Floating across the surface of the lake, nestled between mountains, in Hakone; the famous spa-resort, not far from Tokyo, one can often see, of all things, a pirate ship. Certainly a fine attempt at making a convincing reproduction, but naturally with all the Japanese comforts, and certainly enough to make any elementary school boy, who might be standing on the jetty, think that he has arrived on the banks of heaven. The voyage didn’t last long enough for me to pay a visit the restrooms, but I’m sure even every self-respecting Japanese voyager likes a warm, heated toilet seat, perhaps with a button for making parrot sounds, to cover-up any embarrassing noises. “Arrr! Arrr! Pieces of eight!”
To our delight, there is even a Japanese pirate, something that one doesn’t see every day, busy doing the rounds, offering to have his photo taken with you. Naturally I declined. Being from a seafaring nation, I knew that my shipmates would not for one second believe me, no matter how good he looked in his get-up; but I felt pleased with myself, to have found perhaps the only remaining Japanese picaroon in the world. Perhaps I should have pitied him, having to make his living this way, but his children must be overjoyed and proud anytime they are asked, “So, what does your Papa do for work?” Sure must beat everybody else’s answer at the show-and-tell; nine times out of ten.
After an enjoyable thirty minutes or so, of spying from deck for enemy ships, we reached harbor at the other end of the lake, and switched over to a snazzy little ropeway that led up a steep incline. The damp ground we were going by at first, has similarities to the flora of the braes in the highlands in Scotland, but that soon changes as we go higher and cross an imperceptible line into a landscape almost alien. The plants of this scrubland are shorter, and appear to be more hardy. At a distance, smoke or perhaps steam is billowing out of the ground in a hillside; pushing forcefully up into the welcoming sky and meeting with the low-hanging mist; creating the impression that here is the place where clouds are made. As we approach the aerial-lift station, upon a rise, the eggy smell of sulfur seeps slowly into our cabin, getting stronger all the time. The station-building has the feel of a ski-resort during the off-season, a handful of people are milling around, or warming themselves with a hot tea that comes in a bottle-shaped can from the bank of ubiquitous dispensing machines at the back of the hall. The souvenir shop is crammed-full with all kinds of trinkets having a black egg theme. There is even a Kitty-chan wearing a black egg body-suit.
We head out on a path along a ridge that leads to some elevated ground, yonder. The landscape here is foreboding, seemingly hostile to life. The smell of sulfur is getting intense as we climb along twisting walkways marked-off with log fencing, between gnarled trees and shrubs; becoming more and more pungent and, for some, already starting to get unpleasant. When we arrive at our destination; a small wooden sales-hut, the air is positively acrid, and I can see some are fighting back a gagging reflex. Nearby, in the ground is a muddy, sulfuric, bubbling, boiling pond; with steam wafting across from the surface, into which many baskets have been submerged.
“This is where they cook the eggs.” My dear companion informs me.
And this is what we came for. We head over to the hut and buy a brown paper bag containing five blackened eggs. I knew as the man of the party I would have the honor of the fifth egg, and I was wondering to myself why they couldn’t sell bags of four.
We cracked the charcoaled shells open on a rough-wood tabletop that was scattered with shell-fragments, and tentatively we ate.
It really is quite an experience to eat very eggy tasting eggs in air that is full of eggy smell. It is probably as eggy as it gets in this world.