It may only be mid-spring but already temperature is rising and the gentle whisper of the breeze through sakura has been replaced by the roar of air conditioning from every vehicle and abode. It was with a little bemusement therefore that I found myself not lying face-down below a column of fast moving 18°C air but rather crammed into a pale blue Toyota Aqua with four other people on my way to Hakone, a stretch of lake and mountains just a few miles away from Mt. Fuji.
The above photo is only half representative. In the depths of those blown out highlights in the windscreen, the road appears clear. In actuality, it seems that every car in Tokyo was similarly intent on leaving the city on that precise Saturday morning, allowing us to lengthen the journey from an estimated two hours to nearer six, albeit with rather liberal rest stops. We nevertheless made light of the journey through loud dance music, open windows and dancing to/harassing passing cars, developing a particular affinity for a man in a silver Lexus who seemed to cross our path continually on the main highway.
Having set off at a little past eight, we finally arrived at almost 2pm and were bombarded with interesting sights. Not only was Mt. Fuji properly visible (I refuse to count my excursion to Fujimizaka as a viewing) but the lake was host to enormous pirate ships by way of transport. Once on the ship, we had about half an hour of travelling time, most of which was spent (for me, anyway) changing lenses and bemoaning the distance haze in subsequent photos.
Once at the other side of the lake, we settled into more traffic of a human variety in order to take a cable car up to an observation area and hot springs. Time was a particular consideration, as the car needed to be returned by 8pm. Even getting this far, we were cutting it very fine indeed and our spirits were not raised by the enormous line of people who greeted us at the top.
The traffic and time pressure was such that we had just enough time to sprint in a circle, take this picture and wolf down a very expensive hot dog before we joined the second queue to return home. The last pirate ship left at five, leaving us to sprint on board through crowds of apparently unconcerned tourists. Thankfully we made it, and began the somewhat less arduous journey back to Tokyo just as the sun was setting.