Hakone Shrine: A Peaceful and Mysterious Place of Worship
- Location: 80-1 Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa Prefecture. It is about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo and 40 kilometers east of Mount Fuji.
- Opening Hours: Open all year round
- Best time to visit: In spring or autumn when the cherry blossoms or autumn leaves add more beauty to the scenery.
- Entrance Fee: Free; Some facilities such as restrooms, vending machines, souvenir shops and parking lots may charge a fee or require a reservation.
- Recommended tour: 8 Days Japan Sakura Tour
Hakone Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the shores of Lake Ashi in Hakone, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. It is a peaceful and mysterious place of worship that offers a glimpse into Japan's ancient history and spirituality. Here is everything you need to know about Hakone Shrine.
Reason to Visit
Hakone Shrine is one of the oldest and most revered shrines in Japan, with a history of over 12 centuries. It is dedicated to three deities who are believed to protect the nation, the land and the people. The shrine is also famous for its huge torii gates, one standing prominently in the lake and two others over the main street of Moto-Hakone. The torii gate in the lake is especially stunning when shrouded in mist or illuminated at night. The shrine is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves nature and culture.
History of Hakone Shrine
According to shrine tradition, Hakone Shrine was founded in 757 by Priest Mangan, who pacified a nine-headed dragon that lived at the bottom of Lake Ashi. The original shrine was at the summit of Komagatake, one of Mount Hakone’s multiple peaks. The shrine was relocated to the shores of Lake Ashi in 1667.
The shrine has played an important role in Japan’s history. It was patronized by Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura period, who sought guidance and shelter from the deities after his defeat in Battle of Ishibashiyama during the Genpei War. It was also supported by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo period, who rebuilt and endowed the shrine after it was burned down by Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Battle of Odawara.
The shrine was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1875. It has also been visited by many celebrities and dignitaries, such as Emperor Meiji, Emperor Showa, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
How to Visit Hakone Shrine
To visit Hakone Shrine, you can follow a path that leads from the torii gate in the lake up a series of steps flanked by lanterns through the forest to the main building of the shrine, which sits peacefully among the tall trees. The shrine buildings are hidden in the dense forest, creating an atmosphere of mystery and serenity.
The main building of the shrine consists of several structures, such as the haiden (worship hall), honden (main hall), heiden (offering hall) and shinden (sacred hall). You can pay your respects to the deities by throwing some coins into a wooden box, ringing a bell, bowing twice, clapping twice and bowing once more. You can also buy some omamori (amulets) or omikuji (fortune slips) for good luck or protection.
A second shrine, Mototsumiya (original shrine), stands at the summit of Komagatake. It is accessible by the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway from Hakone-en or via hiking trails. The Mototsumiya is said to be where Priest Mangan founded Hakone Shrine and where Minamoto no Yoritomo sought guidance and shelter from the deities. The Mototsumiya offers a spectacular view of Lake Ashi and Mount Fuji on clear days.
Tourist Spots near Hakone Shrine
- Lake Ashi: A scenic lake that was formed by a volcanic eruption about 3,000 years ago. You can enjoy various activities on or around the lake, such as cruising, fishing, hiking or sightseeing.
- Hakone Ropeway: A cable car system that connects Togendai on Lake Ashi with Sounzan via Owakudani Valley. You can enjoy panoramic views of Mount Fuji and volcanic activity along the way.
- Owakudani Valley: A volcanic valley that was created by an eruption about 3,000 years ago. You can see steam vents, hot springs and sulfur deposits here. You can also try kuro-tamago (black eggs), which are eggs boiled in sulfuric water that are said to extend your life by seven years.
- Hakone Open-Air Museum: A museum that displays over 100 sculptures by modern artists in an outdoor setting. You can also see works by Picasso, Henry Moore and Rodin here.
- Hakone Museum of Art: A museum that exhibits Japanese ceramics from various periods and regions. You can also see a moss garden and a bamboo grove here.
What to Know before Visiting Hakone Shrine
Before you visit Hakone Shrine, here are some tips and information you should know:
- The shrine is located in a mountainous area with changing weather conditions. You should dress appropriately and check the weather forecast before you go.
- The shrine is a sacred place where you should respect its rules and customs. You should avoid making loud noises or taking photos inside the buildings.
- The shrine hosts several annual festivals such as Setsubun Festival on February 3rd, Spring Festival on April 12th and Autumn Festival on November 3rd. These festivals feature various events and activities such as rituals, dances, music and fireworks. You may want to join these festivals if you are interested in experiencing some local culture and fun.
- The shrine has a small museum, which displays some of its treasures. These include five items that are ranked as national Important Cultural Property: a sword attributed to Minamoto no Yoritomo, a sword attributed to Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a sword attributed to Kusunoki Masashige, a suit of armor attributed to Takeda Shingen and a suit of armor attributed to Uesugi Kenshin.
How to Get There
Hakone Shrine is easily accessible by public transportation. You can take the Hakone Tozan Bus from Hakone-Yumoto Station or Odawara Station and get off at Moto-Hakone-ko bus stop. Alternatively, you can take the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise from Togendai or Hakonemachi and get off at Moto-Hakone-ko pier.
Hakone Shrine is a tranquil and spiritual experience in Japan that you should not miss. It is a peaceful and mysterious place of worship that offers a glimpse into Japan’s ancient history and spirituality. Whether you want to admire its torii gates, pay your respects to its deities, explore its surroundings or enjoy its festivals, you will find something for everyone at Hakone Shrine.