Archive for the ‘Kanagawa Prefecture’ Tag

hakone: lake ashi & hakone shrine   6 comments

Sunday, May 28:  After taking the T bus from the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, I’m dropped at Togendai, the northwestern tip of Lake Ashinoko. I’m just in time to catch the pirate ship run by Hakone Sightseeing Cruise.  I run along with a few stragglers to board the ship.

Hakone Sightseeing Cruise at Togendai

Hakone Sightseeing Cruise

The door closes behind me as I embark, and the boat is underway.  It takes about 30 minutes for the boat to cruise to the southeast end of the lake at Hakone Machi.  I have on walking sandals, capris and a short sleeve shirt, but no jacket to keep me warm against the cold wind.  I’m not dissuaded though; I have to take pictures, so I must stand outside on the deck.  The warm seats inside are for sissies! 🙂

Lake Ashi

It’s a rather dark and cloudy day today, and cooler than yesterday.  It seems I made a poor decision yesterday to make the circuit around Hakone in a counterclockwise direction.  Yesterday was a perfect day, warm and sunny with blue skies.  If I had traveled in the clockwise direction, I would have been on Lake Ashi yesterday, and I might have seen views of Mt. Fuji.  Oh well, it’s simply not meant to be. I have missed views of Mt. Fuji because of cloudy skies when I’ve been at Mt. Takao, Odawara, and now Hakone.  I will soon travel to the Five Lakes area of Fuji, but only when the weather forecast is perfect.  I’m determined to see that iconic mountain before I leave Japan.

Hakone Sightseeing Cruise on Lake Ashi

A few rays of sunshine are making their way to the mountains around Lake Ashi, making them glow.

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi, also referred to as Lake Ashinoko, is a crater lake that lies along the southwest wall of the caldera of Mount Hakone, a complex volcano that last erupted in 1170.  The lake is known for its views of Mt. Fuji, its numerous hot springs, historical sites, and ryokan.

Lake Ashi

There are even a few hardy souls zipping across the lake in their boats.

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

We cross paths with another Hakone Sightseeing Cruise pirate ship on the lake.  The other boat is going in the Togendai direction, while we continue to Hakone-machi.

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

As we get to the southeast end of the lake, I’m on the lookout for the Hakone Shrine’s torii gate in Lake Ashi.  I see it, but it’s awfully far away.

the torii of Hakone Shrine on Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi

pulling into Hakonemachi-ko

Lake Ashi at Hankonemachi-ko

We come into to dock at Hakonemachi-ko, where, in order to get to Motohakone, I have to jump ship, right onto another pirate boat.  I cross the dock immediately upon disembarking, and hop on the adjacent boat, which leaves immediately for Motohakone.

a change of ship

heading to Motohakone

heading to Motohakone

On this leg of the cruise, I get a slightly better view of the torii gate, but it’s still a little too far for my taste.

Hakone Shrine’s torii in the lake

Hakone Shrine’s torii in Ashi Lake

Hakone Shrine’s torii in Ashi Lake

pulling in to Motohakone


At Motohakone, I disembark again, and when I ask about getting to Hakone Shrine, I’m told I need to walk along the shore for about 15 minutes. I do so, and soon I’m at the first torii gate of the Shinto shrine.

first torii at Hakone Shrine

At the second torii gate, I walk uphill to the shrine.

Second torii at Hakone Shrine

small shrine at Hakone Shrine

I find the light is always challenging when taking pictures of these red shrines.  It’s so frustrating trying to get a decent photo.  Not only that, but every place is so crowded with tourists or worshippers that there is never a view without people.

Hakone Shrine

I’m now in the habit of taking pictures of the ema at every shrine I visit.  I love them; each shrine has its own distinct ema.  I wish I could buy one at every shrine, but they can be quite expensive, and I don’t want to be loaded down with a bunch of ema when I return home in August.

ema at Hakone Shrine

ema at Hakone Shrine

ema at Hakone Shrine

Hakone Shrine

Finally, I walk back down the hill, hoping against all hope that the torii in the water won’t be packed with people.

a small shrine

Sadly, a herd of people are all taking turns being photographed in front of the torii.  I don’t know why everyone has to have a photo of themselves in front of every tourist attraction!

the crowds at the torii gate in Lake Ashi

I have to be creative and try to get some shots from the shoreline on either side of the torii gate.  The people in the little swan paddle boats have the right idea.  I think I will have to come back to Hakone just to rent a paddle boat for a close up view of the torii from the lake side.

the torii in the lake

Hakone Shrine’s torii in the lake

the torii in Lake Ashi

Hakone Shrine’s torii in Lake Ashi

After trying every angle I can, and deciding I will have to be satisfied with whatever photos I get, I head back on the path to the Motohakone bus station.

a well-worn bridge

a bride on the path

a roundabout path

mossy steps

a stone path

view of Lake Ashi at Motohakone


At the bus stop, where I must take a bus back to Hakone Yumoto, two buses are due to arrive, a local and an express.  The queue is quite long and I worry that I won’t make it back in time to catch my 3:20 Romancecar train. When the local bus, which takes one hour to get to Hakone Yumoto, arrives, it is packed, meaning I will have to stand on a crowded bus for an hour.  The express bus takes a half hour to get to Hakone Yumoto, but I have to wait another 20 minutes for that one. I decide to move to the line for the express bus and just wait.  At least I’m at the front of that line, so I hope it means I’ll get a seat.

It turns out I’m one of the first people on the bus, so I get a good seat by the window.  A young lady sits down beside me; her name is Whitney and she is an American working in Tokyo for PricewaterhouseCoopers, doing business as PwC in Japan.  She and I talk about how we go out and explore every weekend, mainly just walking around taking pictures, which we both enjoy doing.  She stayed on a whim overnight in Hakone; she wasn’t sure when she came down if she would do a day trip or an overnighter, but she decided because it was such a struggle to get around that she would stay the night. We both agree that Hakone is best as a weekend trip.  She admits that she was able to stay at a very expensive hotel, while I sadly have to confess that my hotel was on the cheap end at $107, and nothing special at that.

It’s a very nice conversation, and it makes the half-hour bus ride speed by.

When I arrive in Hakone Yumoto, I have about an hour to kill.  I originally intended to visit a fancy onsen but it would be too much of a rush to do that in an hour.  Instead I go in search of a restaurant where I can eat some lunch.

Hakone Yumoto

Hakone Yumoto

I find a restaurant that serves shrimp tempura, one of my standbys in Japan, and I enjoy my meal at leisure.

restaurant in Hakone Yumoto

shrimp tempura

I go to the station, where I pick up my bag at Hakone Baggage Service and pay them another 800 yen for the delivery service.  Then I wait patiently for the 3:20 Romancecar.  It turns out I have plenty of time and I probably could have easily squeezed in either the onsen or the Narukawa Museum of Art, which was near the bus stop in Motohakone and is supposed to have great views of Mt. Fuji.  Of course there would have been no views today, and that’s why I didn’t bother.  Oh well, I’ve already decided that I must come back to visit that museum, rent a paddle boat near the torii, and visit the fancy onsen.  As the Romancecar is so easy and fast, I can easily do those three things as a day trip.

Steps today: 14, 613 or 6.19 miles. 🙂


the hakone botanical garden of wetlands   2 comments

Sunday, May 28:  After getting the run-around from several bus drivers about which bus can take me from Choanji Temple to the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, I finally decide to walk.  I remember that the tourist information lady near the Hakone-Yumoto Station told me yesterday, when she gave me a map of this area, that I could walk from Choanji to the Botanical Garden in about 15 minutes.  In the end, that’s exactly what I do.  It’s easy enough and before long I’m paying the 700 yen admission fee.

The Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, 2,200 feet above sea level, was founded in 1976, and now contains some 1700 plant varieties, including about 200 types of woody and herbaceous wetland plants from Japan, as well as 1300 varieties (120 species) of alpine plants.

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

The garden, which was formerly a flat area containing rice paddies, is now a specially designed ecosystem consisting of man-made hills, rockeries, ponds, streams and several types of moors. It consists of eight divisions: 4 moors, a swamp forest, an upland forest, a meadow and an alpine garden.

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

The garden has four different kinds of wetlands: marsh, fen, bog and swamp.  The marsh, fen and bog are grass-dominated, with different root systems.  A swamp differs form a marsh only in that woody plants are dominant.

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

Swamp forest

swamp forest

swamp forest

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

swamp forest

swamp forest

swamp forest

swamp forest

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

Sengokuhara Marsh

Three different areas — an upland forest, a meadow and an alpine garden — surround the wetland vegetation.  The upland forest consists of deciduous trees, such as oaks, maples, and dogwoods — all common to the Hakone mountain area.

plants of the cliff

plants of the cliff

plants of the cliff

plants of the cliff

Sengokuhara Marsh

The garden offers a network of boardwalk paths through the different types of marshland. I always love a boardwalk path!

Sengokuhara Marsh

Sengokuhara Marsh

Sengokuhara Marsh

Sengokuhara Marsh

Sengokuhara Marsh

Sengokuhara Marsh

Sengokuhara Marsh

Sengokuhara Marsh

Sengokuhara Marsh

swamp forest

swamp forest

Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

white fluffy flowers

Now, at 10:30 a.m., I’ve done all the things I intended to do yesterday.  However, my list for today is quite ambitious as well.  In the parking lot of the botanic garden, I board Bus T to Lake Ashi, where I’m told I can take a cruise across the lake on a pirate ship. Ahoy, matey!  🙂

a weekend in hakone: delightful gardens at the hakone museum of art   9 comments

Saturday, May 27:  Before leaving the Hakone Open-Air Museum, I ask a man at the information desk how to get to the Hakone Museum of Art.  He seems unsure, but finally tells me to take the train to Gora Station, and then get on the Sounzan Cable Car to Ko-en Kami Station.  I had already done a Google map search and had seen I could take a bus, but he assures me it is easier to take the train and cable car.  Upon arrival at Chokoku-no-mori station, I ask a Japanese man at the station about a bus, but he impatiently motions that I should WALK to Gora Station.  I should have just hopped on the train as I have the Hakone Free Pass, so it doesn’t cost me anything additional to use any of the transportation in the area.  As it is, I blindly take the man’s advice and end up walking quite a way up a steep hill and then packing myself into the cable car with hordes of other tourists.

Getting around in Hakone is supposedly convenient because of all the modes of transportation, but the timing of such transportation and the confusion about where to catch each mode makes it a challenge.  It ends up being more time-consuming than I anticipated. Finally, I pop out of the cable car at the deserted Ko-en Kami Station, where I wonder if I’ve made a mistake because I’m the only one who gets off!

Just outside the station, I find some lively action, namely a tour group heading in the direction of the Hakone Museum of Art, indicated by a sign.  I walk quickly to get ahead of them, and pay my  700 yen entry fee before the crowd converges.  Then I walk quickly to the moss garden, keeping just ahead of the group.

Okada Mokichi (1882-1955) founded the Hakone Museum of Art in order that “works of art should not be monopolized but made available to be viewed and enjoyed by as many people as possible.”  He hoped that increased exposure to art would help elevate human sentiments and make a big contribution towards cultural development. The Hakone Museum of Art focuses on displaying medieval Japanese ceramics from the Jomon period (10,000 B.C. – 200 B.C.) to the Edo period (1615-1867).

I’m sure the museum has a great collection, but I don’t come here today for that.  I am here to see the moss garden and Sekiraku-en Garden.  I wander through the stone paths under the shade of the maple trees.  Before long the tour group passes by me and I have the garden to myself.  It’s a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of Hakone’s many tourist attractions.

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

I love nothing more than a quiet walk through a deserted and peaceful place.

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

moss-covered steps

The moss garden also has a teahouse where green tea is served for a small fee.  I am decidedly not a tea drinker, which my Japanese students find shocking.   How could anyone not like tea?

tea house in the moss garden

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

moss garden

moss garden

moss garden

moss garden

moss, up close and personal

pathway through the moss garden

tangled roots

Besides the moss garden, the museum grounds feature a Japanese landscape garden, Sekiraku-en Garden, which spreads over the slopes of Gora.  It features large decorative stones, a mountain stream and views over the valley and mountains.

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

tea house at Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

Sekiraku-en Garden

back to the moss garden

moss garden at the Hakone Museum of Art

moss garden

moss garden

After leaving the beautiful moss garden, I decide I should go check in to my hotel. First, I have to find it! By now, it’s almost 4:00 and the other two things I hoped to do today are probably getting ready to close.  My plan was to also visit Choanji Temple and the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, but as I already have a full day planned for tomorrow, I don’t know if I’ll be able to squeeze them in.

When I first arrived in Hakone this morning, a woman at the Tourist Information told me that I should take Bus S to my hotel.  She had given me a map of the area where I’d be staying, which is near both Choanji Temple and the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands. I find the bus stop right outside the Hakone Museum of Art, and take Bus S, watching for the Senkyoro-mae stop.  When I get off, I’m disoriented and have no idea which direction I should go.  I’m near a crossroads and could go in four directions.  I see some Japanese lettering which seems to match that on my hotel reservation; it says 500 meters, so I hike up and down and hilly road for half a kilometer.  At the end of the road, I see a beautiful building on my right and I think, Wow!  My hotel is beautiful!  I should have known better as I got one of the cheapest hotels in Hakone at ~ $107.  Many of the hotels in Hakone are $300-500 per night!! It turns out it was not my hotel at all but the fancy Hakone Venetian Glass Museum.  The woman at the desk directs me right back down the road from where I just walked, and tells me which direction to go.

Back at the bus stop, I see there are two roads going off the main road in a V; I take the left branch.  To my left, I find a quiet and pretty little garden and pond, which I stroll through. It’s delightful.

a secret garden not far from my hotel

whimsical garden

I continue following that road to the top of a hill where there is a hotel with a Japanese name.  I ask the doorman if it’s my hotel.  He directs me back down the hill and indicates I should have taken the branch of the V to the right.  Well, well, well!  That was the direction I had come from on the bus!

Back at the tip of the V, I walk up the hill that I came down on the bus.  It’s a long uphill slog, but finally after another 500 meters, I find a sign that says Nakamura.  At least that’s one word I recognize from my hotel name: Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura.  I walk up to the office to sign in.

Almost to the door, I run into a youngish woman who tells me she’s going into town to get some food at the Family Mart and she wonders if I’d like to come along. She tells me she’s from Amsterdam and is traveling around Japan; that she was here with friends but they have now left, and that I should get some mosquito repellent because the pests are inundating the rooms.  I thank her very much but tell her I just walked down three separate roads to get here, so I’d like to check in and relax a bit before I go anywhere.

Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura

I leave my walking sandals in a cubbyhole by the entrance and am told to put on some plastic slippers.  I’d rather just go barefoot, but I do as I’m told. I’m directed to my room, after the receptionist tries to find my name on the hotel register.  It’s right there in plain sight, my name in English, so even if he doesn’t know how to read English, it seems he’d recognize it  as the only English name in sight.

In my Japanese-style room, I find my bag all wrapped in plastic and nicely delivered from Hakone Baggage Services.  I check out the room and realize there’s nothing to do here, so I might as well head out to find something to eat.  I’d already read that the hotel didn’t serve any food.  The woman at the desk speaks a bit of English and tells me to go into the town; she gestures down the same hill I just climbed to get here!

Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura

Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura

Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura

After 500 meters, I reach the bus stop where I first disembarked and I walk through the pretty little garden in the V once again.  It doesn’t look much different this time than it did the first time I walked through.

a stroll through a whimsical garden

whimsy in green

tangles in green

I walk and walk down the long straight road in Sengokuhara looking for a restaurant, but I don’t see much of anything.  Finally, I find a place that appears to be a restaurant, so I wander in.

restaurant in Sengokuhara

entryway to the restaurant

Surprise, surprise!  Here I find the young lady from Amsterdam who I ran into at my hotel.  She tells me her name is Lee.  I ask her if I can join her and we have a nice dinner together.  She is of Vietnamese origin but grew up in Amsterdam, so she’s a Dutch citizen.  She says she loves to travel and was with friends until today, but she’ll be traveling alone for the next week.  She is so glad her friends (one of whom was a friend of her friend) have left; she was annoyed by the one girl who was just an acquaintance because she was on her phone constantly.  She is on her way to Hiroshima tomorrow by the Shinkansen.  She reports that all Dutch people live to travel and she’s no exception.

I order tempura and soba noodles.  I’m not really all that hungry after my pizza for lunch earlier, so I end up leaving most of the noodles untouched.  I do enjoy a beer though. 🙂

tempura and udon

me in the restaurant

It’s nice to have Lee to walk back to the hotel with, as it starts getting dark early.  The road up to our hotel is a winding road without much of a shoulder so is pretty dangerous.

Back at the hotel, I go to my room, get undressed and put on the robe I find folded neatly in my closet.  The hotel has a small onsen, so I go downstairs, wash off thoroughly, then soak in the very hot bath for about 20 minutes.  I’m tired from all my walking, so I’m sure this relaxing bath will help me sleep tonight. 🙂

Total steps: 17,088 (7.24 miles).

a weekend in hakone: the hakone open-air museum   11 comments

Saturday, May 27:  Today, I embark on my first overnight trip since I arrived in Japan.  My destination is Hakone National Park, a district of mountain spas and thermal activity contained within an extinct volcano some 40km wide. The volcano became extinct some 400,000 years ago, but hot springs and spas, along with bubbling hot mud emitting sulfurous gas, can be found in the still-active crater.  The main attractions of Hakone are its many onsen — hot springs with bathing facilities — and the variety of unique transportation modes available to get around.

Many people make a day trip here from Tokyo, but I think a day trip would be too much of a rush.  I don’t like to travel to a place and then have to hurry and scurry to see everything; if possible, I prefer a more leisurely experience. I reserved a hotel room earlier in the week when I saw the weather forecast was good, and I’m glad I opted to stay the night.

To get to Hakone, I can simply take the Odakyu line from Machida, two stops from Fuchinobe, but I’ve heard that for a small increase in price, I can buy a reserved seat on the convenient Romancecar.  The Romancecar is Odakyu Electric Railway’s name for its limited express luxury tourist services south-west of Tokyo, to mountain resorts such as Hakone and Gotemba (Mt. Fuji), as well as beaches such as Enoshima. The name comes from romance seats, two-person seats without separating armrests.

I asked several of my co-workers about whether I needed to reserve seats in advance for the Romancecar, but they told me they’ve always just bought the tickets at the station right before traveling.  I don’t know why, but I decide to check online early this morning, and I find, much to my surprise, that the two departures closest to 9:00 are already sold out.  I book my ticket for the 10:17 departure, which is later than I hoped to get started.  I guess next time, I’ll book in advance.

At the Machida station, I buy the recommended Hakone Free Pass, which provides unlimited use of Odakyu-affiliated buses, trains, boats, cablecars and ropeways in the Hakone area, as well as discounted admission to selected tourist attractions on two or three consecutive days.  As I only have the weekend, I buy the two-day pass from Machida, which is about 4,800 yen or around $44.

The train ride to Hakone on the Romancecar is very pleasant, and I decide that if I have to travel in this direction again, I will certainly use the Romancecar.

Transportation in Hakone runs in a circuit, with most people beginning on the Hakone Tozan Railway, the only mountain railway in Japan. Halfway up the line are switchbacks, where the driver and the conductor change shifts and the train reverses to switch direction.

Because my hotel is about halfway around the circuit, I avail myself of the fabulous Hakone Baggage Service, which delivers my bag directly to my hotel for about 800 yen, or $7.25.  This is super convenient as it allows me to travel hands-free until I reach my hotel.

Then I head to the Romancecar Ticket Window and buy a ticket on the Romancecar for Sunday at 3:20.

After taking care of all this minutiae, it’s nearly 12:10 and I’m on the Hakone Tozan Railway heading for the Chokoku-no-mori station, the stop nearest the Hakone Open-Air Museum.  Although I might not have picked this destination myself, one of my coworkers expressed a desire to travel all the way to Hakone just to see this museum; since she seemed so enthusiastic, I figure while I’m here I may as well see it.

This railway, which travels up the mountain in switchbacks, takes about 20 minutes.  It’s standing room only when I get on, but I can see two lively Japanese couples drinking beer at a small table and laughing up a storm (see the man in the hat below).  They are having a grand time.  It’s not so much fun for those of us standing and not having a drink!

Hakone Tozan Railway

Hakone Tozan Railway

As soon as I get off the train, it’s time to eat!  I’m starved.  I walk down the street and see this funky Cafe Bar Woody.

Cafe Bar Woody

The server is laid-back and friendly and speaks a bit of English.  After he takes my order for a margarita pizza, he stops to adjust the legs of Sheriff Woody, who is sitting on a shelf over my table.  Then I notice the other Toy Story characters sitting around the restaurant.  At first I think the Woody name is just about all the wood throughout the restaurant, but then I realize that it’s all about Toy Story and Sheriff Woody.  How quirky and cute. 🙂

After lunch, I head to the Hakone Open-Air Museum; it was founded in 1969 to serve as an outdoor art museum that would give people the opportunity to encounter great sculpture in a natural setting. The museum’s mission is “to promote sculpture as an environmental art and to bring new energy to Japan’s culture of art” (Hakone Open-Air Museum).

The Hakone Open-Air Museum

It takes me quite a long while to walk the grounds of this expansive museum.

Chimera con Ali (1963) – Marcello Mascherini (Italy)

I’m happy to find one of Taro Okamoto’s sculptures here, as I was unable to photograph any of his artwork when I visited the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art in Kawasaki.

L’Home Vegetal – Taro Okamoto (Japan)

I love this sculpture of a foliage-covered head in a pool; it is called La Pleureuse, which means mourner.

La Pleureuse (1986) – Francois-Xavier & Claude Lalanne (France)

Sound of Wind (1988) – Takao Tsuchida (Japan)

tall figures

an imposing character

entangled couple

Manteau (1968) – Churyo Sato (Japan)

field of dreams


Always a fan of Japanese ponds, I love this floating red sculpture.

floating water sculptures

floating in the pond

colorful carp

water sculpture

One part of the Hakone Open-Air Museum is the Picasso Collection.  As in most Japanese museums, no photography is allowed.

Picasso Collection

EGrande Figura Seduta N.2 (1969) – Emilio Greco (Italy)

sculpture in front of the Picasso collection

Le Grand Prophete – Pablo Gargallo (Spain)

PIcasso Collection

Fairy Chapel – Japan

Sphere-Trames (1962-63) – Francois Morellet (France)

Utsurohi – A Moment of Movement (1981/2015) – Aiko Miyawaki (Japan)

lounging in the grass

I climb the steps inside the Symphonic Sculpture, with its walls of stained glass.  At the top, I have a great view of the museum and the mountains of Hakone.

Symphonic Sculpture – Produced by Nobutaka Skikanai

inside the Symphonic Sculpture – Sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire

inside the Symphonic Sculpture – Sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire

inside the Symphonic Sculpture – Sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire

inside the Symphonic Sculpture – Sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire

View from the Symphonic Sculpture

View from the Symphonic Sculpture

View from the Symphonic Sculpture

walking down the Symphonic Sculpture

Reclining Figure (1969-70) – Henry Moore (UK)

The Symphonic Sculpture provides an interesting anchor to the leisurely sculptures scattered across the green lawn.

Symphonic Sculpture

Family Group (1948-49) – Henry Moore (UK)

Symphonic Sculpture

all dressed up and no place to go

Ferns in the garden

La Victoire de Villetaneuse – Cesar (French)

Garden of Stars

stone sculpture

It’s fun to watch Spatiodynamique No. 22 whirl about in the breeze.

Spatiodynamique No. 22 (1954-80) – Nicolas Schoffer (Hungarian-French)

green fields

iron sculpture

more reclining figures?

hooded stone figure

Balzac (1891-98) – Auguste Rodin (French)

After wandering for an hour and half through this outdoor museum, a rather quirky place, I leave, heading for the Hakone Museum of Art. At this museum, I’m most interested in seeing the moss garden and the Sekiraku-en Garden.  By this time it’s nearly 3:00, and I’m in search of the Sounzan Cable Car.

Time sure flies when traveling!



a visit to odawara castle   10 comments

Sunday, May 21: Today, I take a relatively short and easy trip to Odawara Castle. I want to see the castle, but I’m also interested in having a peek at the surrounding area known as Hakone.  I want to see how much of a hassle it is to get to the area and whether it can be done in a day trip.  While here, I decide I will do the Hakone trip next weekend, May 27-28, and I will make it an overnight trip.

Luckily I’m only two stops from Machida, where it’s possible to get on the Odakyu line  straight to Odawara. I have heard about the Romancecar, which is the limited express, reserved-seat train along the Odakyu line, but I don’t take it this time because I don’t really understand how it works and whether I need to reserve a ticket ahead of time.

Odawara Castle was originally built by the Omori family in the mid-15th century; it later became the base of the Odawara-Hojo family, one of the most powerful clans during the Warring States Era.  The castle gradually expanded as the family’s foothold from which they ruled the Kanto region.

During the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573), Odawara Castle had very strong defenses, as it was situated on a hill, surrounded by moats with water on the low side, and dry ditches on the hill-side, with banks, walls and cliffs located all around the castle, enabling the defenders to repel attacks by great warriors in 1561 and 1569. (Wikipedia: Odawara Castle)

bridge to Odawara Castle

In 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi attacked the castle, and with the defeat of the Hojo Clan, reunited Japan. After the decline of the Hojo family, the Okubo family became the castle lord.  Though the castle was repaired many times, it was destroyed when the Okubo family’s status and territory were taken as punishment.  Why they were punished, I don’t know.

Later, when the Inaba family became the new lord, the castle and surrounding grounds were devastated in the earthquake of 1633.  After that, the Inaba family renovated the castle and built Odawara Castle as the modern citadel seen today.

Irises before the bloom

After the Meiji Restoration, Odawara Castle was abolished in 1870 and the structures were either demolished or sold. The castle site went under the army’s jurisdiction and was later used as an imperial villa, which was sold to Odawara Town following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Today, I run into some characters dressed in period costumes.

some ancient characters

The castle keep is three stories on the outside and four stories on the inside. The interior features exhibits on the history of the castle as well as displays of items such as armor and swords.

Today Odawara is the closest castle keep to Tokyo ( Odawara Castle).

Odawara Castle

I happen upon a Japanese couple trying to take a selfie; after offering to take a picture of them, they offer to take one of me.  So here is a rare picture of me in Japan, although my face is hidden in shadow. 🙂

me at Odawara Castle

The top floor offers nice views of the park and surrounding city on a wrap-around balcony.  It happens to be a warm day today, but at the top, a nice breeze offers a cool respite from the heat. To the northeast, I can see Sagami Bay.

views from Odawara Castle – looking northeast

To the west, I can see the mountains in the distance.  Closer, I see the train station, with the Shinkansen zooming out of the station.

view to the west

To the south, I can see the mountains of Hakone.  Seeing them in the distance makes me realize how large the Hakone area is, and though many people see Hakone in a day trip from Tokyo, I don’t want to be rushed through it.

view to the south

view to the south

view southeast

view northeast

a glowing character

Because there are so many characters who occupied Odawara castle through its history, and because I see all these men pictured in the castle’s museum where photography isn’t allowed, I buy a postcard that features the men of Odawara’s long and distant past.

some famous ancient characters on a postcard

I’m tired and don’t want to make a long day of it, so I head back to the station; on the way, I find a conveyor belt sushi place where I stop for a late lunch. The plates go by slowly, but I seem to be too uncoordinated to pick them up.  I have to make several attempts to capture a plate.  I also order a couple of things off the menu and I’m surprised when they fly to me on a different track, screeching to a halt at my table.  I can’t help but think of these plates as shinkansen sushi.

Today I walk the fewest steps I’ve walked since I arrived in Japan, except during one rainy day when I stayed inside all day: 7,218 steps (3.06 miles).

I’m sure I’ll make up for this shortfall when I come to Hakone next weekend. 🙂


the tarō okamoto museum of art & a rose garden in kawasaki   11 comments

Saturday, May 20:  After leaving the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum, I walk through a leafy park to the Tarō Okamoto Museum of Art, which collects and preserves the works of Tarō Okamoto, and his parents Kanoko and Ippei.

Tarō Okamoto  (February 26, 1911 – January 7, 1996) was a Japanese artist noted for his abstract and avant-garde paintings and sculpture.

Tarō Okamoto Museum of Art

Entry at the Tarō Okamoto Museum of Art

Work began on the museum in November 1996; it was completed in July 1999, and the museum opened in October 1999.

There is only one place inside the museum where photos are allowed.  My photos are featured in the gallery below.  In addition, I bought some postcards and photographed those.

Outside are some interesting sculptures.

sculpture in a pond by Tarō Okamoto

sculpture by Tarō Okamoto

sculpture by Tarō Okamoto

sculpture by Tarō Okamoto

sculpture by Tarō Okamoto

After leaving the museum, I go in search of the rose garden, open only from May 11-May 28, a part of Ikuta Ryokuchi Baraen.  I trek up a steep hill through neighborhoods and a forest, wondering the whole time if I’m going the right way.

houses in a neighborhood on the way to the rose garden

pretty in pink

On a steep hill through the neighborhood, I suddenly see the Japanese woman I ate lunch with at the folk museum.  We greet each other and I show her my phone with the rose garden name.  She points up the hill repeatedly and smiles, saying something cheerfully in Japanese.

going up…

and up…

I finally find a group of rose bushes and my first thought is: This is it?  But then I see there is a larger spread down a hill.


corals and pinks

pink tipped roses

I reach the full garden at about 4:15 pm and I see a sign at the entrance says closing time is 4:30.  Luckily there is no entry fee; I’d hate to pay with only 15 minutes left.

The rose garden is crowded with families and photographers, along with plenty of roses, trellises and sculptures.

rose garden in Kawasaki

rose garden in Kawasaki

sculpture in the rose garden

roses in Kawasaki

coral pretties in the Kawasaki rose garden

Here is a small gallery of roses.  Click on any of the images for a full-sized slide show.

I love the lush layers and shades of roses.

layered petals

mango colors

mango/coral roses

layers and layers

The garden also has some classical sculptures.

a goddess in the garden

archway to roses

the goddess from afar

the rose garden in Kawasaki

pretty petals

a rose is a rose is a rose

Now that it’s a little past 4:30, some official looking people are rounding people up to steer them out of the garden.

another small trellis

evening falls on the rose garden

As there is no daylight savings time in Japan, the sun has been setting around 6:45.  Still, two hours before sunset, the evening shadows are layering themselves over the garden.  I make my way out of the garden and back over the hills and through the neighborhoods and eventually back to Mukogaokayuen Station. By now, I’m warm, tired and ready to go home.

Because I’ve been hot wearing my tennis shoes all day in the heat, I stop in Machida and buy a pair of walking sandals at the Skechers store.  Now I’ll be prepared for outdoor walking in the heat of summer. 🙂

Total steps today: 19,744 (8.37 miles)


the japan open-air folk house museum in kawasaki   7 comments

Saturday, May 20:  A couple of weeks ago, my Japanese Instagram friend Yukie told me of three places I might like to visit in her town of Kawasaki.  The first was Nihon Minkaen, the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum.  She also recommended the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art and a rose garden that is only open from May 11-28.

Kawasaki is not that far from my home, so I don’t feel any need to rush out in the morning for my outing.  It is a warm and sunny day, nearly 80F degrees, and I find there is quite a lot of walking involved.

I arrive at the Mukogaokayuen Station on the Odakyu line to find a huge map looking out over a wide street perpendicular to the station.  As I study the map, trying to get my bearings, a Japanese woman kindly comes up to me and asks me what I’m looking to find.  I tell her the three places, which by this time I’ve already found on the map, and she tells me that all I need to do is follow the road right in front of me.  The road, she says, is long and winding, but at the end, I will find the folk museum and the Taro museum.  She advises me that I should eat some soba at the museum if I have time.  We part ways and I walk down the road quite a distance until I reach the door of the folk museum.

After paying the entry fee at the museum, I ask about soba.  The guard tells me House #10.  I will be on the lookout for it, as I’m already hungry.

The museum was established in 1967, aiming to preserve the disappearing  indigenous houses in Japan, and to hand them down to future generations. The museum has twenty-five traditional buildings, including a water-mill, a storehouse on stilts, and a Kabuki Stage. In addition, the museum displays stone statues and carvings, as well as farming tools and daily utensils in each house.

The first group of houses in the collection are designated as Post Town; the Hara House belonged to major landowners who ventured into banking and politics. The financial resources enabled skilled carpenters to display their techniques in erecting the wooden frames.

The Suzuki House was an inn where horse traders lodged and stabled their horses.  The deep eaves and latticed windows are architectural traits of post towns.

The Suzuki House

Inside the Suzuki House

The Ioka House is a townhouse that belonged to the Ioka family.  The head of the family was an oil merchant turned incense merchant.  Both the practice of plastering over posts and the use of a tiled roof were measures to prevent fire.

The Ioka House

Before leaving Post Town, I see a huge house being constructed.  I don’t see any signs indicating what it is.

unknown house under construction

The next area is Shin-Etsu Regional Village. Here, the Water Mill grinds grain into powder; it also has two mortars for polishing rice and a straw damper.

The Water Mill

Inside the Water Mill

The Water Mill

The Sasaki House was built in 1731 in Nagano Prefecture. It was used as both a farmhouse and a dye-house.  The second floor above the stable served as an elementary school.

The Sasaki House

The Sasaki House

The Sasaki House

inside the Sasaki House

inside the Sasaki House

The Emukai House, built in the early 18th century in Toyama Prefecture, is characterized by a massive gabled roof with thatch. The immense attic stories were used to raise silkworms.  One of two divided sections of the earth-floored area was used for paper making.

The Emukai House

The Emukai House

Garden between the Emukai House and the Yamada House

The Emukai House

The Yamada House, built in the early 18th century in Toyama Prefecture, has a steeply pitched gassho-zukuri roof.  The steep roof (45 – 60 degrees) is called gassho zukuri because the houses resemble palms placed together and fingers pointing up in prayer. No nails or other metal materials are used, according to jinto Japan: The Official Guide.

The Yamada family made their living through silkworm cultivation and fire farming. The space under the floor was used for manufacturing gunpowder.

The Yamada House

Inside the Yamada House

inside the Yamada House

The typical gassho-zukuri Nohara House, with a massive steeply pitched roof, has a sturdy frame in order to support the weight of heavy snows. The Nohara family raised silkworms and burned wood into charcoal. It is from late 18th century Toyama Prefecture.

The Nohara House

The gassho-zukuri Yamashita House, with its huge steeply pitched roof, is from early 19th century Gifu Prefecture. The Yamashita family engaged in silkworm cultivation and fire farming on a mountain slope.  The house was briefly used as a restaurant before it was moved here.

At the museum today, the house also serves as a restaurant specializing in soba, both hot and cold. I stop here for lunch since the Japanese woman at the station recommended it. The restaurant is quite crowded and lively; because of this, I’m seated with another single woman about my age. She’s Japanese and doesn’t speak English, and of course I speak no Japanese, so we can’t communicate.  The lack of common language doesn’t stop her from being quite friendly, however, smiling and saying things in Japanese that I can’t understand. 🙂

Having soba at the Yamashita House

Soba at the Yamashita House

The next area is Kanto Regional Village. The Sakuda House has two roofs – one over the living space and the other over the earth-floored area. The head of the Sakuda family was responsible for a seine net sardine fisher’s community.  A seine is a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats.

The Sakuda House

A guide at the museum tells me the curved beams signify that the family is high-class and wealthy.

inside the Sakuda House

inside the Sakuda House

inside the Sakuda House

inside the Sakuda House

The Storehouse on Stilts is still part of the museum’s Shin-Etsu Regional Village and is from late 19th century Kagoshima Prefecture. The raised floor storehouse has four thick columns made of a toxic tree known as iju, which protect the columns from termites.

path to the Storehouse on Stilts

Storehouse on Stilts

Storehouse on Stilts

The roof space of the Storehouse on Stilts was mainly used to store rice, and a ladder was used to access it.

Storehouse on Stilts

The Hirose House, part of the Kanto Regional Village display, has a sunken hearth with no floorboards.  The Hirose family originally grew tobacco, but then switched to silkworm cultivation.  This house is from late 17th century Yamanashi Prefecture.

The Hirose House

The divided-ridge Ota House has a large gutter made from a log, where two eaves meet. The Ota family was engaged in farming and the head of the family was a village headman. This house is from late 17th to late 18th century Ibaraki Prefecture.

The Ota House

inside the Ota House

The next area at the museum is the Kanagawa Regional Village. The Kitamura House,  from 1687 Kanagawa Prefecture, has a bamboo-floored living room, rather than timber. The Kitamura family’s major crop was tobacco.

The Kitamura House

inside the Kitamura House

The Kiyomiya House, from late 17th century Kanagawa Prefecture, is one of the oldest buildings in the museum. The grass ridge of the roof is covered with irises that bloom in spring.  The Kiyomiya family grew rice and Japanese pears and they worked as carpenters.

The Kiyomiya House

The Kiyomiya House

The Kiyomiya House

The Kiyomiya House

Here, on this hot day, a man has a fire going in the center of the floor to demonstrate life in the past.  The people motion for me to sit down, which I do for a brief time.  The moment they’re not paying attention, I make my escape from the heat. 🙂

inside The Kiyomiya House

inside the Kiyomiya House

The Kiyomiya House

The Ito House, from late 17th to early 18th century Kanagawa Prefecture, sits on uneven ground.  The Ito family grew persimmons unique to Kawasaki, along with silkworm cultivation and dry field farming.

The Ito House

Kokagesan Shrine was revered among the people engaged in silkworm cultivation.  On both its sides are two of four reliefs depicting the afflictions suffered by the Indian princess in her life.   She was believed to have brought sericulture (the cultivation of silkworms to produce silk) to Japan.

Kokagesan Shrine

The Iwasawa House’s simple lattice windows were to ward off wild beasts. The Iwasawa family were engaged in charcoal making and tea cultivation.  The house is from late-17th century Kanagawa Prefecture.

inside the Isawasa House

The Kabuki Stage has a revolving platform that was used to change scenes during a play. Under the stage is a space from which the stage is rotated.

Kabuki Stage

inside the Kabuki Stage

behind the Kabuki Stage

The Kabuki Stage

At the west gate of the museum, I opt not to go in the Traditional Indigo Dyeing Workshop.  It’s enough to see it under the red maple leaves.

looking over the Traditional Indigo Dyeing Workshop

The last area is Tohoku Regional Village.  The shape of the Kudo House resembles the letter L from above. The Kudo family’s principal occupation was silkworm and tobacco cultivation.

inside the Kudo House

With two horses on one side of the earth-floored area, and humans on the other, they lived as family.

horse inside the Kudo House

After this expedition through the houses of Japan’s past, I make my way to the Rear Gate, where I find a sign pointing to the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art.  I exit and find respite from the heat as I stroll through a shady park to the museum.


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