I returned the rental car though I didn’t manage to find petrol even after driving around all the tiny back streets of Hakone Yumoto. My Japanese and their English were not good enough to communicate this to the rental company but they didn’t mind because the fuel gauge still showed as full (very small car, slow speeds).
Two days earlier, I didn’t make it to the other end of Lake Ashinoko so there were quite a few things around Hakone that I didn’t get to see. One of them was the reconstructed Hakone Checkpoint.
In the early 1600s, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun, moved the administrative capital to Edo (now called Tokyo). This was the end of a long period of vicious civil war that Ieyasu was determined to prevent recurring. One of his measures was to require that daimyo had to spend alternate years in Edo – and when they were absent, their wives had to stay behind. Hakone Checkpoint was on one of the few routes out of Edo. Movement was restricted generally but especially for the wives of the daimyo; if they were caught trying to sneak past the checkpoint, it was tantamount to an act of treason or rebellion.
I caught the train from Hakone Yumato via Odowara to Tokyo. I spent the next day organising my luggage, sending emails and posting on the web. The next evening I boarded a train with a sleeper berth for Sapporo, for the Snow Festival.
The railways in Japan are marvels of efficiency. If you are visiting Japan and traveling extensively (more than just Tokyo to Kyoto and back), it can be a good idea to get a Japan Rail Pass, which you have to do from overseas. I did have to pay an additional amount for the sleeper cars (there and back) but it was a lot cheaper than two nights accommodation.
Here are a few images from the train, largely random. It’s often not easy to take them because images can flash past before they fully register in the mind. There was fairly heavy snow outside for much of the journey (the part I was awake for and could see, anyway).
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