It’s a Fuji Affair

By on April 30, 2008
I’m not one for bus tours or so I thought; school trips, silver seniors and memories of the Dominican Republic where Felix our tour guide took us to his cousins rum store filled with ‘authenic’ souvenirs just about summed it up for me. As we entered the bus terminal at Hamamatsucho, the kids primed with DS lites and loaded with travel candy; I reluctantly handed over my mantle of leadership. We checked in; I donned the dreaded tour badge to seal the emasculation and with a certain amount of  trepidation  joined the Mt. Fuji, Hakone daytrip.
 The  tour started with a family friendly 9am departure. Directed by extremely eager staff we fell in line and boarded our vessel and promptly and set off on our adventure. Immediately enamoured with Emi, our guide; it wasn’t long before I had put my bus tour prejudices aside and was making origami Mount Fuji’s and listening intently to Emi’s take on Toto’s toilet selling strategy. We received an endearing view of Japan from our ‘hostess with the mostess’  who  gave us a potted history of our adopted land and an insight into it`s peculiarities that I had almost lost sight of.   I sat back and took in the cityscape, marveling at the enourmity that is Tokyo and the heaviness of the traffic which would normally be starting to bring on that road rage of mine, but not today. I could just let go and kick back with the family as we meandered through the metropolis. Before we knew it we were passing Mount Takao, receiving japanese lessons  from Emi.
First stop the Mt.Fuji vsitors centre; more of a toilet stop than anything but with an informative, contemporary visitors centre complete with audio visual presentations.The  displays were cool enough to tear the kids away from their little screens and we got our first real glimpse of the iconic Volcano.  All aboard! More happy banter from Emi with the exciting news we would be able to drive up to the 4th stage of Fuji. Time for a few photos and a tastey appetizer of bbq  squid amidst the snow, cooked by 2 rugged entrepreneurs who, by my calculations, must both be driving Hummers judging from the queues of eager tourists (us included) crowded around their makeshift stall; Felix would have been proud.
A few snowballs later and we headed off for a delicious lunch stop tantilisingly close to Fuji Q amusement park. Last chance for Fuji omiage and then a drive down to Hakone and Lake Ashi for a blustery cruise. We sat on the open top deck and were blown around, half expecting to see a Nessie-like monster emerge from the open waters as we passed the replica pirate ship. The wind picked up as did the pace of the tour and we rode the cablecar up Mt. Komagatake giving us the  picture perfect  view Hokusai  would have given his right arm for. The ascent took us to an eerie mountain top landscape, the Hakone national park. We loved it up here; Lord of the Rings terrain, war ravaged expanses with views of the sea and of course the ubiquitous Fuji-san. We survived the gales and the beasts with deep fried mochi and vending machine coffee.  We jumped back onto the bus for the last time and heard Emi’s rendition of a popular childrens song-Yes, she really did sing! A brief glimpse of Odowara castle surrounded by cherry  blossom and  before you could say “Akasaka Sakas”  we were reclining on the Kodama Shinkansen bound for Tokyo; the final treat of our wonderful day, waving farewell to our engaging guide.  Hakone and Fuji in a day is a tall order but we managed to come out unscathed. No family tantrums except for my own at the start of the day for having to  wear the tour badge now proudly displayed on my chest. The tour bus had been a revelation. Stress free, educational and satisfying.What more could you ask  for.
A big  TF thumbs up to  Sunrise Tours and of course to  Emi. Hand over the reins for a day or two and let the bus take the strain. Sunrise tours have over 50 tours around Japan to delight  both newbies and lifers alike.    www.jtbgmt.com/sunrisetour

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