Nature and Nudity in Hakone

Nature on Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi is one of Japan's many nature centers.  Some of our favorite experiences include:

  • Sailing around Lake Ashi aboard a 4-decker pirate ship
  • Praying at Hakone Shrine high in the forest
  • Walking along an ancient trail lined with cedars to protect travelers from the weather
  • Visiting the local active volcano, whose eruption created Lake Ashi thousands of years ago

Naked in the onsens

Who doesn’t like a hot bath?  The Lake Ashi region is known for its onsen, or natural hot spring baths.  We were excited to test them out.  We learned upon arrival that the baths at our ryokan were gender-segregated and open all night long.  Adam decided to take a walkthrough.  Apparently, he gave the impression that he was nervous… maybe because he walked in wearing jeans and a pullover under his ryokan-issued robe.  Two naked men began describing – in Japanese – that everything needed to come off.  So we threw modesty to the wind, and visited the baths many times during our stay.

Adventurous Food

Ryokans are very traditional and generally do not serve Western food.  That’s well and good for Adam, but not as good for Annie.  Breakfast and dinner were graciously served to us in our room.  Each meal was an expedition, with at least 8 different tiny plates of sauces, uncooked meats, tofu, and sticky rice.  At one point, Annie told Adam, “I just want a big pot of miso soup and nothing else.”  Adam’s much more willing to experiment with food – check out the video of him trying raw squid! 

The Elusive Mount Fuji

Japan's iconic mountain was high on our list of things to see.  We thought about climbing it, but missed the window where we could.  So we hoped to do the next best thing: catch a view of it.  We stayed at the southern end of Lake Ashi, 30 miles from its base, thinking “it’ll be easy to snap a photo, right?”  WRONG!  Annie had been checking the weather and decided that we’d probably only have one chance to see it.  Early the next morning, she dragged me out of bed (she is the early riser) at 5:30 AM.  It was cold, no one was awake, and it was beautiful.  We did manage to see it before the clouds rolled in.  But sitting there together on a bench as the sun rose was the best part.  Can you see Mount Fuji? 

Hint: Look at the central tallest mountain.  To the left, you will see a faint light brown top above a cloud.  That’s it.