April 3rd. 2023
The Tokaido (The Old Hakone Highway) 東海道
Today we must drive into Tokyo, but first we make for Motohakone. Once there we walk some of the Tokaido, the old road to Edo. This is the route that all the south and western Daimyo (feudal lord) and their families were forced to travel every 3 years to pay homage to the Shogun. This system consumed their resources rendering them less able to develop too much independent strength.
From Lake Ashi(Ashinoko), we walk as far as a famous tough stretch of the Tokaido and understand why it would have been so. The road plunging relentlessly down, we realize if we go further, we will have to hike back up. You can imagine the caravan of an Edo era noble household labouring up this steep incline laden with baggage.
As the road offers little in the way of scenery – just surrounds of Sugi (cedar)– and as the going underfoot is very rough it seems perverse to carry on, we turn around.
Hakone Shrine 箱根神社
Once back at the lake, where you get a view of a red Torii and if you are lucky Mt Fuji, we have lunch before walking to Hakone Shrine This is in the same style as the Tokugawa Ieyusu mausoleum Kunosan Toshogu, that we visited yesterday but of less interest. It is also very busy with cruise ship passengers. There is another related shrine at the top of the mountain but this involves a ropeway so we gave it a miss. Then off to Tokyo.
But first we drive up Mt.Taikan(Taikanzan) to see the magnificent view of Mt.Fuji and Lake Ashi from 1015m high. We are tempted to take Hakone Turnpike but, in the end, follow the ordinary road.
Avoiding the expressway, this makes for a day of wildly disparate driving. First, sections of winding mountain road with glorious views, hillsides adorned in new growth and cherry blossom. Later, stretches of Route 1 and finally the slow, grinding, urban kilometres into the city.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.