The next day, I spent a half hour or so wandering the neighborhood. The streets are very narrow and often connect at odd angles. I felt a rather wonderful harmony of nature and technology as I walked along the houses. I noticed that clothes dryers, with which I was so familiar back home, was seldom, if ever, used here.

We left for Mount Fuji about 11:30. As we traveled, we listened to the Yokohama top 40 on the radio. It was an interesting mix of Japanese and American songs.

Around 1:00, we stopped at an Italian restaurant for lunch. No matter what the nationality of the restaurant, we can always expect many of the Japanese touches like warm towels at the beginning of the meal and chopsticks in lieu of forks. 

Looking out from the restaurant, you can see Mount Fuji in the distance. Or rather, you could see it if not for the dense cloud cover over the peak. From here, we traveled up the Subaru Line to the fifth station about half-way up the mountain.

This is the North side fifth station (There are eight stations up each side of the mountain). We were naively hoping to climb the rest of the way up to the peak the following day, but it was too early in the season and the peak was still covered with treacherous ice. We would modify our plans and head to Kyoto a day early instead.

A group photo before we leave. Behind us is the cloud shrouded Mount Fiji. We purchased these flags on long staffs which would prove quite challenging to carry with us for the rest of our trip.

Around 6:00 we arrived at the Yumoto Fujiya Hotel in Hakone. This would be a good opportunity to point out that we used the JTB travel agency to arrange our trip. They set up all the  reservations, travel itinerary, made hotel recommendations and in every way made our vacation a wonderful success.

Our room was a combination of both Japanese and Western styles separated by a paper sliding door. If we preferred, there were futons available in the closet to make a pallet on the tatami mat floor. On the table were all the fixings to brew green tea for our refreshment. The hotel was magnificent and the staff had provided everything we needed for our comfort.


Once we arrived, we changed into the provided yukata (a casual cotton kimono) and slippers. It is usually quite acceptable to wear the yukata throughout the entire hotel, including the restaurants.

Thanks to our host family, they instructed us on the proper manner to wear these robes. You first fold the right side to cover your body, then fold the left side over the top of the right side. Following this rule is quite important as it is only reversed in preparing the dead for cremation. Then you tie the sash (called an obi) around your waist. Once you've tied the bow, slide the obi around so the ribbon is behind you.

Even though it was overcast, we still had a wonderful view outside the patio of our room. After enjoying the ambiance for an hour or so, we went down to the Himeshara restaurant for dinner. The dinner was an enormously elaborate affair composed of 10 to 15 courses served one at a time. All of the dishes were arranged for both a visual and culinary enjoyment.

After dinner, we went down to the outdoor ofuro (open bath) in the basement. Once again, our Japanese hosts instructed us on the proper procedure. Jennifer and her friend went in the ladies side and her friend's father and I went into the men's side. The first stop is the dressing room where you put your slippers and yukata into a cubby-hole and pick up your tenugui (small towel). In the bath itself, you must first wash yourself completely using the provided stool, water tap, soap, shampoos, etc. Do NOT enter the water before washing. And yes, you must completely disrobe.  If you're the modest sort, the Japanese public bath is not for you.

It was a glorious experience and I emerged refreshed and rejuvenated.