History of Hakone Shinto Shrine

One of the classic images of Japan is the red shrine gates seemingly floating on the water with Mt. Fuji in the background. This is the Hakone Shrine, just south of Tokyo, a place of history, culture, and tradition.

This shrine has played an important part in the history of Japan, in the lives of travelers, and has received patronage from samurai warriors for more than a century. The founding of the Hakone Shrine dates back to over a century ago. The high peaks of Hakone have been worshipped for thousands of years as a place where the souls of the dead would go to travel to the next world. A number of shrines were established on the surrounding peaks and as time passed they were combined here at Hakone Shrine.

A priest called Mangan, named for his reading of a 1000 Buddhist sutras, came upon the lake during his travels. At the time the people on the shores of the lake were terrorized by a nine-headed dragon. The villagers were forced to sacrifice children to appease the dragon. Mangan chained the dragon to rocks beneath the lake and pacified it. The dragon is still celebrated with a fireworks show during the Japanese holiday of Setsubun.


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Years later Hakone Shrine would again play an integral role in the history of Japan. An ousted heir to the position of emperor, Minamoto Yoritomo, was exiled in the nearby Izu peninsula after his family was executed during a power struggle in Kyoto. The young boy would grow to lead a revolt to reclaim his position, but during the start of his revolt he lost one of his first battles in the nearby mountains of Ishibashiyama. He sought and was granted refuge on the grounds of the shrine. After years of battle he would establish the Kamakura Shogunate and the shrine would be visited by samurai and shogun alike.

Hakone Shrine`s geographic location at the top of the Hakone mountains and on the heavily travelled road between Tokyo/Edo and Kyoto has lead it to become an important and symbolic stop for travelers over the centuries. Reaching the shrine on the shores of Lake Ashi is quite easy from Odawara, a stop on the Shinkansen, Odakyu, and JR lines.We hope that your visit adds another page to the colorful and important role this place has played in history.

A visit to the wonderful shrine can be arranged on a private tour by Explore Hakone. We are a local company run by Hakone locals seeking to provide an enriching tours for individuals and groups staying or visiting the area. Please feel free to contact with any questions of comments. We look forward to your Hakone visit.