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…
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.
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…
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…