Hakone is a region in the foothills of Mount Fuji; we booked into a hotel located right on Lake Ashi and could (just about!) see Fuji San from our room!
I took these couple of days as an opportunity to rest. It was really peaceful, and not many people were around, so we almost had the run of the hotel to ourselves.
On our first night, we met a Kiwi couple called Dave & Yvette who were also touring around Japan. They were in the middle of a 4 week stint, and were planning on visiting Nagoya to see the Toyota factory. She worked in Continuous Improvement, so wanted to see that in action.
We sat with them for a few hours, drinking cocktails that the barman had never heard of. A testament to Japanese excellent service, he took it upon himself to go and find out how to make a Cosmopolitan, White Russian etc without needing any information from me.
The next morning, Peet decided it'd be a great idea to go for a 3 hour run across the hills. Needless to say, I decided to stay in bed.
4 hours, breakfast and a finished book later... Peet still wasn't back from his run, so I started to get a bit freaked out. After 5 and a half hours, the wanderer returned. Apparently it'd taken a bit longer than he'd expected to run up and down a million hills, and he'd missed the first ferry across the lake. Crisis averted :)
On an impulse (a not very well thought out impulse), I decided to book us into a hotel in Hiroshima for our last usable night in Japan. It was actually really worth the 5 hour train ride there, and we wished we'd gone earlier in the trip.
We stayed in a little hostel right on the river/ canal. It was awesome. The room was super tiny, but clean and comfortable. The main selling point was the al fresco restaurant downstairs, overlooking the water. It was all decked out in aged white furniture and was really stylish. It had a great atmosphere to it.
We spent our day in Hiroshima mainly at in Peace Memorial Park and visiting the museum, reading about the A-Bomb and the events leading up to its use.
I think everyone knows of Hiroshima and why it's famous, but I doubt many people know exactly the extent of what happened (at least I didn't).
They had photographs of what the city (a successful shipping port and key military production location during times of war) looked like before the bomb, and then the devastation after.
At the end of WWII, after the Nazis had been defeated, Japan was still at war against the Allies. It seems that America, keen for an excuse to test out their new weapon (which had run massively over budget to research and develop), orchestrated the terms of a surrender so that Japan would never accept. There were copies of memos and correspondance between American officials attesting as such.
And then when the Japanese refused to surrender, the selected target cities, narrowing the list so that only those who hadn't been air bombed were included, thereby allowing them to more accurately measure the "results" of the A-Bomb explosion. So Hiroshima was eventually selected, and the bomb dropped with no warning.
And then the Japanese still didn't surrender, so they bombed Nagasaki too.
I just don't understand the whole thing. When you see the impact of this kind of destruction on the place, the people etc, it just seems completely mindless. And on a macro level, it all appears to be just a product of people's pride and greed getting out of control. Japan being too proud to surrender, even when one of its cities was completely razed to the ground; America's greed for power - racing Germany to develop nucleaur weapons, and then being too proud and too stubborn to allow the R&D expense to go to waste - using such a destructive weapon when the situation didn't really call for it.
At the same time, reading about Japanese history - the wars with China and Russia - it seemed like Japan used to be a bit of a bully. So in a way, it seems as though the bombings actually changed the Japanese psyche for the better, as now it's a nation concerned with engendering world peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Anyway, I had to leave the museum half way through the exhibit because it was too upsetting.
We decided to take a bit of a trip to clear our heads, and visit the Itsukushima Shrine. It was a train and a ferry ride away, and we only had enough time to glimpse the famous floating red gate for a photograph before heading back.
It was such a beautiful area though, it was worth it just to see it for a few minutes!
We came a bit unstuck that afternoon when trying to get back to Tokyo. I'd booked us into a hotel near the airport because our flight was early the next morning. Unfortunately, our trip to the shrine had meant we were now trying to get back during rush hour, and the next few trains were full.
The next available train didn't get us back in time to catch the last train to the airport, and the Nozomi train, which would've gotten us back in time, was so ridiculously expensive that we couldn't justify it. It was actually cheaper to book ourselves into another hotel at the last minute and get an early train the next morning!
We finally booked onto a train that would get us to Tokyo for 9:30pm. But, we had no internet and no hotel room organised... and our train was leaving in 10 minutes!
Luckily, the lady at the tourist information desk, who had just spent a good 20 minutes running through our various train return journey options, lent us her computer so we could book a room. We then had to run to the platform, and in our haste, managed to get on to the wrong train - still bound for Tokyo, but unfortunately was an uber slow one.
11pm, we finally checked into our hotel for our final night in Tokyo. I think despite all of the drama and fatigue, it was still well worth a visit to Hiroshima.