Amasake Chaya in Hakone
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The Japanese Tea House with a family history of 400 years.
On the famed Tokaido Road in Hakone lies the Amasake Chaya, catering to travelers for centuries. The Tokaido way between Kyoto and Tokyo has been the main artery between the imperial and cultural capital of Kyoto and the administrative and political center of Tokyo for hundreds of years. The road has been used by samurai, visiting dignitaries, conquering armies, and the daily traveler.
The traffic on this road was quite heavy and very regulated by the Shogun in an effort to hinder the possibility of any rebellion occurring. It is easy to walk the stone-paved road and imagine the colorful processions of people, historical messages, and lives that must have passed before us. The stone-paved road in Hakone holds many stories and is a wonderful link to the fascinating history of Japan.
One of the best preserved sections of this road is in Hakone, running from Hakone-Yumoto up the mountain to Moto-Hakone on the shores of Lake Ashi. Along the way, the Amasake Chaya stands where it has been in continuous operation for more than 400 years. The menu, design, and atmosphere are genuine and relatively unchanged since the Edo period. The “Amasake Tea House'' is now in operation by the 13th generation of the same family. The welcoming and warm family is just as much a part of this experience as the building, history, and famed road.
The Amasake Chaya is the last remaining thatched house on the Tokaido way providing rest and refreshments for the weary traveler making their way up the Hakone mountains. The Chaya is nestled between the steep walls of the Hakone mountain peaks. The earthen floors and weathered walls give you a window to the lives of the Japanese traveler hundreds of years ago.
The menu of amazake and mochi is simple, unchanged, and completes the experience. The menu originated from the need to provide travelers with healthy and rejuvenating options as they scaled the laborious mountains. Amazake is a sweet, rice-based drink, often served hot. The recipe and production methods have remained relatively unchanged. The natural sweetness is derived from the breakdown of the rice’s carbohydrates into simple unrefined sugars. A plate of “chikara-mochi,” pounded rice cake, is toasted over coals and served in one of three styles; black sesame seed, soy sauce, or sweet soybean powder.
Enjoy your Amazake under the airy canopy of the trees outside or near the warming hearth in the charming traditional building. The Amasake chaya takes you back to another time. It continues to serve as a rest stop and welcomes travelers passing through Hakone on their exploration of Japan.