Hakone, a misty sightseeing spot to heal the Japanese body and soul
- By tomiyama update
Hakone, a tourist attraction in southeast Kanagawa, is famous for being the last stop on the historic Tokaido road, which ran between Edo and Kyoto in the Edo period. This place has been familiar to the Japanese for many years as a place for hot springs, just 90 minutes from Shinjuku station on the Odakyu line. It appears in a children’s song from the Meiji era, “The mountains of Hakone are the steepest in the world.” In the song they sing of Hakone Hachiri, Hakone’s eight ri. (One ri is 3.9km.) Traditionally the mountains of Hakone were hard to pass for people in the Edo era. In 1626 the Tokugawa Shogunate set up a checkpoint by the lake of Ashi, where it crossed the Tokaido road. This was a natural pivot for the Sankin Kotai, residence duty, which required daimyo to visit the Shogun in Edo regularly. Despite the difficulty of the road, travelers come to be healed by a rich hot spring called Hakone Shichito.
The national roads developed in the Meiji and Taisho eras improved traffic through Hakone and it became a popular destination for tourists, as well as the second home of many foreign residents. It’s a global sightseeing spot where people can enjoy seasonal scenery, whether a summer retreat, autumn maple viewing, or midwinter open-air baths while looking at the snow.
Lake Ashino is the turnaround point of the Hakone Ekiden, a collegiate long distance relay road race.
Lake Ashino is a crater lake created by the earth and sand of a 3,100 year old eruption, damming a stream through Sengokuhara. When Mt. Fuji is reflected on the surface of Lake Ashino, it is called “the upside down Fuji”, which emphasizes the beauty of Lake Ashino. Access to Lake Ashino is via the Hakone Tozan Bus, 22 minutes from Hakone Yumoto station on the Odakyu line. There are a variety of amusements, such as black bass fishing, a pirate ship for tourists, the Hakone shrine, an aquarium, and the Hakone Checkpoint Museum which reproduces the checkpoints of the Edo era for visitors to experience.
The Hakone Ekiden museum, on the southern tip of Lake Ashi, is the final goal of the Tokyo Hakone collegiate ekiden relay race (Hakone Ekiden), which is held every year in January. It’s a relay race from Tokyo to Hakone and back again, 217 kilometers in ten sections. Aoyama University has secured the overall win for four years running.
Owakudani’s “Black Onsen Egg” – One egg gives you seven years of life.
When you depart from Owakudani station on the Hakone Ropeway, you will see a volcanic gas zone with a sulfurous odor rising up. This place is just as dreary as the hell created by three thousand year old volcanic activity, but still a popular tourist attraction where you can experience the breath of the earth up close. It used to be called “Hell Valley”
These popular eggs are black because of a chemical reaction fed by geothermal energy and volcanic gas. It’s said eating one egg will give you 7 years of life, so why don’t you try some?