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Collecting souvenirs in Japan: a diary
17 January: Hakone and Mt Fuji
I had been told that the view from Hakone of Mt. Fuji across Lake Ashi is one of the most popular with the Japanese. Hakone used to be one of the main stations along the Tōdaidō highway up until the late nineteenth century, but the one day excursion made by most visitors now tends to involve a round trip up the surrounding mountains, from where the view of Mt. Fuji is even more spectacular, and back down across Lake Ashi. The excursion is promoted in part through the different modes of transport involved. From Odawara, the nearest mainline train station, a smaller train zig-zags up into the foothills, followed by a funicular and cable-car which take visitors to the panoramic terraces at Ôwakudani and down to the lake where large boats, including a replica of a seventeenth-century ship, ferry people across to Hakone. This circuit and the ticket booths and nearby shops provided me with opportunities to investigate the role of transport in souvenirs. I found badges in the form of train carriages, little cardboard kits to make and decorate a cable-car, all combining the views of Mt. Fuji with distinctive transport motifs.
On a cold day in January such as this, most visitors aimed straight for the warmth of the restaurants and souvenir shops. Souvenirs sold in Ôwakudani are inspired by a local speciality of black eggs baked in the mud around the hot springs. Most visitors end their tour in Hakone, or visit only Hakone, admiring Mt. Fuji across Lake Ashi. The town is known for a style of wood crafts developed in the early twentieth century, combining different coloured woods to make geometric patterns. Puzzle boxes are the most popular souvenir, but also toothpick holders and trinkets such as keyrings.