Category Archives: transportation

Nozawaonsen – Farewell (until next time!)

As we sadly depart Nozawaonsen and head back home to Tokyo, we will leave you with a shot from the ski area’s Hikage Gondola.


This particular gondola transports skiers, snowboards, snowshoers, and the occasional snowdog (yes, we saw several of them) from the base of the slopes up 2,274m (7,461 feet), which is about 3/4 the way up the mountain.

From a kinda-related / interesting historical fact / edutainment standpoint, Nozawaonsen hosted the biathlon competition in the 1998 Nagano Olympics and is known for their pickled vegetables.


The Rain

It was at about the same time as we tasted the black eggs, that the typhoon started to arrive into the area and we had to head down back to the Hakone-Yumoto train station. To do so, we took the cable car down the hill (with a stop for lunch) and a transfer to the switch back railway.


There are seven modes of transportation that carry visitors around Hakone and Lake Ashi. For unlimited travel for the day, we bought the Hakone “Free Pass,” (¥5,000) which gave us access to all of the transport options.

Our first experience was a 33-minute ride up the mountain in a small bus. (Think the 6X bus–the ride to Stanley from Central Hong Kong, just not in a double decker, and not so many cliffs.) If you haven’t gone on that thrilling adventure, just imagine driving up a winding mountain road at an ever-so-slightly inappropriate speed.

We got off at Moto-Hakone Port, and transferred to the “Pirate Ship” to travel across the Lake.



Before the typhoon started to arrive yesterday, we took a day trip to Hakone, part of the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park.

Hakone, during the Edo period, 1603-1867, was an official checkpoint for travelers going between Kyoto and Tokyo on the Tōkaidō road. Now, it is a pleasant weekend getaway spot. It has several onsen (hot spring) resorts, with each hot spring having special healing properties for different aliments. There are several art museums, including one with open-air sculptures featuring Pableo Picasso.

We started our day on a 90-minute rapid express train ride from Shinjuku on the Romance train. As you can see, the weather moved inland sooner than expected. We had a great day, however, we did not get to experience everything as planned.

This is the train in the station at Hakone:

Mechanical Parking

Another unique automobile related experience in Japan is ‘mechanical parking’. These are mystical parking machines located at many large buildings, malls, etc. where space is a premium.

So, here’s what you do… You pull your car into a big glass-ended box and stop when the indicator lights tell you to (this part is somewhat similar to gas station car washes). Then, you shut off the car, fold in the mirrors, grab your stuff, close up the car, and get out of the box.

mechanical parking

Once outside the box, a side panel inside the box opens up, your car slides sideways, and disappears. You are then given a little ticket, which indicates the time and a code (which presumably indiactes where the machine is going to sort/index your car).

When you come back to get it, there are machines that resemble ATMs. You slide your ticket in, pay the applicable parking fee, and get your receipt. Then you head to the waiting lounge area. There, you watch the video monitors which display indicator numbers for the cars that the machine has queued up for retrieval and an estimated delivery time.

Eventually (and surprisingly quickly), that side panel in the box opens up and slides your car back out. It then unlocks the door leading into the box and you are on your way!

Grocery Discovery

First, to set the stage, grocery stores in Tokyo are quite different than those in the US…smaller, limited in selection and English labelling, and varied in price. To date, we had visited all the local ones (walking distance and/or within a few train stops) or so we thought. While driving to work a couple days ago (white knuckled with one eye on the GPS and one riveted to the road) periferal vision (in the eye dedicated to the GPS) picked up a sign that appeared to contain the word “onion”: indicating the possibility of a previously undiscovered local grocery store. So, today we ventured out to find the store. While wrong about the name (it is “union”, not “onion”) that was a fortunate mistake: since I might not have equated the correct name to a grocery store and, therefore, might not have ventured out that direction.

Ok, so why all the rambling? Good question…and there really isn’t a good answer other than now it is harder to go back and delete all that then to just move on.

Anyway, all that really needed to be said was that we found a new grocery store that we really like. It is within walking distance and has the best overall combination of products and prices we have yet to find.

Driving in Tokyo

Just a quick commentary/confession about driving in Tokyo…driving on the left-hand side of the road is hard, driving on the right-hand side of the car is awkward, turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal is just embarrassing. 😀