martes, 29 de noviembre de 2016

Hakone: The Neon Genesis Evangelion Reality Tour

While by itself this post isn't directly related to An Ominous Book series but as a person that grew up watching 1990's anime it was really fun to visit the place in Japan where Neon Genesis Evangelion takes place in real life: Hakone.

I initially had no plans to visit this adorable city because of the anime. In reality I wanted to see the koyo autumn leaves in the mountains and have a slim chance of spotting Fuji Mountain without being too much of a hassle traveling by Tokyo. Hakone offered me all three pros and the fact that there are hot springs was like icing on the cake.

Getting there however was probably one of the only really bad things about my first trip to Japan. I was probably just unlucky and got an unusually disgruntled ticket seller in the Shinjuku JR terminal. There is supposedly a Shinkansen train that can take you to Odawara (there are no direct trains that take you to Hakone as such as far as I know) and also a very kitshy tourist romance car. But the salesman didn't sell me either ticket. What did I get? The super slow motion local train that took almost 2 hours. I didn't even save any cash because I had already activated my JR Rail pass earlier that day. I will say that is was funny how a japanese salaryman that was probably in his early 20's was snoring on my shoulder and magically woke up right on time for his stop.

Reaching the city somewhat later than I would have preferred, there isn't all that much to see in Odawara except a nice castle with some cool antiques. I'll probably write another post about that sometime because I don't have those photos on my external harddrive. My guesthouse was in Hakone as such meaning you must get there by bus. It's fairly straightforward to reahc the right bus. Odawara JR station has a great tourist help center and they sell you a 2 or 3 day all you can travel pass. While I rode on the bus a super friendly elderly japanese woman was eager to engage in freiendly conversation with me. I can only speak very basic japanese but I showed her a few photos of Mexico and she seemed eager to give me free lodging in her house! She told another lady in the bus that she was worried about me because it was dark outside and my stop was still a bit far away but I tried to reassure her I would be okay. There is one interesting thing about Japan, young men will run away from you even if you speak decent conversational japanese but old people don't feel ashamed and just want to brefriend you no matter what language you speak.

I can't remember my stay in the gesthouse very well, I drank too much sake and literally passed out on my futon with the tv on all night. :S I sadly missed my alotted 30 minutes to enjoy the complimentary onsen at the place to boot. Dammit!

The following day I set off for a mega trip on the Hakone tourist circuit. Sure it's touristy but it was fun as hell! I first went to a cool garden with lots of maple trees that were changing color. However given this post is to focus more an the real Evangelion sites I wanted to show photos of scenes of the Hakone circuit you might spot in the actual anime.

The first stop?

The elevated train to Gotemba. I can't recall which episode it was in Eva but in the show they refurbish these vehicles with super rifles that shoot at angels. They look so harmless in real life.

The japanese locals were going bananas with these things. Sure it's fun as hell to ride them but they have a halfway stop between the top of Hakone as Gotemba that gets clogged with people to ride a second train. However the outside views were spectacular.

The clogged stop is in Owakudani. And yes,. the photo below is Fuji Mountain. Some people might be disappointed but considering many tourists never get to spot the mountain at all at least I can say I saw it from afar.

If you are familiar with Evangelion you will recall Shinji constantly runs away from Misato's apartment for whatever silly reason and in the episode after he fights the 6th angel he runs off to Owakudani. Those are not clouds BTW, its sulphur that spews from the rocks. In the anime it makes you think they are just regular clouds. Apparently in one scene Shinji stands in a balcony where people jump to commit suicide in real life although I'm not fully sure which place would it be. The tourist hiking path has plenty of steep balconies to jump from.

One of the most interesting tourist foodie attractions of Owakudani are the black hardboiled eggs. Basically they are fully ordinary white eggs that they boil in the hot springs and the chemicals in the water turn the eggs black. The water gives them a really awesome flavor. Curiously enough I tried hardboiled eggs in Yudanaka which also contains sulphur but the eggs don't change color.

After you take yet a third elevated train down to Lake Ashi which appears in dozens of scenes of Evangelion you bump into this pirate ship. I don't know why they carry tourists in a boat taken out of a Sponge Bob movie (and yet these ships never appear in the anime) but the locals were going ape crazy.

I would have wanted to stick around Hakone for another day and actually enjoy the hot spring but I had to reach Kyoto as soon as possible. Once I returned to Odawara station I decided to wander around the shops and squealed at the sights.

Yes, that is a real life size Rei Ayanami mannequin. I'm actually taller than her which surprises me because I'm barely 5'1.

It's a shame most of the awesome sotres were closed and I discovered much to my chagrin that the "post offices" in Japanese villages are tiny malboxes inside of ordinary 7-Elevens. Sadly the ATMS don't accept my mexican debit card and I was running anemicly low on cash. Note to myself: withdraw extra $$$ when in Tokyo.

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