Hakone and Izu Peninsula

Finally, time for a new post, although not as detailed as the last ones.

School life goes on, we have a small vocab test each morning, followed by some grammar reviews, then new grammar is introduced and practiced. In the afternoons, we have some listening and kanji excercises.
I have applied to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), level N3 (N5 being the easiest, N1 the hardest) in early December. Thankfully, the school will provide us with copies of good books to prepare for the test.

Last weekend (Sunday the 18th) , we (12 Vulcanus guys and girls) made our first trip outside of Tokyo, to the Hakone area, known for its hot springs and awesome sights. After a quick visit to Odawara and its castle, with a museum of things from ancient Japan, we headed towards Lake Ashi. Armed with a travel pass for the whole area, we boarded a “pirate ship” to cross the lake, passing the red torii gate of Hakone Shrine, with a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji (sadly, without snow this time of year), and continued to take a ropeway to get a view from higher up. A steep cable car ride and some mountain railway stops later, we ended the day at a little outdoor onsen hot spring.
Once again, we were surprised by the friendliness of the local people: The owner of a small supermarket saw us waiting for the bus, and two minutes later, each of us was holding two bananas from his little shop, which he had just given to us before wishing us a safe journey. And after I offered up my seat in the crowded bus to a lady travelling with her elderly mother, I was rewarded with a little pack of camembert from her picknick sack.
Pictures of this trip here.

The following weekend, James, Jana, Sylwia and I decide to head back to the area, but keep on going down to Izu Peninsula. We started on the southern town of Shimoda, which looked a bit run down and seemed to have lost some of its former glory as a seaside town, so most boats and yachts lay forgotten on the shore. A path went along the rocky coastline, where many people were fishing. On a small island, connected by a bridge, we found some small buddhist jizo statues inside a miniature shinto shrine, which was an interesting combination. For sunset, we headed to the western coast at Dogashima, with some picturesque, and climbable rock formations stood out of the sea. The most challenging part of the journey, however, was finding the little guesthouse where we would spend the night. From the station and over a bridge, a small and completely unlighted road led up a hill, with other unnamed streets forking off. Using our cellphones as flashlights (it was already pitch-dark at the time) and a tiny map for orientation, we managed to find the place, which turned out to be a guesthouse with nice Japanese-style rooms (with tatami mats, shoji sliding doors and futons instead of matresses), but with little privacy, as the toilet was behind a (milk-glass-windoed) door accessible directly from the living room, and another one from the kitchen. And the sliding doors separating us from the other rooms let every sigh and snore through. I had heard about the lack of privacy in Japanese homes many times, now I finally experienced it myself. The other guest we met was a Japanese woman (Age? Impossible to guess, somewhere between 20 and 50) who visits the peninsula four times a year, to experience the beauty of each season.
The next day, we went to see the seaside park in Jogasaki and ended the trip with another visit to the onsen, this time, with an outdoor panoramic bath overlooking the ocean.
Pictures of this trip here.

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