Hakone Jinja Shrine

Access Map and Photo Album


hakonetoriiWith the picturesque Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi, Hakone located 90 kilometers southwest of Tokyo is part of Izu Hakone National Park and one of the most popular resorts in Japan. In the ancient days, the steep mountains were holy grounds for religious orders to prescribe ascetic practices and attain magic powers. They were called yamabushi. The ascetic discipline was first developed in the Nara Period (710-794) at the mountains called Kinpusen in Nara Prefecture. Back then, Japanese believed steep mountains are the dwelling places of gods and practicing ascetic disciplines in the depth of certain mountains would give them holy and magical abilities.

In the 9th century, Priest Kukai (774-835) and Priest Saicho (767-822) brought in the Esoteric Buddhism from China. Priest Kukai founded Kongobuji at Mt. Koya {koh-yah}, Wakayama Prefecture and Priest Saicho Enryakuji at Mt. Hiei {he-a}, Shiga Prefecture, both on top of mountains, and then the worship of animistic cult, or the native Shinto, focusing on mountains combined with esoteric Buddhism began to develop. Rather than confronting Shintoists, esoteric Buddhism priests chose to adapt itself to Shinto elements that emphasize on purificatory rites.

In eastern Japan, Hakone and Nikko were the two major grounds for mountain asceticism. Priest Mangan, the founder of the Shrine, was born in Nara and took Buddhist vows at age 20. Legend holds that he read 10,000 volumes of Hokokyo sutra, or Vaipulya-maya in Sanskrit. Hence his name Man-gan (literally 10,000 volumes). The sutra is made up of more than 100 million Chinese characters. After learning Buddhism at Enryakuji, then the mecca of Japanese Buddhism, he started travelling across the country to spread Buddhism. In 757, he came to Hakone for the first time and encountered with yamabushi. Staying in Hakone for three years, he practiced asceticism himself to attain magical powers. One night, he had a revelation in a dream, in which a trio figurers, or a Buddhist acolyte, a government official and a woman, appeared, and said, "Your heart is pure and clean. Let's deliver mankind with the grace of Shinto and Buddhist deities." In awe and respect, Priest Mangan reported the revelation to the emperor then in power. The emperor immediately told him to erect a shrine, and that is the origin of today's Shrine.

Another legend asserts that there were three mini shrines in Hakone: One on top of Mt. Kami {kah-me} (literally Mt. God, 1,438 meters above sea level. Highest in Hakone), and one on Mt. Komagadake with an altitude of 1,350 lying behind the Shrine, and another named Han'nyaji. Priest Mangan combined those three to build a brand new shrine. Hence the Shrine was called Hakone Sanjo (three places) Gongen, a collective name for the three, like the famous Kumano Sanjo Gongen in Wakayama Prefecture.

In the Heian Period (794-1185), a short-cut path connecting Kyoto to eastern Japan was constructed over Hakone and the Shrine was crowded with travellers who stopped by to pray for their safe journey. When Emperor Hanayama (968-1008) was reigning in the late 10th century, his son was appointed the chief priest of the Shrine, thus obtaining patronage of the imperial court. As a symbol of the imperial patronage, the Shrine's emblem is three pieces of chrysanthemum arranged in a circle. Chrysanthemum is the Imperial Family's crest and no shrines or temples can employ it as their crest without authorization of the Family.

Shortly before the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199) , the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, who was then living in exile at the Izu Peninsula, rose up against the arch-rival Taira Clan (see Kamakura History) and waged war against them at Ishibashiyama near Hakone. (A woodblock print of the battle on view at MFA). His first try turned miserable and he had to run away. Nowhere to hide, he sought refuge at the Shrine. The chief priest of the Shrine at the time was Gyojitsu (his date of birth and death unknown). Not only did he give Yoritomo shelter from the enemy, but also extended cordial hospitality to Yoritomo. By virtue of the Shrine's help, Yoritomo could survive and win the battle in later years. He greatly appreciated Priest Gyojitsu's hospitality. Once Yoritomo unified Japan and assumed the Shogun's position, he patronized the Shrine in return for the priest's favors. The patronage by the Shogun continued until Sixth Shogun Munetaka (1242-1274).

HakonesugiThe main deities of the Shrine are three legendary and indigenous gods as stated at the beginning. All were from the Kojiki, or Records of Ancient Matters, and the Nihonshoki, or Chronicles of Japan. With the increase of the Buddhist influence, highly syncretic nature of esoteric Buddhism began to regard the noumenal aspects of native Shinto as manifestation of the Buddha essence. Since Shinto was basically of no iconolatry, esoteric Buddhism incorporated Shinto deities in a variety of visual representations of Buddhist deities. In other words, Shinto deities were viewed as temporary manifestation of Buddhist deities, allowing each Shinto deity to be identified with a Buddhist one. A case in point was Amaterasu, or the Sun Goddess that is believed to be the progenitor of the Imperial Family and enshrined at Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture. It was thought to be a Japanese manifestation of the Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana in Skt.). Here in the Shrine, each Shinto deity was thought to be a manifestation of Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya in Skt.) , Sho-Kan'non Bosatsu (Arya-avalokitesvara in Skt.) and Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri in Skt.) respectively. Thus, the Shrine had long been a typical amalgam of Buddhism (Shingon Sect) and Shinto elements.

It was the Meiji Imperial Restoration of 1868 that brought a drastic change to the Shrine's status. The new government implemented a new religion policy making Shinto the state religion and ordered to strictly separate Shinto from Buddhism. Otherwise, they had to abolish the temple/shrine complex. The Shrine was forced to purge of its Buddhism elements. All of the valuable cult objects related to Buddhism were sold cheap overseas or destroyed, or just thrown away. Although the Shrine did not suffer damage from the air raids during World War II like Kawasaki Daishi (Heikenji) located in urban area, the damage was as severe as the bombing. At the same time, the old familiar name of Hakone Gongen was abolished as Gongen denotes manifestation of the Lord Buddha. The 71st chief priest Tojitsu returned to secular life and changed the name to Taro Hakone to assume the chief post of the Shrine becoming an instant Shintoist.

Torii Gate:

The red torii gate in the water (picture; top, though barely viewable) was built in 1951 in commemoration of the Peace Treaty Japan concluded with 49 nations to formally end World War II. Meanwhile, the lake is 723 meters above the sea level and temperatures never go below the freezing point. Its circumference is 19.9 kilo meters and and the deepest point measures 43.5 meters. In summer, the verdure of the forest, the blue lake and the red torii gate produce a beautiful contrast. The path and steps toward the Shrines are lined with towering Japanese cedar (picture; right), all of which are several hundreds years old. Near the second torii gate is a giant cedar tree, which is called Yatate-no-sugi , or cedar for an arrow. Tradition has it that an ancient samurai Tamuramaro Sakanoue (758-811) dropped by the Shrine on his way from Kyoto and dedicated his arrow, the symbol of samurai to this cedar praying for victory in the war he was going to wage in northern Japan at the command of Emperor Kanmu (737-806). The god seems to have fulfilled Sakanoue's wishes. He won the battle and and subjugated the northern part of Japan. Ever since, the Shrine has been reputed for its miraculous efficacy.

Main Hall (Picture; left, below)

The hall was destroyed by fires many times. Today's structure was rebuilt in 1936 inGongen Tsukuri style of architecture. The vermilion hall with copper roof consists of three compartments: Haiden, or oratory, Honden, or sanctum where the deities dwell, and Heiden in between, which is a room to dedicate sacred stuff to the gods. A trio deities of Ninigi, Konohanasakuya and Hikohohodemi are enshrined in the sanctum. Ninigi is a grandson of Amaterasu Sun Goddess and Konohanasakuya is his wife. The couple deities gave birth to Hikohohodemi. However, Konohanasakuya got pregnant after having contact only once and his husband doubted if it was really his child. To prove her chastity, she delivered the baby exposing herself to fire. As a symbol of the three deities, a sacred mirror measuring 90 centimeters in diameter is said to be placed on the altar, guarded by a pair statues of golden and silver dogs.

Behind the Shrine and on top of the Mt. Komagatake, second highest in the Hakone mountains next to Mt. Kami, is a sub-shrines named Mototsumiya, which was built in 1964 by Yasujiro Tsutsumi (see Notes below) when he constructed cable cars connecting the east side of Komagadake to Lake Ashi. The sub-shrine has Haiden, or oratory only. With declining passengers, however, the cable cars stopped operation in August 2005.

Homotsu-den (Treasure House)

The Shrine must have had a host of Buddhism cult objects before the Meiji Restoration. A handful of them, a statue of Fugen Bosatsu (Samantabhadra Bodhisattva in Skt.), for example, is preserved and enshrined at the nearby Kofuku-in temple. It used to be part of the Shrine before the Restoration. The House was rebuilt in January 2007 and is open from 9:00 a.m. to 16:30 p.m. everyday. Admission; 500 yen. The following are the major treasures and on view in the House:

A statue of Priest Mangan: The oldest portrait statue in eastern Japan made in the early Heian Period, it is 85.5 centimeter tall and an ICA.
A 26.4-centimeter-long dagger named Akagitsuka Tanto made during the Kamakura Period. In Japan, there are three famous vendetta in history and one of them is the Soga Brothers Story, of which saga was dramatized in noh and kabuki plays. It is a story of the two brothers who took revenge for their father's death.
Sub-shrine for Soga Brothers (Picture; below, right)

The Shrine is closely associated with the tale of Soga Brothers, one of the three greatest vendetta in Japan's history. In the 12th century, there was a lord of manor called Suketsune Kudo (?-1193) living in the Izu Peninsula. It was the era the nation was unified and ruled by the Taira clan. Near the manor was another lord of manor called Sukechika Ito (?-1182). Both were cousins. Ito, as an affiliate of the Taira, was monitoring Yoritomo Minamoto, the son of Tiara's arch-rival, who was then in exile to Izu, but later established the Kamakura Shogunate. Yoritomo fell in love with Sukechika's daughter and gave birth to a child. In fear of the Taira's reaction, Sukechika killed the baby and attempted to murder Yoritomo as well. Yoritomo ran away and took refuge in Tokimasa Hojo's resident, who later became Yoritomo's father-in-law. At the time, Kudo was ordered from the Taira clan to be stationed in Kyoto, the capital of Japan, to serve the Taira military government. While he was in Kyoto, Sukechika Ito deprived him of his territory by force. Enraged at the Sukechika's behavior, Suketsune Kudo planned to revenge on him. In 1176 when Sukeyasu Kawazu (?-1176), Sukechika Ito's son, was practicing a grand hunting in Izu, Suketsune Kudo's men assassinated him as instructed by Suketsune. Sukeyasu Kawazu had two sons, Sukenari Soga (1172-1193) and Tokimune Soga (1174-1193). (Since their mother remarried Sukenobu Soga, their surname had been changed to Soga). The brothers pledged themselves that some day in the future they would retaliate for their father. They were only four and two years old at the time of resolution. The dagger preserved at the Treasure House is said to be the one Suketsune gave to Tokimune, saying, "Kill me with this dagger if you want to revenge." Losing breadwinner, the brothers were unable to earn a living. Tokimune entered priesthood as a disciple of Priest Gyojitsu at age 11 and was quite attentive to him. His mother was happy to hear Tokimune was doing well and know that he would be visiting Kyoto shortly to be ordained as a priest. But, one day when he reached the age 17, he appeared before the mother and said he returned to secular life to take revenge jointly with his brother.

In the meantime, the Minamoto clan gained its military power over the Taira, and Yoritomo finally took control of Japan in 1185 with its headquarters placing in Kamakura. Suketsune Kudo was a good retainer of Yoritomo and Yoritomo favored him. He even served as a drum player when Lady Shizuka, the tragic mistress of Yoshitsune Minamoto (1159-1189), Yoritomo's half brother, had a historic dance in front of Yoritomo in 1186 at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. (A woodblock print of Lady Shizuka at MFA.) Chances for the revenge seemed slim for Sukenari and Tokimune brothers and more than a dozen years passed without any attempts at all. At long last, however, the brothers found a rare opportunity in May 1193 on the occasion that Yoritomo Minamoto held a grand hunting at the foot of Mt. Fuji. (A woodblock print of hunting at MFA.) The brothers slipped among the hunters and stayed at their camp overnight. At midnight, a storm started to rage. Taking advantage of the confusion, the brothers attacked the lodge where Suketsune Kudo was staying and murdered him with swords. Sukenari was 22 years old and Tokimune 20. Eighteen years had passed since they first pledged the revenge. After the killing, Sukenari, the elder brother, was killed by Kudo's men on the spot, and Tokimune, the younger one, was also caught and later executed. Priest Gyojitsu entombed them cordially. (Also refer to Jissoji in Kamakura).

The saga was dramatized in noh and kabuki plays. Those kabuki plays related to Soga Brothers were referred to as 'Soga numbers', and at some point of the Edo Period (1603-1868), they were among the most popular plays. A plenty of relics related to the brothers are found around Hakone area. The Shrines constructed the Soga sub-shrine here in 1993 to dedicate to the spirits of the Brothers, nearly 800 years after the martyrdom and revenge. (Picture: below, right)

Himeshara Forest

On the slope behind the main hall is a beautifully managed forest of Himeshara, or Stewartia monadelpha, a camellia family and similar to sal trees. Sakyamuni is believed to have passed away under sal tree. Its white blossoms bloom in June and July. There are 125 trees to be exact, and no other trees are planted. Their girth measure one to two meters and roughly 25 meters high. This is the only pure Himeshara forest in Japan and is designated as a precious natural monument by the Prefecture of Kanagawa. At the upper side of this forest is the tomb of Priest Mangan.

Annual Observances

Kosui Matsuri or Lake Festival on July 31 night
In days of yore when Priest Mangan was the chief of the Shrine, there lived, according to legend, a dragon in the lake and he often afflicted people living near the lake. They had to offer human sacrifice, mostly young girls, to the dragon every year to appease his revengeful spirit. Hearing the story, the Priest made a stone stairs leading into the lake and exorcised the evil spirit of the dragon with his magical power. The dragon finally gave in and has never since afflicted the people. He is believed to have changed to Kuzuryu, literally a nine-headed dragon (like Hydra, but Priest Mangan did not slay him), and began to live in the lake as the guardian spirit. The festival takes place on the evening of July 31 every year near the Torii gate of the Shrine. The chief priest get on a boat alone and dedicate festive red rice cooked by the Shrine's priests in holy manner to the dragon's spirit. The cooked red rice has to be exactly three-to (to is a volume unit and 1-to is roughly 18 liter), three-sho (1 sho is 1.8 liter) and three-go (1 go is 0.18 liter) to serve the nine heads. To honor the legend and dedicate to the nine-headed dragon, the Shrine constructed a sub-shrine called Kuzuryu Jinja near the main hall in 1988, the year of dragon. Together with Soga sub-shrine, the structure is covered with vermillion color and is beautifully maintained.


Hakone Battle

hakone MHIn Hakone area, there are many transportation modes available today. They are operated by either of the two groups called Keiretsu, or Japan's cross-shareholding system, in which companies take equity stakes in one another to ward off raiders. One is Odakyu group and the other Seibu, both are new Keiretsu established after World War II by ambitious entrepreneurs. Odakyu used to be part of Tokyu group founded by Keita Goto (1882-1959) and Seibu group was established by Yasujiro Tsutsumi (1889-1964). The two fought a fierce battle in the 1950s to control Hakone. The words "Those who control Hakone can control Japan" were quoted during the era of warring state in the latter half of the 16th century because Hakone was a strategically pivotal area dividing eastern and western Japan with precipitous mountains. The words were still alive in the 1950s for the economic war. With its scenic Lake Ashi, Mt. Fuji and hot springs, Hakone was often compared to Baden Baden and thought to be promising for sightseeing business and resort development. Before the War in the 1920s, Tsutsumi bought up nearly 70,000 hectares land, mostly east of Lake Ashi, and leased two-thirds of the national forestland in Hakone in an attempt to develop the area. Today, you will see many hotels and amusement facilities in the east of Lake Ashi. Almost all of which were developed and owned by the Seibu Group. However, he did not have transportation facilities to carry guests in Tokyo to Hakone, whereas Goto's group had railways connecting Shinjuku, Tokyo to Odawara (Hence Oda-kyu Railway), gateway station to Hakone. Their battle started in connection with bus services carrying customers from Odawara Station up to Lake Ashi always involving the Ministry of Transportation (today's official name is Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism). At Odawara station, both groups scrambled for the guests and did not allows the other lead. The battle developed into constructing roads, mountain trams, cable cars and sightseeing boats cruising the Lake, all are operated today either by Odakyu or Seibu Groups. The battle was dubbed 'War between Robber Keita vs. Pistol Tsutsumi', engaging in mud-flinging at each other. (For more on Keita Goto, see Ofuna Kan'non). They fought like cats and dogs. (We Japanese say like 'dogs and monkeys').

You can identify today which group's vehicles you are getting on with the color painted on the vehicles: Seibu groups has horizontal three-color lines, or blue, red and green, like the Gambian national flag. The Seibu's assets were inherited by two Tsutsumi's sons. Seiji Tsutsumi (1927-. a.k.a. Takashi Tsujii, his pen name) used to owns retailing business including Seibu Department Stores in Tokyo and Intercontinental Hotel chains, which was sold off later years. His younger brother by different mother Yoshiaki Tsutsumi (1934-) controls Seibu Railway, Prince Hotel chains (one of them is in Kamakura) and many other real estates such as ski resorts and golf courses. He was Chairman of Japan Olympic Committee at the time Nagano Winter Olympic took place in 1998, and often listed as one of the richest man in the Forbes magazine with his fortune over US$15 billion at one time. The Brothers written by Lesley Downer (1994, Random House, UK) elaborates on them and the Hakone Battle. Meanwhile, Yasujiro Tsutsumi was buried at a mausoleum located eastern part of Kamakura. On New Year's Day every year, some 500 key staff of the group led by Yoshiaki gather here and at exactly 6:00 a.m., they perform a ritual to pay respect to the founder of the group and Yoshiaki declares group's New Year resolution to further enhance the group's prosperity.

Hakone Ekiden (marathon relay race)

Every year, the Tokyo-Hakone collegiate marathon relay race (Hakone Ekiden) takes place on January 2 and 3 joined by 15 selected colleges. On January 2, each team makes an entry of 5 runners, with each runner sharing a little over 20 kilometers to cover 109 kilometers distance from Ohtemachi district in Tokyo (where the head office of the Yomiuri Shinbun, the sponsor, is located) to Lake Ashi. The next day on January 3, another 5 runners of each college run the way back to Tokyo. The winning team usually finishes the race with a total time of around 11 hours. The event is televised nationwide by Yomiuri TV, and the race is now one of the most popular TV program in New Year's days. The relay began before World War II and they used to run between Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo and Hakone Shrine.

In 2012, the team of Toyo University won the race, setting a new record of 10 hours, 51 minutes and 36 seconds in its 88-year history.

Fujiya Hotel

hakonesogaOn route to Lake Ashi from Odawara, there is a Western style hotel named Fujiya at Miyanoshita with more than one century's tradition. It was founded in 1878 as the first Western hotel in Hakone by an ambitious Japanese, who visited America and Europe in 1871 as a member of the Iwakura Mission. The 100-odd member mission led by Tomomi Iwakura (1825-1883), a high-ranking official of the Japanese government, was dispatched to negotiate a new treaty. Returning to Japan, the ambitious young man constructed the road from Yumoto in Odawara to Miyanoshita, and built the hotel. For the first 20 years, it served foreign visitors only, and most of foreign visitors stayed in this hotel whenever they came to Hakone. An American Journalist, Charles M.Taylor, Jr. by name, wrote his impression on the hotel when he stayed in 1896 in his book Vacation Day in Hawaii and Japan, as follows: Quote This hotel is constructed on the European plan, and is very elegant as well as admirably managed. The rooms are clean, spacious, and first-class in every particular. The hotel is beautifully situated, surrounded by lofty mountains whose towering peaks seem guarding us. A pretty garden is in front of it, and there are lovely walks for those who come here in dry weather. We leave Miyanoshita this morning after a good American breakfast. At this hotel, one can obtain beefsteak, lamb chops, eggs, coffee with cream and sugar, rolls, butter and all the delicacies of first class cafe in our own country. Unquote.

After World War II, the hotel again turned exclusive use for foreigners for a while, requisitioned by the Allied Forces this time. Among the foreign dignitaries and celebrities who stayed in this hotel are: Dwight D Eisenhower (1890-1969), Mrs. Douglas MacArthur, Charles Chaplin (1889-1977). The hotel still retains its old glory and offers guests a taste of Japanese traditions and culture. If anything, it's more like old European hotels, rather than American style modern hotels.

Revised note for Hakone Battle

The whole property Tsutsumi accumulated was succeeded to Yoshiaki Tsutsumi (1934-), his legitimate son, upon his death. Tsutsumi Jr. further expanded businesses developing ski and golf resorts, hotels and villas throughout Japan. However, his reign over the Tsutsumi empire suddenly came to an end in early 2005, when he was arrested by prosecutors on charge of violating the Securities and Exchange Law and insider trading. He ruled Seibu Railway, a major railway company running in northern part of metropolitan Tokyo, through a private holding company called Kokudo, which is owned by him. Seibu Railway is a public company with its stock traded at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. According to the TSE regulation, combined shareholding of the ten largest shareholders should in no case exceed 80 percent. Kokudo has long held a substantial amount of Seibu Railway shares in the names of individuals on behalf of Tsutsumi Jr., and deliberately underreported its share ratio, excluding these individuals' shares from its statements. Shortly before the false statement was about to be revealed, Kokudo instructed by him had sold 72 million shares of the Railway to 70 firms that had business relations with Seibu group in one way or another without informing them of the falsified statements, so that total shares owned by ten shareholders bring down below 80 percent. However, his attempt did not proceed as had been planned. Somehow, the statements turned out to be false, which eventually led to not only his arrest but also delisting Seibu' stock form the TSE.. After the TSE decided to delist Seibu Railway stock, its price plunged by half. Kokudo was after all forced to buy back all the stocks it sold to 70 firms at the original prices. Hundred of innocent shareholders, however, filed a class lawsuit action against Kokudo demanding reparation.

Seiji Tsutsumi, the elder brother of Yoshiaki inherited Seibu Department stores and expanded it too much forming Saizon group. With the burst of bubble economy, however, the Group went into financial crisis, which forced him to step down from the top of the group in 2001. He is also well known as a writer under the pen name of Takashi Tujii.

For your reference, nearly 20 million people visit Hakone every year, but the number is declining these days with its peak in 1991 totaling 22.5 million, according to the survey made by the Hakone town office. In 2009, the number was 1.96 million.

(Updated January 2012)