Breakfast the next day came a little earlier than we were ready for, and was almost as lavish as dinner. Nine courses. Usually I’m not so keen on Japanese breakfasts, but I enjoyed this anyhow. After that, I went down to the rotenburo, and then (after the switch) Gwen did too. And then it was time to check out (they had some kind of crazy 10:00 AM check-out rule).
We toddled back to the train station and again put our packs in a coin locker. Since Hakone is a touristy town, we were tourists, and it seemed the touristy thing to do, we took the 早雲山ケーブルカー to its terminus, where Gwen wanted to transfer to the even more touristy ropeway. That turned out to be quite spendy–it would have been about ¥4600 for the two of us to take the round trip, and we were low on cash with no ATMs in sight. So I nixed that, and we climbed 早雲山 on foot instead. It was a very challenging trail: steep, muddy, and not very well cleared. And we weren’t exactly in our hiking boots and lederhosen. There was actually a network of trails up in the mountain, with one segment closed due to volcanic gas emissions (which looked like big campfires from down below). We hiked about an hour up to the first checkpoint, where we met some middle-aged women (who did have proper hiking boots and lederhosen) having coffee. We chatted briefly, considered our options, and decided that we were tired enough to head back. It was a little disappointing that nowhere along the trail did we get to a clearing: there must have been very dramatic views from up there. So we made our way down, meeting a Japanese guy who had lived in Houston for four years on the way, and took the funicular back to the rinky-dink switchback three-car train, back to the Odakyu line back to Tokyo.
One thing that really impresses me about Japan, apart from the extensiveness of its public-transportation network, is its integration. Tokyo is served by three different networks (JR東, 都営, and the former 営団, recently rechristened メトロ ). Along with at least a half-dozen private rail lines that feed the outlying areas. These all interconnect, and you can buy tickets that connect through multiple networks. This is no joke: one could buy one ticket that would take you on the ropeway, transfer to the funicular, transfer to the Hakone-tozan line, and transfer to the Odakyu line.
Once back, we hung out in 渋谷, the neighborhood that inspired Blade Runner. Gwen got sucked into Copo, a crowded little shop selling wacky hosiery. Japan is way out ahead of the curve in terms of hosiery configurations. Here in the USA, women are bogged down with the antiquated notion that either something covers your foot or it doesn’t. Not the young women of Japan: there, you can have a sock that covers just your toes, with a sling around the heel. Or covers the bottom of your foot, but not the top, except for a little wraparound to hold it on. Or covers the instep but not the toe or heel. Or is like a stirrup. Gwen wound up getting examples of several of these variations. We also looked around in Three Minute Happiness, a ¥100 shop full of fun stuff. I discovered that another one of my favorite restaurants, Negishi, had opened a branch in Shibuya, and although the beef-oriented menu didn’t have a lot to offer Gwen, she humored me and we ate there.