Trip around Hakone with a dice – Part 1

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Trip around Hakone with a dice – Part 1

It’s the battle of the sexes again as two teams race around Hakone over three days. They will travel by various modes of public transport from Odawara to Heiwatorii beside Ashi Lake. The teams, comprising two men and two women each, will roll a dice to determine their next location. At each stop, they have to choose between two missions. Once they’ve completed their challenge, they have to roll the dice again and move forward accordingly. The losing team has to pay for all the meals and transportation costs of the other team.

The race begins at Odawara Station. The women’s team rolls the dice and gets to move four steps forward to Hakone Yumoto, a major sightseeing spot. It is 15 minutes away from Odawara Station.

The men get a five on the dice and head to Tonosawa. During their train ride, they enjoy the beautiful view of colourful hydrangeas beside the railroad. After alighting at Tonosawa, they choose mission A, which is to listen to the biwa being played at Ajisai (hydrangea) Temple, while having a cup of Japanese tea. Armed with a map, the men walk to the temple, located on top of a mountain. The temple is also called Ajisaidera. Twenty types of Ajisai, or hydrangea, can be seen here in early summer. A rare cultural property of Hakone - the “one million Amida praying beads wheel” - can be found at the temple. It is said that rotating this wheel is equivalent to one million chants of prayer. After completing their task of having a cup of tea and listening to the priest playing the biwa, the men return to the station, throw the dice and get to move two steps forward to Miyanoshita by train.

The women’s task at Hakone Yumoto is to try out an activity called “air transfer”. They climb a steep slope for 20 minutes and arrive at an outdoor park called Forest Adventure. Here, they have to wear a safety belt and climb up a tree to a platform. Then, from 10m above the ground, they have to glide down through the trees. After finishing this exhilarating mission, the women roll the dice and get a five, which leads them to the next destination of the Open-Air Museum.

The men reach Miyanoshita, located 488m above sea level. They choose mission B, which is to go to “Chaplin’s” photo shop to take a nostalgic photograph. They ask a local resident who tells them the place they are looking for is actually Shima Photo Studio. Many foreign tourists have visited Miyanoshita since the Meiji period and the town is known for its nostalgic atmosphere. Since 1878, several Japanese and foreign celebrities have had their photos taken at this studio. They include Charlie Chaplin, the Emperor and other famous people. At the photo shop, you can find a precious private shot of Chaplin. After taking a “nostalgic” sepia tone photograph at the studio, the men roll the dice and their next stop is Gora, three steps forward.

The women reach the Open-Air Museum, where they select mission B. Their task is to eat 10 kinds of dumplings which are popular among the locals. So, they drop by a restaurant located beside the mountain railroad. At the popular Dumpling Center, you can choose from a variety of flavours of fried dumplings such as crab, shrimp, squid, octopus, corn, natto, beefsteak plant and kimchi. After this hearty lunch, the women throw the dice, get a five, and move forward to Kami Gora. Unfortunately, they next choose mission A, which requires them to retreat seven steps and go to Miyanoshita.

The men, meanwhile, arrive at Gora. Their next mission is to eat trout which they have caught themselves. They make their way to Haya River - a controlled fishing area - which originates from Ashi Lake. They are lucky enough to catch some trout pretty fast and later indulge in charcoal-grilled trout. After this, they get a four on the dice and move on to Kami Gora. As luck would have it, like the women, the men too choose the same “unlucky” task of heading back seven steps to Miyanoshita!

The women travel by cable car and train to Miyanoshita. Here, they choose mission A, which specifies that they have to ride by gondola to a valley hot spring. So they hop on a cute gondola which can carry up to five passengers and head to the bottom of the valley. They go to a traditional Japanese-style hotel called Yamatoya. It is frequented by several celebrities from all over the world. Its hot spring is open to day trippers who don’t wish to stay overnight at the hotel. After soaking in the hot spring, the women get a three on the dice, which means their next stop is Gora.

Once they arrive at Miyanoshita, the men too choose the mission of going to the valley hot spring by gondola. After completing the task, they have to move one step forward to Kowakidani, where their mission is to visit a waterfall. However, as it is already late evening, the men are unable to go to the waterfall so the task is carried over till the second day.

The women’s team arrives at Gora by train. Their next challenge is to eat Japanese sweets made with the mineral water of Hakone. However, they too are unable to fulfil their mission as the shop is closed. At the end of the first day, the women are ahead of the men by two steps.

On the second day of this dice adventure, the women visit Hanakotoba. Founded in 1921, the shop uses natural mineral water to make delicious Japanese sweets. The beautiful treats are handmade and delicately shaped like seasonal flowers, for example. After relishing the sweets, the women return to Gora, throw the dice and get to move five steps forward to Sounzan.

The men’s team starts the second day by visiting the waterfall at Kowakidani. They walk along a hiking course for 20 minutes before arriving at Chisuji no Taki, also known as a “waterfall of thousand threads”. The men then roll the dice and get to move three steps forward to Koen Shimo. Their next task is to listen to songs of the Showa period at a nostalgic coffee shop which has been around since 1959. The juke box here has been belting out golden hits for the past six years.

Tips:

1) Check out a rare cultural property of Hakone at Ajisai Temple

2) Certain hotels allow day trippers to use their hot spring facilities

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