On Monday the 4th April 2011 I began my day with a very long conversation with Ralph in the downstairs toilet. I chose the downstairs because I hoped no one would notice me chucking up the 87 glasses of umeshu I drank the night before. KD’s lovely mother noticed and was very sweet and caring of me, trying to give me tablets and food as I attempted to explain that I must’ve ate something that didn’t agree with me.

KD left to go to work and we were left to pack up and catch a train to our next destination after reassuring KD’s mom that I was fine and that we didn’t need any laundry doing. (what a lovely woman, if only I could book her on to all my holidays)

Back to the bullet train for us. A train from Tokyo to Odawara, then an hour long journey on a small bus, winding up the wiggly mountain roads of Hakone until we got to our ryokan, Lodge Fujimien.

Before we left for Japan I had emailed Lodge Fujimien to express my sadness at the earthquake and its consequences and to check that they were OK and still welcoming visitors. I think because of this, and because numbers were down, they upgraded us to a bigger room! The room was amazing. Large tatami mat room with a separate toilet room (toilet slippers provided), a sort of pre-balcony indoor balcony, where you could sit in chairs and drink green tea using the tea set provided (hot water in the corridor) and look out towards the highlands of mid Japan, with Mount Fuji taking centre stage.

This was also when we started to use the camera (a Nikon Coolpix) that Luke bought in Akihabara, so photos from here are not just off my phone. What a thrill.

Lodge Fujimien is one of the best value onsen ryokans in Hakone. Your stay includes use of the onsen (of which I have no photos, bad luck pervs) and a traditional kaiseki dinner.

An onsen is a natural hot springs bath. They are usually large public baths that are gender separated. Some posher onsen ryokans have private onsen baths in guest rooms. At Lodge Fujimien they have a men’s bath and a women’s. My advice is to learn the kanji for men and women so you don’t wander into a room full of nudey men/women by mistake.

Once you’ve identified which room you’re meant to go in you stroll into an ante-room where you can take off your yukata (provided in the room), pop it in a basket, and then walk all-bits-out to the bath room. There are quite strict rules about using the onsen (and the same rules apply to sento). There are usually some hilarious posters explaining the rules of the onsen.

The basic ones are: 1. YOU MUST BE IN THE NIP!

2. You must sit on a little stool at the side and wash yourself before getting in the bath.

3. Don’t put anything else in the bath – you have a little towel which you can use to cover your bits and put on your head.

4. Get out and have another wash on a stool. Rinse thoroughly then get back in the bath.

After we enjoyed some hot springs bath time (there was a bit when I was the only person there and I sat at the huge window looking out at mount Fuji sitting in the hot water and cold air cooled my face, it was totally brilliant) it was time for dinner. Again, due to the earthquake hoo-ha, there were very few people in the restaurant. But the staff very pleasantly served us our kaiseki dinner. 

It was pretty amazing, but some of it was sort of disgusting but in a sort of delicious way. There’s A LOT of food. They serve the miso soup and rice last as a sort of filler upper if you’re not completely stuffed by the 18 dishes you’ve already eaten. I have attached the menu – this was not a menu from which you chose what you wanted, you got EVERYTHING on the menu.

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