Wednesday was a day trip to the nearby city of Hakone. After leaving our apartment, A, J and I decided to have breakfast at a cafe nearby which served Japanese style Italian food.
On the cafe’s menu there was a mix of traditional Italian pastas and fusion dishes. I selected one of the fusion dishes which was a Mentaiko Spaghetti. I don’t remember the exact price of the dish but it was around Y700. A selected a more traditional option for around the same price. After about a 10-15 minute wait, both our dishes arrived.
The spaghetti was well cooked, not al dente, but still quite firm. Mentaiko has a characteristically salty flavour and I mixed the spaghetti strands to try and get the heaping of mentaiko evenly spread throughout. The spaghetti was delicious, but probably due to my poor mixing skills, the sauce wasn’t evenly spread throughout. That being said, the sauce was creamy and flavoursome. I thoroughly enjoyed eating this.
Like my dish, A’s pasta was well-cooked with flavoursome sauce.
We left the cafe satisfied and well-fed. We were all pleased with what we had eaten and happy with the service as well. Looking back on the trip, I don’t think there were any places we ate at that gave us bad service.
After eating, we caught a train from Otsuka to the station for Hakone. From Otsuka station we had to change at Tokyo so we used our JR pass to Tokyo, then from there had to buy another ticket to Hakone. We got a ticket that cost Y6,000 and booked seats in the Romance Car. The name inspires thoughts of couple seating on the train, but it was simply a premier express train.
From Otsuka station they didn’t have a direct train to Hakone as there’s no train station at Hakone so we caught a train to the nearest one and caught a bus from there. The total travelling time from when we caught the train at Otsuka to arrive at Hakone was almost 2 hours.
While waiting for the bus, I spotted a small souvenir store that also sold soft serves so I got one there. The shop attendant informed me that they only did mixed taro and matcha soft serve so I was a little disappointed but got it anyway. It was delicious nonetheless.
We arrived at Hakone around lunchtime and by that time we were hungry again so we decided to eat first after taking some pictures (I know it sounds like all we did was eat today). The weather at Hakone was a total change from the humidity of Tokyo. It was cold and windy, and J and I regretted not having worn warmer clothes.
After looking around the street where the bus stop was in Hakone, J and I decided upon a soba restaurant.
The restaurant was quite traditional. We saw one other group of foreigners there, but besides that, everyone else was Japanese. We sat at a low table and also had to take off our shoes. The menu was entirely in Japanese and the staff didn’t speak any English at all. Luckily the menu was mostly in Katakana and Hiragana characters so I was able to read it. A chose ramen and J chose udon while I opted for the zaru soba.
Not long after we ordered, our dishes arrived.
Zaru soba is served cool with a soy based dipping sauce on the sauce, with sliced shallots used as a garnish. The soba was refreshing but after tasting J and A’s hot noodle dishes I experienced a major case of food envy and wished I’d ordered a hot dish as well.
J’s udon noodles were extremely fresh, soft and chewy, complemented by a comforting broth. Likewise, A also had the perfect noodles with a flavoursome broth. However both of them grew sick of their noodle dishes quickly and stopped eating them before they were finished. A complained her ramen was overly salty.
After we paid the bill and left, J wanted to go into the bakery next door. Unlike the restaurant, the bakery looked completely modern and new. As well as selling baked goods, they sold food products such as jams and also served tea and coffee with an outdoor and upstairs seating area.
On sale in the bakery were a myriad of interesting items that I most likely would not have been able to find at home in Sydney, such as Pure Milk Jam (I can’t stop wondering how this would taste) and Broccoli Wasabi. J and I picked out a few items and wrote the number of the items we wanted on a sheet, which we then gave to the cashier. All in all, very efficient. A decided to order a tea, so J and I took our items and decided to sit upstairs.
We enjoyed our pastries and the scenic view from the window before going back outside into the blustering winds. At this time it was now around 3pm, and the fog had rolled in over the lake. A had wanted to catch the ferry over the lake but was worried about the fog, so in the end we decided not to catch the ferry anymore. At a loss for what to do, we decided to catch a bus to a place nearby Hakone to have an onsen session.
The bus was small and crowded. During the ride, an elderly Japanese woman sat next to me and we had a conversation about things, but half the time I couldn’t pick up what she was saying, although I recalled her chuckling at me a lot. The stop where A, J, and I were supposed to get off at was somewhere in the middle of the route, however we didn’t know which stop it was. No one on the bus spoke English, and I was struggling to get my meaning across to the elderly woman sitting next to me.
The bus turned out to be one that went in a circular route, so the last stop was Hakone station and we ended up back there feeling hopeless about our travel plans for the day. By this time it was too late for us to catch the last ferry over the lake, so we ended up catching the train back to Tokyo, and went back to our apartment to freshen up before heading back out for dinner.
We decided to do a bit of shopping at Shinjuku station before dinner, as we had spotted a MAC store the other night. However, J and I ended up walking in circles around Shinjuku station without ever finding MAC that evening. I should add that Shinjuku station is huge, with several exits and levels. We had no idea what exit we had seen MAC at the other evening.
Add that to our day of going nowhere and we felt like bimbos with no sense of direction. We gave up on finding MAC and instead reunited with A inside Shinjuku station and went to find somewhere to have dinner at.
We decided to have dinner at an underground izakaya. We took our shoes off at the entrance, and were shown to a small booth for our seating area. They had limited copies of English menus, so the three of us shared one English menu, while looking at pictures in the Japanese menu.
The sweet potato tempura was perfectly fried and served with a light zesty sauce that was mildly acidic.
The straw grilled camembert was served with a few slices of thick, toasted white bread on the side and a mango salsa.
A was happy with her grilled camembert, which was thick and cheesy. It contrasted nicely with sweet and mildly spicy mango salsa.
I had no idea why Konan City was so special as to warrant a mention on the restaurant menu, but there you go. The noodles were a thick chewy egg noodles strongly resembling the kind used for yakisoba. They had a nice texture and flavour but were nothing spectacular. As the night progressed, the sounds from other tables grew louder and louder as we assumed people grew progressively intoxicated.
After finishing our meal, we paid and left. We went to the Shinjuku Metropolitan Building for views of the city, but I don’t have any pictures of this as my camera was dead by this time. After the Metropolitan Building we went for coffee in the heart of Shinjuku and again, talked about how badly we didn’t want to go home.