Hakone Hachiri Declared a Japan Heritage Area
Towering 400-year-old Japanese cedar line both sides of the trail for a kilometer. Welcome to Cedar Avenue, at the core of Hakone Hachiri.
Hachiri literally means ‘8 Ri’, a distance of about 30km. Hakone Hachiri is the name given to the stretch of old Tokaido between Odawara and Mishima, via Hakone.
Tokaido is the centuries old route linking Tokyo with the former capital Kyoto. Tokaido means ‘Eastern Sea Road’ and is the partner of the more-well-known-amoungst-international-visitors-to-Japan Nakasendo, or inland mountain route linking the current and former capital. In the 19th century, ukiyoe artist Hiroshige produced his ‘53 Stations of Tokaido’, a series of wood-block prints depicting scenes, sometime humourously, of each of the overnight inn stops on this foot-road. Hiroshige’s famous scene of Hakone (Station #10) exemplifies the steep but stunningly beautiful landscape through which Hakone Hachiri passes, complete with views of Mount Fuji. Hiroshige is claimed to have influenced Monet and the French impressionist movement.
Hiroshige, and other famous ukiyoe artists like Hokusai, whose subject matter is also heavily focused around Tokaido, are also credited with inspiring Japan’s manga culture that is so popular worldwide. Tokaido is a living concept, as Japan Rail’s Shinkansen by the same name has conveniently zipped passengers between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka since just before the 1964 Olympics.
Much of the old Tokaido route has been replaced by modern roading. But the Hakone Hachiri stretch has a reasonable proportion still intact, and so has just been declared a Japan Heritage Area.
Visitors wanting to experience Hakone Hachiri should catch Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo/Shinagawa/Shin-yokohama stations to Odawara. A 15 minute walk from Odawara Station takes you to the recreated Odawara Castle.
From Odawara, Tokaido traverses up through Hakone Yumoto to Hatajuku, a cute village full of craft shops. Next stop of interest is Amazake Chaya, meaning ‘Sweet sake teahouse’. It is one of the few remaining of hundreds of teahouses that once adorned the old Tokaido between Tokyo and Kyoto. The little museum next door displays a palanquin that was used to ferry elite along Tokaido in the Edo Period. From Amazake Chaya, Tokaido heads largely downhill to the shores of Lake Ashinoko. Cedar Avenue follows the shoreline for about a kilometer to Hakone Checkpoint, the half-way mark of Hakone Hachiri. Hakone Checkpoint faithfully recreates the Edo Period wooden structure on the original foundations. During the Edo Period, this checkpoint was one of the key control stations on Tokaido to ensure the security of the Shogun.
After the Checkpoint, Tokaido winds its way up the outer wall of the caldera in which Lake Ashinoko sits. Much of the second half of the Hachiri, between Hakone and Mishima, is now surfaced with State Highway 1. Yamanaka Castle Ruins gives a commanding view over Tokaido, and is a great photo-stop for Mount Fuji.
Tokaido continues on down to Mishima Taisha, one of Japan’s key shrines. The 13th century first Shogun, Minamoto Yoritomo, often prayed here for the prosperity of his new administration. In the Taisha museum, you can read edicts written by Yoritomo with his signature clearly legible. Whilst the Taisha has over a thousand years of history, the current main building was reconstructed in the mid 19th century after its predecessor was destroyed by an earthquake. An osmanthus tree believed to be 1200 years old still blooms beautiful orange every autumn on the Taisha grounds.
Mishima is the conclusion of Hakone Hachiri. Visitors can stay in the modern city overnight before continuing to explore Shizuoka, or catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.
Hakone Hachiri can be enjoyed by fit folks as a two day walk from Odawara to Mishima with an overnight stop in Hakone, as per the old Tokaido itinerary. However, as over half the route is now just rather boring modern roads, another option is to cover the highlights as a day-return tour from Tokyo/Yokohama.
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