Toyko Trip: Soshu Odawara Castle & Hakone (Day 1)

My great friend from high school, Jessica, was traveling to Tokyo on business and we were working hard to work out plans to see each other. I tried to fly Space-A and didn't have any luck, but with a little research I found SUPER cheap flights through AirAsia and I made it! Luckily for me, I was able to stay with Jessica and they let me tag along as their business partners showed everyone around. I'm extremely grateful because I would have never experienced Tokyo like I did without their help.

Titling this post by where we went and only listing two places does not give this day justice. We went from early morning to late in the evening. Unlike most of us, Japanese people are very punctual... thank goodness! If they hadn't been pushing us along, there is no way we would have been able to fit everything in on our own. First up: Odawara Castle.

According to the brochure, it was founded in the mid-15th century. It became the residence of the Hojo Family early in the 16th century, but went through numerous changes throughout the Edo Period until it was dismantled in 1870. Since then, there have been numerous renovations and now serves as a national historic site.

There were four floors that had artifacts and information. Most of it was in Japanese, but some things looked familiar to me: the first picture below is a passport with a "han stamp." We still have to get han stamps on everything today. They are much smaller now but they still exist, which is pretty cool. When you made it to the top floor there was a view from every side of the castle. It was amazing!

Next up, we went to Hakone. It's an amazing area that takes you up into the mountains, like straight up, mostly on roads that look like they're one way but aren't. A little scary, but a lot of awesome!

This pic looks a little more 'fall' than it actually was, but it was just as beautiful.

At the top, there was a beautiful view of Mt Fuji. I hear we're pretty lucky because it was such a clear day. Whoop! Whoop! There were also hot springs in the other direction. You can get in them, but (thank goodness) we didn't. Jess and I had found out the night before that you have to get nakey to get in them and spent most of the morning terrified. Ha!

The hot springs & if you look closely, you can see the little hut that's set up.

After that, we went down into the mountains in a cablecar. Again, amazing! We could see everything: golf courses, lakes, hotels, the hot springs, Mt Fugi... I think you get the point.

Doesn't it look like I was Photoshopped into this picture?

At the bottom we took a ship through a lake. Yep, a ship through Lake Ashi. At this point, Jess and I had a moment. It went something like this, "We are on a lake, in a ship, in Tokyo, hanging out. We are from Frankton, Indiana. How random and crazy is this?!"

Once off the ship we went to Hakone Sekisho. The brochure says, "It was settled in 1619. The Tokugawa Shogunate settled 53 checkpoints throughout Japan. Hakone Sekisho is considered to have been the biggest and most important of them all. The primary purpose of Checkpoints was to control arms entering Edo and women attempting to leave Edo. Hakone Sekisho, known for its strictness, was primarily responsible for keeping women from escaping from Edo."

Old coins now makes me think of Mark. He's a nerd with his coin collecting.

Day one was clearly fantastic, but that's not even where it ended. We went to a traditional Japanese dinner in a beautiful garden. Hello 15 courses (or at least close to that)!! There was even a fountain in the bathroom. Seriously?! Lastly, we went to Karaoke.... Best.Thing.Ever. I will forever remember my first, true Karaoke experience in Japan. It was great! Unfortunately, I don't have pictures but I'll never forget how fantastic it was.

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