In one of my previous posts, Going around Hakone, I mostly talked about transportation around Hakone. This time it’s going to be a sneak peek into what I have enjoyed in that wonderful place.
However, I don’t think I can talk about all the places in one entry, so it’s going to be all about Owakudani 大涌谷 for now.
We were greeted with this lovely scale model as soon as we passed the gates at Hakone-Yumoto 箱根湯本.
It’s basically everything, except the ropeway is missing. Beetles are the highlights of the season as boys and girls collect them and try to raise them as pets. Hakone has a beetle museum, but we didn’t go as my better half isn’t really into them.
Owakudani 大涌谷 is also known as the Great Boiling Valley.
First, let’s examine the kanji characters. Maybe they could tell us the reason why it is so. 大 – big/large, 涌 – to boil/to gush forth, 谷 – valley. Doesn’t leave much to the imagination, does it.
This place is situated in the middle of a crater, thus the name. It is acessible by car or ropeway.
This map is part of the Geo museum (free admission, yay!) in Hakone. It shows us the geographical make up of the area. That smiley face and tiny white dot indicates our current location. It does look like a great big crater, doesn’t it? Click 箱根ゲオミュージアム (Hakone Geo Museum) for details.
The newly opened plumes below are the reason why the Hakone Ropeway was closed for 2 years. On the top right corner of the photo, where the lines end, is Owakudani Resort. The place is fun and smelly! All thanks to the sulfuric plumes that are merrily spewing out gases.
Wanna see the plumes up close? Try to sit on the left side of the gondola. Thanks to the advice given to us by a local shop owner, we were able to see and smell the sulfuric plumes intimately.
This is Owakudani right in the heart of Mount Hakone. Parts of it has been reopened to tourists. It was actually a fine day, but the sulfuric plumes made it look a bit foggy.
Mount Myojogatake and the Daimonji-yaki 大文字焼き, big/large (大) burning (焼き) character/letter (文字), which is lit up during the Obon season around mid-August to send the souls back to heaven after their short visit on earth.
Legend has it that a guardian deity of children, called Jizou 地蔵, who promotes longevity and child-raising, is present in the hot springs of Owakudani.
Oops. Not this Jizou! but the resemblance is close.
Jizo or Jizou, popularly known as Jizou-sama, is the most beloved deities in Japan. With a peaceful and friendly face, Jizou-sama said to relieve the suffering of those in hell, answers the prayers of the living for health, success, children, and even boyfriend/girlfriend. He/She (I don’t know Jizou-sama’s gender) has many different faces and can be found all over Japan. Each type of Jizou has their own roles to play, but their basic function is to provide help and protection. Click here to learn more about Jizou-sama.
Back to Owakudani. This place said to hold the secret of long life.
Behold the kuro tamago 黒タマゴ (black egg)! Eating one egg is believed to extend one’s life for another 7 years (or so). Maybe if I eat one every 5 years I have a shot at living forever… but the smell… Ack!
So how does it become black? The geothermal and volcanic gases in the water reacts with the components of the eggshell, turning it black. The eggs are placed in a cage and boiled in one of the hot springs in Owakudani. I was imaging the possible smell and taste of this magical kuro tamago, and I couldn’t bring myself to try it. The eggshell is black but the insides look like a normal boiled egg, don’t worry (心配しないでね shinpai shinai de ne; the addition of “ne” makes the sentence sound softer). (*￣▽￣)ノ~~ ♪
For current updates on trails and road information in Hakone and Owakudani, visit this page. ( ´∀｀ )b
One thing to remember about onsens and bath houses (called sentou 銭湯) is that most do not allow people with tattoos to enter. It’s a historical thing. But even without thinking about history, one quick reason one could think of is: mafia (yakuza ヤクザ or 893, in Japan). It would be best to check in advance the onsen rules before heading out. Recently a few onsens and bath houses have become more tolerant, and are providing a small sticker to cover a tiny tattoo. However, only one sticker per person (or so, I heard and read). And there are also a few choice onsens that have no problems with tattoos at all. d(≧∇≦)b
Kashiwaya magazine via www.kashiwaya.org, has an informative article on tattoos and onsens. It is a good read for those who has tattoos and/or plan to have tattoos and plan to take a dip in the onsen or bath house in Japan. Whew! So many “ands” back there. (^o^;)
I’d suggest getting a tat after visiting Japan. It is less of a hassle, for those interested in going to onsens and bath houses. (*´艸`)
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