Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi, Japan (May 30, 2012)

Once we made back to Owakudani, much later than programmed, we took the ropeway down for the Togendai terminal station on the shores of lake Ashi. As I mentioned earlier, lake Ashi is a lake filling part of the caldera of the Mt. Hakone volcano.

Tori on lake Ashi
The ropeway terminal station is at one end of the lake, with the main town of Hakone (Hakone-Machi) on the opposite shore: the best way to get from one side to the other is by boat. And we didn't just get a boat, we got a faux-galleon boat ("unfortunately" we arrived just a bit too late to get the pirate boat, which you can see leaving the docks in the photo above). Even without pirate flag, but still equipped with faux cannons (you never know with those pirates around), we made it safe to Hakone, where we spent some time recovering from the inadvertent hike on the volcano, and we visited the Hakone Sekisho. This is a restored fort from the Edo period (built in 1619), part of the checkpoint system that controlled the traffic of weapons and people with the capital (Edo = Tokio). The main role of Sekisho was to control "incoming guns and outgoing women" (i.e. prevent weapons to be brought into Edo and wives and children of the feudal lords to escape the capital). The Hakone Sekisho was one of the most important checkpoints of the system, operating without interruption for 260 years until the Meiji restoration in 1868. The complex has been restored recently, and shows vignettes of life as it was during the historical period when the sekisho was active. The small photo on the left shows instead another local touristic attraction, the Hakone shrine, which we didn't have time to visit. You can find an alternative version of the same photo, taken almost from the same vantage point, on Wikitravel: the only difference is that this other photo was taken in December, with a clear sky allowing to see the ultimate scenic attraction of Hakone: a snow-capped Mt. Fuji emerging at the end of lake Ashi.

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