Wednesday, July 23, 2014


A couple hours southwest of Tokyo, Hakone is set in scenic mountains. The five of us, including my wife’s parents, left Tokyo on Tuesday morning, with my father-in-law impressively maneuvering through rush-hour traffic. Streets are very crowded, of course, but the challenge is also that they are a bit narrower than many of the roads back home. And it’s not just the cars that crowd the narrow streets, but bicycles as well. I think it would be a challenge for me to drive, but I felt in capable hands with my father-in-law.

We arrived in Hakone late morning. Kai got mad when the wifi at the hotel didn’t work on his iPad. I had no sympathy as he had been on his iPad for a long time before we left his grandparents’ house in the morning. Could he not go more than a couple hours without having to get online? I swear the boy is going to push me to cut off his online time completely if he can’t accept some limitations like this.

Hakone is famous for hot springs, and the main attraction of our stay there would be the Yunessun, a hot springs spa and water amusement park, which was right across the street from our hotel.

The first thing that Kai wanted to do was the water slides. This was a major change as before he was always too scared to go on slides, especially body slides. And in places where swim goggles are not permitted, like this, he would get very anxious at the thought of getting water in his eyes.

So I was pleased that he wanted to go on slides. The first time, he spread his legs and arms to slow his speed. But at least he went down. And then wanted to go down again.

We did it several times before the grownups got hungry and wanted to eat lunch.

As walked back through the main indoor pool area, a simulated storm was brewing complete with thunder sound effects and flashing light.

Kai got scared and angry.

He started yelling how we had to leave right now. And what a terrible place it was.

I asked him why he was scared. He said that storms are dangerous and you should not be in the pool when there’s a storm. I told him that it was a fake storm, and that fake ones are not dangerous. He did not seem to care.

His anger escalated as the line for lunch was long.

I took him back to the slides while Mom and Jiji waited in line to get lunch.

When we got back to lunch, he was a bit settled down.

After lunch, we went to the other side of the park, the place where they have numerous hot springs spas. We tried each one.

We went in the coffee spa, which is said to contain real coffee made with hot spring water.

Then the green tea spa. And the wine spa. And several more.

Kai didn’t particularly care about those. And after a short time he had had enough. He wanted to go to the hotel to relax, which is his code for using his iPad.

I told him that once we left, we would not be able to get back in. He didn’t care; he wanted to leave. And so, before 2PM, we had finished up the main thing we drove up here for.

We went to our hotel room and I was able to get his iPad to connect to the wifi. My wife went for a massage.

Later, Kai and I went to use the swimming pool.

It was the largest hotel swimming pool I’ve ever seen.

The odd thing about the pool is that it is very deep. It was 1 meter deep on the shallow end, quickly drops to 2 meters, and then is 3 meters on the deep end. For those of you who, like me, can’t do the conversion, I could touch bottom at 1 meter, but even before 2 meters I no longer could.

Kai is now an excellent swimmer with great confidence so he wanted to race to the deep end. But as I have no such confidence in my own swimming abilities, I told him that we should stay at the shallow end. I didn’t want to put a damper on the vacation by drowning.

We stayed at the pool a good long time, long enough for Mom to finish her massage and join us.

And then it was time to use the Japanese bath.

For those not familiar, it is a custom for Japanese to take public baths together, particularly at onsen (hot springs) like this. Men and women are in separate areas, but otherwise you are naked with total strangers.

Kai has never been shy about his body, so he had no qualms about going to the bath. I, on the other hand, had to put my shyness to the backburner to partake of this custom.

I took Kai into the men’s side where we disrobed and then went to the shower room where we could clean ourselves before going into the bath itself. There were a few other people in the room, including the cleaning lady.

I made sure that Kai cleaned himself and rinsed off nicely. And then we went to the outdoor bath.

The water in the onsen is very hot. Kai does not like a very hot bath at home but he went in this one without complaint. Once immersed in the water, you get used to the warmth and start to relax.

We didn’t stay long, but it was long enough to get me to relax.

Later we went to the buffet dinner at the hotel. Kai loved that he could get unlimited dessert, which I allowed as he had eaten a full portion of some main dishes.

And so we had experienced a few bumps, but the day ended on a happy note.

But the challenges would build the next day.


  1. It sounds like you are in a gorgeous place! It's always interesting to hear about another culture and how they do things. The hot springs sound fun...I'd love to sink into that super hot water and unwind!

    Sorry about the drama but glad it dissipated without ruining the day!

    Although...that last line has me worried! Oh no! And yes, glad you decided not to drown and put a damper on everyone's fun! HAHA.

    1. Didn't have many chances to take pictures that day but it was beautiful.

      Thanks, Betsy.

  2. It sounded like a fun day. I just have to read the next article to find out what chanllenges were faced.


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