Tag Archives: Japanese culture

Ancient pathways, crater lakes and Shinto shrines

Copyright: Louise Creely

Copyright: Louise Creely

EB in the mist at Station 5, with Mt Fuji up there somewhere!

Some travellers come to Japan just to catch a glimpse of the iconic Mt Fuji – but many leave disappointed.

A local tells us she only reveals herself one or two days of every week so, to the Japanese, Mt Fuji is a beautiful and shy Shinto goddess.

With a typhoon sitting off the coast this week, she’s staying comfortably shrouded in clouds and misty rain. But there is plenty to see in Hakone…

...on the old Tokaido road

…on the old Tokaido road

Down in the valley, Lake Ashinoko is clear and sunny.

We walk around this volcanic crater lake, following part of the old Tokaido road from the Hakone Checkpoint to the Hakone Shrine.

While the Tokaido is now mostly modern highways, this stone-paved section is much like it was back in the Edo-era (1603 – 1867).

Before this heavily-policed road opened up the route between Tokyo and Kyoto, travel was extremely dangerous and roads like this were only used by samurai and bandits.

Copyright: Louise Creely

It’s traditional to wash your hands and rinse your mouth before approaching the shrine…

Today we’re alone on the road, until we reach one of Japan’s four great gates (torii) that marks the entrance to the Shinto Hakone Shrine.

There are three main religions in Japan – Shinto (神道), Buddhism and Christianity.

Most Japanese follow both Shinto and Buddhism traditions – getting married and consecrating their children in the Shinto way but holding traditional Buddhist funerals. 

With Shinto gods protecting them during their life, and the path of enlightenment leading them into the next one, I think they’ve got a pretty workable approach to religion…

Copyright: Louise Creely

Enough about religion. One of the things we love most about Japan is the food. They do it so well, with such ceremony, it makes eating an experience in itself.

Add a sensational view and there’s that religious moment again…

Copyright: Louise Creely


Perfect pause in Hakone…

Hakone (箱根) is in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, not far from Tokyo. It’s famous for hot springs, the stunning landscape and views of Mt Fuji (when she chooses to show herself).

We’re staying in a traditional hotel with a spa, called an onsen. Onsens are a big favourite in Japan. They’re super healthy and revitalising, but negotiating the bathing etiquette and searing water temperatures can be quite daunting.

Onsen rules

washing before onsenAnd there’s the sticking point. Tattoos are associated with the underworld here in Japan, and flashing them in bathhouses is a definite no-no.

So we took our tatts back for a traditional onsen experience in the privacy of our room. And we (mostly) stuck to the rules:

  1. Leave your shoes at the door
  2. Sit on the small stool and get all in a lather, then shower off so you’re clean and fresh for the soaking
  3. Frank with towel on headForget the selfie stick – taking photos in an onsen is a faux pas (except when it’s in your room of course)
  4. When you’re bathing, pop your small towel on your head where it’s easily accessible to mop up the sweat. But NEVER dip it in the water and wring it out
  5. After your bath, take time to relax.

Wait, I’m with the Energiser Bunny (EB).

Translation: get dressed, put on your walking shoes and head off…

Can’t you just feel the serenity?