Whenever I travel, especially when I go solo, I seem have great luck with the weather. Sunny or at least non-rainy skies appear frequently in my travel cards. However, if that is at all a thing, I could say that my luck reverses in equal measures every time I travel to a mountainous area, and this rang true when we went to Mount Hakone in Japan. We had chosen this specific mountain to visit because it was off-season for Fuji and because, if the sky is clear, you can see Mount Fuji in the distance with the beautiful Lake Ashi in the foreground. As I should have expected, this was not to be the case, as it was foggy and drizzly AF on the singular day we had allotted for our mountain adventure. But the experience wasn't entirely a disaster because this was also the day that we were able to experience a traditional ryokan. Although hiking and mountain photos didn't happen like intended, we were still able to check off wearing yukatas, eating a traditional kaiseki meal in the room, taking a dip in an onsen (with less awkwardness than anticipated!), and sleeping on tatami mats.
If you are anything like me and my friends, the thought of Japanese etiquette is more than a little daunting. "SO MUCH SHAME" pretty much became the motto of our trip, and after only about a dozen or so faux pas (basically, quite early on in the trip), we gave up and fully embraced our ineptitude. If possible, I would say that one of the places where we felt the most out of place would be the ryokan, where, in addition to mountains of tradition, there was a slight language barrier. The lessons that we learned that night through trial and almost-only error would be: They will not tell you when to start eating (you begin ..... when they finish setting the table?? I don't know. I don't think I'll ever know for sure.); if you are not a hot tub aficionado, you will probably only last about 15-20 minutes in the onsen, and then you will likely pass out for a while afterwards; and even if you eat as fast as you can, they will still likely be incredulous at how long it takes you to finish the meal.
As to what exactly we ate, our server did not speak English, so your guess is almost as good as mine.
- I think that there are two train options to get to Hakone (we overslept and had to mad dash to the train station, so my memory may be a bit scrambled): the Shinkansen plus a transfer or the Odakyu Romance Car. Take the romance car. I'm not sure why it's called that, but I'm definitely glad that we were forced to ride it. It does run a little bit slower, but they have a snack cart that comes by, and my recommendation is to get all the snacks. On the shinkansen, if there was a snack cart, it was always items that you could easily find at a convenience store, but the Romance car had special, seasonal sweets like a sakura popsicle and a limited edition pudding.
Date: March 2015
Camera: Canon 6D