Sure, there's a ton of packing to do and last-minute errands to run before heading back to the states, but when a friend's father offered to drive Andy and I for a one-day getaway to their vacation home in Hakone, we jumped at the chance.
Aside from the Japanese signage and the distinctive shape of Mount Fuji looming in the distance, Hakone looks a lot like the Swiss countryside or some other bucolic mountainous place. There’s a big windmill installed in the hillside and a gorgeous lake dotted with little swan boats. One big difference is that the landscape of this region was created by volcanos, some still active. We visited Hakone's famous Owakudani (Hell Valley), where we were treated to throngs of tourists covering their noses as we all peered through clouds of sulphurous smoke, waiting in line to buy hot eggs flash-boiled in cloudy volcanic pools. The eggshells change to a startling rich black from the minerals in the water. Supposedly eating one of these eggs will extend your life an extra seven years. They’re sold in packs of five for 500 yen, which is quite a deal for up to 35 years of extra life expectancy if you manage to eat them all yourself.
Also available there were two new flavors of softcream, which we were happy to purchase: sweet volcanic egg (delicious!) and wasabi, which had a surprising amount of kick. Another bonus of the volcanic scenery: steamy geothermically-heated onsen. Ahhhhhh.