Visit the shrine with Hakone’s famous red gate that stands tall over Lake Ashi.By Cassandra Lord
Hakone Shrine in Kanagawa Prefecture is one of the most famous shrines in the area because of its incredibly picturesque red torii gate on the water called the Torii of Peace. Hakone’s torii gate is considered the crown jewel on Lake Ashinoko’s edge and can be seen from the boat cruise that makes its rounds on the lake.
While Hakone Shrine boasts several large torii gates, the Torii of Peace is the crown jewel on Lake Ashinoko’s edge. Traditionally, a torii gate symbolizes the transition from the mundane to the sacred, and that is certainly something you can feel in its full force as you gaze through the gate onto the vast lake.
The red gate is a popular spot among worshippers and travelers and is set in a small wooded area by the road. Cobbled paths and a traditional red bridge are nearby for a serene walk back towards town.
Behind the Torii of Peace is a set of steps that lead up to the main shrine building. There are a total of 89 steps leading up to the shrine. As you make your way up, you’ll see another torii gate just before entering the sacred grounds. Shortly after you see the torii gate, you’ll spot the shrine’s main hall.
Visitors to Hakone Shrine pray for a happy marriage, wealth, safety while traveling and luck in competitions. Part of the shrine’s rise to fame was because many military commanders and samurai came to pay their respects.
The shrine was originally built at the summit of Mount Hakone’s Komagatake in the year 757 but was later relocated to its current position near the lake as a satomiya shrine (village shrine). The original shrine, Mototsumiya, can still be visited today by various hiking trails or on the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway. Mototsumiya Shrine is considered the okumiya (interior shrine) of Hakone Shrine.
Legend has it that a nine-headed dragon once threatened village life by Lake Ashinoko. The dragon was “pacified” by the priest to bring peace back to the land. Now, at Hakone Shrine, you can see a nod to this nine-headed mythical creature at the top of the steps in the form of a fountain. It is said that drinking from this fountain before entering the shrine will give you luck in love.
There is even a fireworks festival dedicated to the dragon called the Ashinoko Kosui Matsuri, which is held on July 31 over Lake Ashinoko. Other festivals and events are held at the shrine throughout August.