WE HAVE SUNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!
Hark the weatherman, he can be trusted in Japan! You dont get a lot of info, but its proved itself reliable. The reason we chose today is not just because it seems Sunday is a traditional biker day the world over, but for the last few days the forecast has said today would be clear. AND IT ISSSSS!!!
We set out early, determined to get a photo at the Tori gate in the lake. We arrived around 7am and still we were not the first, but at least there was no queue. Then to 7-11 (our new favourite shop it seems) for a breakfast bun and chilled coffee. Its early and already its warm. The impenetrable impact protection a waterproof hardshell gives, will stop us getting sunburnt, but will also lock in that fruity sweat smell for later. Niceeeee.
First road I really wanted to cover was recommended by Biker Paradise. The Ashinoko Skyline road is delicately laid upon the ridgeline of one side of the Hakone crater. Its a wonderfully twisty strip of tarmac maintained perfectly with limited traffic as its got a small toll of 300 yen, about £1.50 one way. Its the cheapest track day I’ve ever heard of! Lots of bikes and nice cars were out. Some to blast along as fast as possible and others to cruise and enjoy the view. And the view is worth going slowly for, its magnificent. Almost 360 degree views from one of the many lay-bys we stopped at. You can see from the coast cities of Mishima and Fuji, all the way inland to Mt. Fuji and far beyond to the Minami Alps in the background. I can hardly think of a view this wide I’ve seen anywhere else, its amazing, and so clear today!
Coming down into the foothills, we head for an anti-clockwise loop of Mt.Fuji. It should be do-able in a few hours with time for lunch somewhere. We picked a random spot on the shore of Lake Kawaguchi (which sounds like a handbag designer for bikers) and when we turned up, we have Mt.Fuji reflected in its surface. Or we would have, if the jetskis and speed boats weren’t buzzing about like aquatic fruit flies. Nevertheless, another great view.
We had wanted to climb Mt. Fuji while we were here. There are several tracks and while it would be hard, I’m sure we could do it. I even got to researching the huts you can stay in on the way up. But because of Covid, they have only just reopened, and only at half capacity, and they are booked up for the whole year already. It’s possible to do the climb overnight, but this is a whole new risk, lack of support and passers by to ask for help if you need it. Let alone navigating a featureless and unfamiliar scree slope at the top and it taking about 7 hours of constant walking. I’m in favour of type 2 fun stories, but this got a little too close to stupidity before we even started. I suspect we will be returning to Japan, so we will have to book it way in advance and do it next time.
Moving on we picked a spot about an hour away that looked promising for some food. It was next to the Shiba river, so we were basically obliged to go. It turned out to be a visitor centre for the Shira-Ito waterfalls nearby. We first had a cake and a coffee with ice cream floating in it (!), and then went to explore the waterfalls. These things are huge and seem to encircle the visitor centre and shops on a spit of land between 2 rivers.
One is a pretty straightforward big Samuel Jackson catchphrase waterfall pouring off a bubbly limestone outcrop and down into a big basin. The other is a fascinating education in geology. The deep basin has been carved out of sedimentary rock that sits below a remarkably thin crust of limestone. And since limestone is bubbly and porous, it has channels where ground water flows. This waterfall has the usual river flowing off an edge. But then all around the lip of the basin, where it looks like someone has cut the limestone rock crust with a knife, water pours out in a curtain. The whole marvel must be 100m long at least and drops 20m or more before collecting in a beautiful light blue pool. The colour is in thanks to the filtering of the water through the rocks so its crystal clear and the white limestone on the bottom reflects the bright blue sky we have.
It was a wonder of nature seeing these. But we couldn’t stay too long as we had a time limit and it was really hot so we wanted to get moving again. The route back took us back up to the Ashinoko Skyline whoch was even more fun now the road was bone dry. Aimi was clinging on, not that I was going particularly fast but it was fun to swoop and power out of turns.
We returned to Bikers Paradise in one piece and without incident which cemented today as EXCELLENT. Its always a bit nervy taking a rental vehicle as there is always that weird tense standoff when you collect and return it whether there is any damage. Through mild neurosis about being late, we also returned the bike an hour early. This meant we didnt have to faff about getting a taxi, as we were in time for the last bus back to town.
It had been a tiring day that started quite early so we opted for an early dinner and then a potnoodle later. Aimi has been searching for a Ramen restaurant for a couple days now and had no luck, maybe in Kyoto we will find one. But what we did find was a very doggy friendly place that serves a traditional recipe fried chicken called Karaage Karatto. It was surprisingly moist and juicy and came with cream cheese cubes and cherry tomato halves which was exquisite. Definitely keeping my eye out for this dish again.