we were before.

We somehow ended up on the highway and had to cut through a small path through the mountain, which I’m pretty sure no one really used. It was freezing cold out and all of us had our luggage, so it made things even harder. The path was super steep, but it made for a good memory.

The end of the path after the steep descend.

After half an hour of descending down a mountain, we ended up at a bus stop (actually in the middle of nowhere). It took us to the edge of a mountain (where there were large cabins along a hiking trail) and dropped us off. From there, Google Maps told us to hike the mountain, up until top, where we’d find our AirBnb. It was about 7pm then, so it wasn’t actually that late. However, because we were so far away from the actual city center, it was almost pitch black out.

My friend took the lead since she was the one that booked the AirBnb. We ascended the mountain, talking and chattering about how cold it was and how excited we all were. I was walking towards the back, talking about how different everything was from the city until my friend who was leading turned around and hissed at everyone to be quiet.

Alarmed by her sudden change in mood, I gave her a bewildered look. She pointed to the front, where there was a boar in the distance, standing on the path we were supposed to take, with its children. Its children were scampering around, while the boar just stood cautiously, staring right at us. No one moved a muscle. Finally, one of my other friends whispered to the group about how we should take a different route.

My friend who was leading told him that there was only one route to the cabin, and that this was it. Everyone fell back into a silence as we stared at the boar in worry. One of my friends who lives in the mountains back in the States told us it was too dangerous to try to go any closer, so the best we could do is wait for it to leave or try to find a different way.

In the end, we stood around there warily for a good 5 minutes before it slowly turned and ran uphill. Because we were heading up in the same direction, we all decided to proceed quietly and carefully. We did eventually bump into the same boar again, but it didn’t stare us down like last time. It turned and took a different path, allowing us to finally let out a sigh of relief.

When we got to our cabin, there were no street lights whatsoever. The only light we had was from the moon and our phones.

My group of friends and I trying to open the door.

It took ages for us to get the door to open, but once we did, we hurried and settled in for the night. As everyone was unpacking and getting comfortable, I realized we hadn’t had dinner. It was already 8pm by then, so most places were closed. To make matters worse, the nearest convenient store for food was where the bus dropped us off. That meant that we had to go back down the mountain, risk seeing the boar again, go to 7/11, and then climb back up the mountain. It took us a while to decide on whether or not we actually wanted to go outside into the cold to get dinner, but we ended up splitting into groups to go get food. One group stayed home and one group went out. I went with the group that went out – we ended up getting 6,500 yen worth of convenient store food.

Our 7/11 Dinner

After getting back to the AirBnb, we had dinner and played games, such as Mafia, Tetris, and Smash. We all ended up sleeping at around 3am and waking up at 6am the next day, but it was all worth it.

Playing Mafia

The first day served as a great group bonding time. As scary as it was to see those boars and get lost in the mountains, it was really fun. That night that I went to bed, I sincerely hoped the next day was just as great.

—-continued in Part II


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