Saturday, April 2, 2016

Hakone and a view of Mt. Fuji

Weeping Woman by French artists Francois-Xavier and Claude Lalanne at the Hakone Open-Air Museum.
It is my first time to visit Japan and as I have a full Tokyo itinerary for 8 days, I squeezed in a day visit to its neighboring city Hakone. Little did I know that this will be the highlight of my trip. I only managed to visit 3 places, the Pola Museum of Art, The Little Prince Museum and the first of its kind in Japan, the Hakone Open Air Museum. Navigating the city was quite easy and I managed to take a ride in one of their old electric railway system, a cruise on a huge 4-tier boat and the reliable and easy to handle bus system.

Hakone is about 1 hour and 40 minutes train ride from Shinjuku, Tokyo. Getting there was quite easy also. You can also opt to take a train ride on this aptly called "romance car" but it will only get you 30 minutes earlier for an additional ¥840. After about an hour of sitting in the train, try to get a glimpse of the snow-capped Mt. Fuji as it becomes visible as you get close to your destination. This was my only chance to see it as it was foggy on the viewing areas we passed by when we were in Hakone.

Upon arrival in Odawara Station, the main connecting point of different transporation systems in Hakone, it was an easy and smooth transition and getting lost was never an option as most signs have English translations except for the bus stops.

The ride on the Hakone Tozan electric railway was quite an experience. It was moving on a slow pace giving you the chance to appreciate the surroundings you pass by. It may not be an advisable option though if you are on a constraint time frame visiting the city.

My first stop was the Hakone Open Air Museum. This amazing 70,000-square meter place features sculptures from different local and and foreign artists. It is my first time seeing this kind of museum and it was really such an inspiring place to walk around and gaze upon the art of nature and man-made structures combined. One of the striking art I saw was called Weeping Woman by French artists Francois-Xavier and Claude Lalanne. They also have a gallery dedicated to Pablo Picasso which contains nearly 200 of his original ceramic artworks. Some may wonder what Picasso is doing in Hakone? It is because of the ceramic arts he has done which is also prevalent in the whole Japan that made his work relevant to the Japanese.

Pola Museum of Art is a museum with a collection of painting from foreign and local artist. The most notable one I have seen was Claude Monet's The Water Lily Pond. I'm not entirely a big fan of Impressionism but Monet's work gives me quite a stir. I also liked the entire architecture of this museum. The design made it look like its blending in with nature yet when you are inside, you feel a difference like you were transformed within the forest and went incognito.

The last stop before heading for a cruise was The Museum of The Little Prince. This museum captivated me a lot and the huge house which was solely dedicated to Antoine De Saint Exupery, despite being completely in Japanese, have displayed a pictorial story enough to understand the life of this well celebrated French author. The surroundings of the museum was filled with larger than life replication of the artworks on the The Little Prince book. The shop contains exclusive merchandise that you can only get there and the cafe was styled with resemblance to the different artworks in the book as well. Even food was decorated with stars and their rose tea was the most delectable tea I have ever tasted.

I only had time for 3 places to visit. Had I known that this place will be the highlight of my trip, I could opted to stay longer. I over heard a fellow passenger on the bus saying that the best place to view Mt. Fuji in Hakone is at the Goetemba area. I will pen that on my next itinerary.

You may notice there is no photo of Mt. Fuji because I only had a glimpse of it on the train and taking photos from inside the train is quite a difficult task. But I will definitely come back here. Definitely.


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