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Previously, we had seen Nara Park and enjoyed a tea ceremony among other things. Our 3rd day was centered around Mount Fuji, but first we explored the Fuji-Hokone-Izu National park. We started out our day on Lake Ashi riding on a pirate ship. WITH CANONS. Well, they may have been fake, but still.
While we were on the ship, we were interviewed by elementary students who were practicing their English skills. They wanted to know some general things like where we were visiting from and what our favorite Japanese food was. We wrote down answers for them, although we wondered afterward if they were supposed to write the answers themselves after we had talked to them…
We took a ropeway car up to see Owakudani, an area with hot springs and sulfurous fumes due to being around an active volcano zone. It’s a popular area for people to visit to walk around and see steaming craters and great views of Mount Fuji.
One of the most unique things about the area were the eggs available to purchase. The eggs are cooked in the naturally hot water in the bubbling pits, and as a result have their shells blackened from the sulfur. Eating one of these eggs is said to prolong one’s life by seven years. They’re also TASTY and frequently on objects of the souvenir variety in the gift shop. There was one additional blackened snack to get – black ash ice cream. Which really, tasted like whichever flavor you got (either Vanilla or Strawberry Milk), but looked black.
We were able to see Mount Fuji very clearly from this area, although later in the day when we were at the museum for Fuji, it did get a bit cloudy around the mountain and was hidden from view. Such a shy and fickle mountain!
We headed for Tokyo, which would include two days of exploration. But I’ll pick that up later.
This is a small aside to my ramblings about places we visited while touring Japan, and more focused on one of my favorite aspects of Japan that probably seems silly to most people: vending machines. I’m including Gashapon machines in this category of delight, as they show up a lot more frequently in Japan than in the States.
Vending machines with edible and drinkable items are very frequent throughout Japan. Our guide informed us that residents can even rent portions of their property out to the vending machine companies and get paid a commission on the income from the machines, which makes me feel better after seeing how often sets of vending machines would be stuck in front of someone’s house.
When I went to Tokyo for two weeks on an off-campus trip for college, I learned that Boss Coffee is the best and most easily accessible pick-me-up to be found while in Japan and this trip was no different. Boss Coffee was an option 95% of the time, including the option for hot coffee.Along with the option for hot versions of canned beverages, or hot beverages poured into disposable open cups, another more frequent vending machine delight were the machines with ice cream. Wee containers of Haagen-daz, crispy wafer green tea with chocolate ice cream sandwiches, and a mysterious wonder James sampled known as ‘Coolish’.
Not only that, but there are vending machines for beer, which I guess means that Japanese folks trust the underaged with cash to not buy it. But maybe placing a beer vending machine next to ice cream means kids would choose to spend their money on ice cream instead of alcohol? (Hey, it worked on us)
When it comes to running into Gashapon vending machines, it’s hard for me to say no when I see something funny or one of my favorite characters in it. There are some odd toys dispensed on occasion – the weirdest this time was probably the ‘tables and chairs’ set.
We left with quite the haul, in part because there was an area at a mall near our last hotel where there were around 25 machines, most of which had really rad capsule toys. If there’s a toy that’s hard to find, you can usually find it in a shop around Akiharbara, which may or may not be cheaper than leaving it up to chance of getting all the toys you want from the machine.