Active volcanoes are great places to take kids. Unless of course, you are under-dressed for the freezing conditions at the top. Although we were expecting it to be cold, we weren’t really prepared for the gales whipping around the mountain which caused the mercury to drop to below freezing. We had to buy the kids adult gloves (no kids’ on sale) which flapped ineffectively on their freezing, pink, little hands. Still, it was better than the alternative of frostbite.
This was the summit of our Hakone day trip from Tokyo. The area is famed for its hot springs and picturesque views of Mt Fuji, a little further to the west.
To get there is half the adventure. From Tokyo you travel on no less than 8 forms of transport in the Hakone circuit. The metro, a local train (the Odakyu Romancecar), a mountain switchback railway, a funicular, a ropeway (or cablecar to you and me. For the geeks amongst us, Stephen informs me it’s called a Funitel because it actually has two cables suspending it for increased stability in high winds), a pirate ship, a bus, and finally, we opted for the Shinkansen (bullet train) home.
The experience of getting there was definitely worth it, especially travelling with two boys who love their trains, but the walk from the ropeway to the volcanic viewing area was quite painful – the wind, the cold and the howling children.
It took a long while in a shop, warming up, for us to be in a suitable frame of mind to eat the black eggs that were the primary reason for making the walk to the top. These are normal chicken eggs, boiled in the volcanic waters. The shells turn black but the egg inside is the most delicious you’ll ever taste. (I think it must have something to do with the sulphur in the water enhancing the sulphur in the eggs.) Apparently, each egg you eat improves your longevity by 7 years. We ate 1 1/4 each but there were people buying scores at a time.
The day trip from Tokyo is long and a very early start but ultimately worth it. The kids especially enjoyed the mountain train switchback, funicular, ropeway and pirate ship which crosses the crater lake at the bottom of the mountain.
In the end we decided to treat the boys to a trip on a Shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train. It wasn’t cheap but it’s not often you get to travel at 285km/h at ground level. We were lucky to see one at top speed race through the platform before we boarded ours, and boy, what a rush! Talk about blink and you miss it. The boys enjoyed the experience, although after we hit top speed, Thomas did the true Japanese commuter thing and fell asleep.