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Day 10 Odawara and Hakone

On Our Way To An Onsen Destination

sunny 70 °F
View Japan 2023 on Helen K.'s travel map.


Before leaving the REI hotel in Nagano this morning I take a photo of the hotel’s shampoo and conditioner. Janet and Trina had used the Stephen Knoll hair product the first evening and I tried it the second evening of our stay.


Janet had noticed the product had left her hair feeling soft and smooth and she commented on how much she like it. Trina agreed. I tried it and loved it. It had a light fragrance and it left my hair feeling silky and smooth without feeling as if there was any residue from the conditioner. The product was called the Stephen Knoll Collection New York Hydro Renew EX.I googled the product. Clicking on Amazon brought up “this product is no longer available”. When we check out, I ask at the desk to see if I can buy the product from them, but the answer is no, and they also don’t know where I could go to buy it. When I tell our group that we can’t buy the product, Trina tells us she put some in an empty container she had. Smart thinking. Darn, why didn’t Janet and I think to do that! We head to the JR station and take a JR train to Odawara today. On the train I work on the blog. When we reach Odawara Kingman suggest we go to the restaurant that we went to in 2017 and 2019. “Hopefully, the restaurant is still there”IMG_0012.JPGIMG_0016.JPG Kingman says. “You remember how fresh the sushi was, and Janet, you remember the alcoholic pineapple drink you ordered by mistake that you gave me? I want to order that drink again”. He pulled out his phone and showed us the photos of our food from the previous visit. Kingman recalls that it was very close to the station. He leads the way and he is happy to see it is still there. 7915e1b0-f36f-11ed-baaa-1b76a91217d3.JPGThere is no English signage for the restaurant. large_79180490-f36f-11ed-b253-b577ee0808be.JPG It’s called Shoya Odawara Honke. It’s an Izakaya, a Japanese style pub where the food and drinks are very reasonably priced.8bbaada0-f36f-11ed-baaa-1b76a91217d3.JPG We are shown to a room where there are three tables against the wall. A banquette seat spanned the length of the wall while the other side of the table had regular pull-out chairs. Our table can seat 6 people. Seeing the room with the tables brings back my memory of being in the restaurant. 8c06f8e0-f36f-11ed-b253-b577ee0808be.JPG The pineapple drink is no longer available so Kingman orders a lemon sour drink. IMG_2042.jpg We all order set meal that consist of a bowl of rice, miso soup, pickles, and the main entrée. I ordered fried chicken with tartar sauce. Mike had the sweet and sour pork. Kingman and Doug ordered sashimi. My set meal cost 950 yen or $7.00. Considering that here is no tipping in Japan, you can see that one can eat well for a very reasonable price.large_DSC_1848.JPG As we walk back towards the station after lunch I notice a statue of a boy carrying firewood while reading a book.


I wonder about the reason for the statue so I googled information about who he was and found out he is Ninomiya Sontoku, a self educated orphan who rose to prominence in the 1800’s. He had tremendous foresight and his knowledge about agriculture and economics greatly helped the peasants living in Odawara. He became a symbol of success through education and there are numerous statues of him throughout of Japan, particularly, in front of schools. During WWII, many of his statues were confiscated and used for arms manufacturing. After the battle of Okinawa, a US lieutenant commander took a statue of him from Okinawa and gave it to Rollins College, his alma mater. In 1994, Japan asked for the statue back and after some sensitive negotiations, the statue was returned in 1995 in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII. Besides the statue, I see other commemorative items in Odawara, particularly on the manhole covers.DSC_1849.JPGDSC_1855.JPGDSC_1861.JPG We go back to the station to the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center. Mike recommended that we check out the discount passes for sightseeing in Hakone because that is where we are staying for the next few days. While the passes were being purchased, I check out a souvenir shop next to the service center.DSC_1852.JPGDSC_1853.JPG From the station we head to Odawara Castle which we can see from on our way there since it stands on a hilltop. DSC_1854.JPG On the way we stop in a Mr. Donut. The mochi donuts that are shaped like teething rings are my favorite. Mochi gives the donuts a chewy texture. Today’s mochi donuts are very fresh so we sit in the donut shop to enjoy them as we can’t eat while walking on the street. large_DSC_1858.JPGThere are more decorative manhole covers on the way to the caste.DSC_1924.JPGDSC_1862.JPGDSC_1856.JPG The castle has a large park area with the Ninomara moat and the Manabi bridge, a long red bridge. large_DSC_1868.JPG The moat is filled with large carps that we can see swimming near the surface. The castle park has over 300 cherry blossom trees that have survived since WWII. It is one of the top 100 places in Japan for cherry blossom viewing. Had we visited earlier, they would have been in bloom. DSC_1874.JPGThere are benches for visitors to sit and enjoy this area.DSC_1870.JPG The garden area has beautiful flowers. I see a wisteria garden that is off to the left side of the grounds leading to the entrance of the castle. I am surprised that there are only a couple of visitors as the wisteria is in full bloom. My guess is that people overlook it because it requires going several feet away from the path to the castle.large_DSC_1898.JPG This park has stately cedar trees with spreading branches that are supported by wood poles.large_DSC_1908.JPG There are several walls and gates and more moats. Here we are standing in front of the Sumiyoshi moat and bridge.large_DSC_1893.JPG When we cross the bridge, we find the Akagane (Copper) Gate which has copper color bands on it. large_DSC_1895.JPGA little further uphill we come across a converted moat filled with neat rows of irises in plastic containers.large_IMG_0031.JPGlarge_IMG_0028.JPGlarge_8c012c80-f36f-11ed-baaa-1b76a91217d3.JPG The irises will blossom from May to June. Azaleas are in gorgeous bloom during this month of April. Crossing the vermillion bridge we go up the stone steps through the last gate, the imposing Tokiwagi (evergreen) Gate, named because of the tall pine trees seen through the opening of the gate.large_IMG_0036TokiwagiGate.JPG We come into the full view of the castle grounds. large_IMG_0041.JPG The first thing I notice is a small dome shaped cage with Snow monkeys.


If I hadn’t seen the Snow Monkeys yesterday, I might had found these red-faced monkeys in the cage fascinating. But I had seen these monkeys roaming freely, jumping, cavorting on the ground, in the trees, on the mountainside, in the hot spring. The cage I saw was no larger than a small classroom. I could not look at the monkeys. I did take photos for the purpose of documenting the presence of the cage, but it was just too depressing and sad to see these wonderful little beings caged up. I don’t understand the reason for having a mini Snow monkey zoo on the castle grounds. It made as much sense as leaving several five year old kids in a locked classroom 24/7. My cousins had the same reaction and they walked past the cage in dismay. In my past visit to Japan, the one thing that distressed me were the Sika deer in the island of Miyajima. We went there to see the famous torii gate that sits in the sea. What I didn’t expect to find were deer that rooted in any bag, purse, or pocket that they could find in their quest for food. There is no vegetation left on the small island for the deer to eat so they are starving. large_DSC_1921.JPG
On the castle grounds are the Samurai Museum and the Ninja Museum. The Louies head to the Samurai Museum to see the samurai swords and armor. DSC_1912.JPGMike and I went to the front of the Ninja Museum, but we didn’t go inside.


The Louies returned shortly, with Doug being disappointed that the Samurai Museum was closed. He is just not having any luck checking out swords on this trip.Our group is content to enjoy the castle from the outside, and Janet tells us that she doesn’t expect that Doug will want to go in the castle either. I think the effort of walking up the long path to the castle ground had stemmed our enthusiasm for walking up the long flight of stairs to the castle and then walking around the five floors of the exhibits inside. Doug, however, proved Janet wrong and he was the lone person to go inside the castle. He didn’t want to miss out on seeing the samurai suits of armor, swords, firearms, and scrolls. The rest of us waited and sat on a bench near the gift shop.
We take the train from Odawara to Hakone, a town known for being one of the most famous places in Japan to bathe in a traditional onsen.DSC_1925.JPGDSC_1933.JPGlarge_DSC_1928crop.jpg At the Gora station in Hakone, our very fit cousins walk along the busy road (parts of which had no pedestrian path) down the steep hill for a little over half a mile to the Hotel Indigo, while we sit and wait for the shuttle. The shuttle takes a group before us and by the time it comes back for us, our cousins are already waiting inside for us.DSC_1936.JPGDSC_1937.JPG Our group has been to a traditional onsen in Hakone in our prior visits. The onsen features your own private hot spring tub. The majority of Japan is made up of mountains with many volcanoes. This results in many natural source of heated water rich in minerals thought to provide healing benefits. One of the unique experiences to enjoy when visiting Japan is to acquaint yourself with the experience of being in an onsen. It can be a public one or it can be a private one. Using an onsen with others is perhaps the only time that the normally reserved nature of the Japanese people is shed in preference for communing with nature and shedding one’s clothing to rid oneself of all pretenses. It’s called “hadaka no tsukiai” or “naked relationships”, a platonic relationship meant to strengthen ties when one uses an onsen with others. Our westernized group isn’t ready for “hadaka no tsukiai” so we opt for the onsen with private tubs that are in our rooms. The Hotel Indigo was selected because it was an IGH hotel with membership benefits.


It is a very modern onsen decorated with stylish Japanese décor. When you enter, you are greeted by friendly staff. The entrance looks like you are stepping into an open kitchen restaurant. DSC_1941.JPGlarge_DSC_1939.JPGYou are shown to waiting area with round tables and vinyl covered chairs in front of a large window view of the wooded hills. While you wait you can go to the open kitchen counter to help yourself to juice, water or tea. The check in set up was also different as there wasn’t the usual counter where everyone is standing. You sit around a large square table. IMG_5915.jpg The décor was a blend of modern and vintage. Suspended above the table is a traditional teapot just like we saw at the Hokkaido historical village. Janet notices complimentary face masks in a basket and hands one to me. All our rooms have private Japanese style baths. DSC_1951.JPGUnlike traditional onsens with floors covered with tatami mats and roll up futons for sleeping and no chairs for sitting, our rooms have wood floors, Western beds, and a sofa in a spacious setting. DSC_1943.JPG For showering privacy you can draw a 3 panel shoji screen.DSC_1953.JPGDSC_1952.JPG For hot spring tub privacy you press a button on a wall panel to bring down a screen. DSC_1956.JPGDSC_1954.JPGDSC_1957.JPGThe wash room is very large. large_DSC_1946.JPG There is a beverage preparation center. DSC_1959.JPGDSC_1960.JPG Complimentary water is from the springs of the mountains around Hakone. The glass bottle can be recycled.DSC_1958.JPG You select your rooms with either a mountain view or river view. Based on the website information, you might expect that a river view is superior, but in the case of this hotel, the river view is marred by the ugly buildings and underbush across from the river.large_DSC_1950.JPGDSC_1949.JPGDSC_1948.JPG The window in front of the hot spring is left open so you can enjoy the sound of the flowing river. In the small town of Hakone, businesses shut down at 5 p.m. To eat at the hotel we needed to have made a reservation. Our only choice for dinner tonight is a pizza restaurant or a Chinese restaurant. Both are five minutes from the hotel. We choose Chinese tonight. We cross the bridge over the river that we saw from the window of our room. We are headed towards the ugly buildings across the river. We are happy to see a 7-Eleven so close to our hotel. IMG_0056.JPG The restaurant, Wafujing, has a small aquarium at the entrance.large_IMG_0058.JPG IMG_0060.JPG We order six dishes. The most interesting presentation was the fried rice. It was served dome shape with slices of pork belly around the side. IMG_0062.JPGec9e61e0-ea1c-11ed-85d1-6bad8b32d1a5.JPGIMG_0063.JPGIMG_0064.JPGIMG_0065.JPGThe dishes were tasty enough and portions were decent. Doug ordered a tomato dish expecting it to be a stir fry, but it was a flavorful broth.IMG_0067crop.jpg After a satisfying meal, it was time to go back to our rooms and rejuvenate in our own private hot spring tubs. Some in our group say they plan to get up early in the morning before breakfast to soak in their onsen to maximize their use of this time honored Japanese experience.

Posted by Helen K. 06:13 Archived in Japan

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