Monday, October 7, 2013

The Hakone National Park and The Hakone Shrines

The Hakone National Park also known as the “Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park” is a breathtakingly beautiful tourist resort in Tokyo, Japan. If you love nature with its thick greens, massive forests, beautiful lakes and falls and sturdy mountains then this park is the place to be.
The park is named “Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park” based on the names of the four general areas into which it is divided. These four areas include; the Hakone area, Mount Fuji area, Izu Peninsula, and the Izu Islands. In the Hakone area lake Ashi, also known as Lake Ashinoko, resides with Mount Fuji as its backdrop and breath taking Hakone Shrines along its shores.
Mount Fuji is the highest and one of the most legendary mountains in Japan with a height of 12,388 feet and climbing it gives you a 360 degree view of Lake Ashinko, the Hakone mountains, and the Owakudani Valley, making it an unforgettable experience.
Then the third and the fourth part are the Izu Peninsula and Izu Islands respectively. On the Izu Peninsula, there are situated the Atami Hotsprings have geysers where hot volcanic water pumps from underground. The come the beautiful Izu Islands that are surrounded by an ocean which is a great place to enjoy boat rides, scuba-dive, surf, cruise and fish.
The legendary Hakone Shrines, also known as Hakone Jinja, are the best attraction for tourists that visit this park, and they get more than 20 million visitors every year. The shrine was opened in 506 AD as a location to worship Mt. Komagatake by Jozen Shonin. In 757, Priest Mangan established the Kanto Sochinju Hakone Daigongen (shrine), which was later renamed Hakone Jinja (Hakone Shrine). When Shogun Yoritomo Minamoto lost the battle at Ishibashi Mountain in 12th century, he was saved by the priest of Hakone Jinja Shrine. Since then, the shrine attracted many samurai in Kanto area. Hakone Jinja Shrine was burned down during the attack by Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 16th Century, it was rebuilt by Ieyasu Tokugawa in the same Century.
The magnificent shrine buildings are hidden within dense forests, but their gates can be easily seen from far. The shrines have three Japanese style gates known as the “torii gates”; one of which stands prominently in the lake and the other two over the main street of Moto-Hakone.
The Hakone shrine looks absolutely mystical and breath taking looked from the threshold of its stunning red torii gate standing in Lake Ashi. A series of stairs go towards it from there that are flanked by lanterns on both sides making it look even more mystical at night. Through this gate, the Hakone Shrine seems to be floating in the water of Lake Ashi. Visiting the Hakone shrines could be one of the most spiritual of experiences because of peace and calm it carries. The best time of the year to visit it would be when it is shrouded in mist and fog making the experience even more magical.
There is a second shrine called “Hakone Shrine Mototsumiya” that stands at the pinnacle of one of Mount Hakone’s multiple peaks called Komagatake. This shrine is also called the “original shrine”. To reach this shrine one has to take one of the hiking trails up the mount’s peak. It is the most calming of experiences going up this track, especially because of the surrounding trees and the peace in the air.
The Hakone Shrine is only a five minute walk from the Moto-Hakone bus stop by Hakone Tozan bus
service. The Hakone National park also carries museums within it including an open air museum which displays a harmonic balance of nature, the Pola museum opened by a beuty product company and the Hakone art museum with its beautiful moss gardens.
Other attractions in the Hakone National Park include the Hakone hot springs, Hakone Tozan Railway, the Botanical Gardens, a small theme park about venetian glass called “Hakone Glass no Mori”, Gotemba Outlet Mall and Gora Park. The Hakone hot springs provide hot spring water to many bath houses along lake Ashi. Hakone Tozan Railway is one of Japan’s oldest Railway rides and provides visitors with a remarkable experience of exploring the park. The Botanical Gardens exhibit over 1700 varieties of Marsh and Alpine plants. The Gotemba outlet provides tourists with an opportunity to shop along the way and carries over 200 stores and many restaurants. Lastly the Gora Park is an attraction for people coming from the west for its attractive western landscapes.
All these places, especially the Hakone Shrines make Hakone National Park an excellent choice to spend your vacation in. With the variety of experiences, it offers one can definitely never leave without carrying beautiful unforgettable memories with them. That is why if you want to visit Tokyo, your trip cannot be complete without visiting the Hakone National Park and it is magnificent shrines.

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