A Little Prince, Weird Eggs and a Journey to Another World

Posted by on Oct 22, 2011 in Kanagawa, Travel Volunteer Journey | 5 Comments
A Little Prince, Weird Eggs and a Journey to Another World

The Little Prince (or Le Petit Prince, to give him his original, French name) gets around a bit. He’s the star of what people say is a children’s book, but, like the greatest stories, it’s not exclusively for younger readers. Katy didn’t meet the little wanderer until she was well into her teens. The moment she did, she fell in love. The story of a little boy whirling around the universe on the back on an asteroid, marvelling at the variety and complexity of life – gardening all the while – had her hooked from the very start.

The wee man first visited me at roughly the same time, hundreds of miles away, during a French class at school. Le Petit Prince remains the only book I’ve ever read in that language, perhaps because it was such a challenge. It may be a nominal children’s book, but the big ideas and outlandish descriptions were impossible for 15-year-old me to translate. I dare say it’d be even harder now.

Anyway, years later Katy bought me a copy, in English, which I finally read and enjoyed. A bit like the work of Studio Ghibli, there’s something magical in it that straddles time and translation. The story has been released in over 200 languages (the most of any French book). One of them is Japanese.

So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise to have bumped into the little explorer so far away from home. Here in Hakone, there’s an entire museum dedicated to author Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s novel and its eponymous hero. And although it seemed odd at first, the more time we spent in and around Hakone, the more it seemed like exactly the kind of place the Little Prince would end up. Transport is a big thing here: ropeways and trains and boats and funiculars – he’d no doubt be fascinated by all that. There’d have been a lot of questions.

Following the route we imagined he’d have taken, we jumped on a funicular, then onto a cable car, and passed high into the clouds, towards the top of a mountain. On a different day the views would likely have been fantastic, but to us it was a great ocean of grey. Higher and higher we climbed, beyond our world and, when the cloud cleared, we were in another reality altogether. We had passed through a worm hole – no wonder the Little Prince came round these parts.

Beings stood around in a fierce wind, eating blackened eggs (which, they claimed would add years onto their lives), and ebony buns. There was sorcery everywhere; the very ground we stood on seemed unsteady, spitting foul-smelling liquid and vast plumes of smoke into the air. Somewhere, an alien language read: Owakudani. The place was weird, make no mistake.

And yet no one here seemed concerned by any of it. Some actually seemed to be having fun, despite the horror. Noxious fumes filled the air, we read signs warning of cataclysmic explosions 3,000 years ago, and thought it’d be better to reboard the cable car and hope it’d take us back to our own realm.

Which it did, down and down, over volcanic streams, and past signs advertising other museums, and world-class art collections, all the way back to our hotel. Something strange had happened, but we weren’t quite sure what. We decided not to trust our senses. As the Little Prince himself was told: ”One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Our time in Kanagawa prefecture was made possible by:

The enormous generosity of the obscenely luxurious Gora Kadan, who have pulled of the trick of feeling extremely traditional and being forward facing and amazingly modern. You can read more about them here.

Itoh Dining by Nobu, which has only been open for six months, but no doubt has a long future ahead of it. A licensed kobe beef restaurant, it has a limited but incredibly rich menu of food of the highest quality. Besides, as long as they keep serving such colossal measures of sake, it seems unlikely anyone will be complaining.













ITOH DINING by Nobuさん、素晴らしいお食事をありがとうございました。


  1. Sanders
    October 22, 2011

    I want to know more about these black eggs?!?

    • Katy & Jamie
      October 23, 2011

      Actually they’re just regular eggs cooked in the volcanic water. There’s a chemical reaction that turns the shell black. The legend says that eating one egg will add 7 years to your life, but at £4.50 for five eggs, I thought: “I’m alright, ta.”

  2. Kavey
    October 22, 2011

    Another wonderful post, I shall have to get a copy of The Little Prince for somehow I have reached the ripe age of 40 without having read it. From the descriptions and quote you provided, clearly this is a monumental lack, and one I must rectify tout de suite.
    Enjoying your unusual and personal insights to Japan through your visit.

  3. cdb
    October 24, 2011

    Blackened eggs and ebony buns, adding that to my list of things to eat in Japan. What are the japanese name for these items?

    • kinanenko
      December 12, 2011

      They’re “Onsen Tamago(→acronym:On Tama)”,tasty & gelatinous eggs.