Just near the end of the rainy season I had the opportunity to hike part of the Old Tokaido Road (a Japanese Heritage Area) from Hakone to Mishima. Most tourist are very familiar with the Hakone part of the Tokaido Road, but many are not aware of the stretch leading to Mishima.
When the Tokugawa Shogunate was in power there was the capital Kyoto and the power base in Edo (Tokyo). They decided a road was needed for the lords, commerce, and the samurai. Started in 1603, the road stretched 514 kilometers (318 miles). It was primarily made with smooth rocks. There were 53 stations (rest areas along the route), and markers every 4 kilometers (2.5 miles).
It is said that the Hakone Caldera was the most difficult part of the journey and that is where I hiked on mostly slippery rocks.
I met Tony Everitt, the director of Hike Hakone Hachiri at Odawara Station, proceeded to Hakone via the Odakyu Line, and then took a bus to the beginning of the eight-mile hike. I had been to most of the Hakone part of our trip, but Tony, being a master storyteller gave me a history lesson I will never forget. Every stand-alone rock had a name with an interesting story.
Our first stop was the Amazake Chaya Tea House. http://www.amasake-chaya.jp/
This is a short distance from the Hakone Check Point and is one of the few remaining tea houses on the Tokaido road. It is currently run by the 13th generation of the Yamamoto clan. The Amazake (non-alcoholic) family recipe is over 400 years old. There is a small museum adjoining the tea house with artifacts from the Edo period.
After enjoying our Amazake and some Chikara-Mochi we hiked to Cedar Avenue where the trees were planted in 1618. This is not the only area of the Tokaido road where you will see the towering cedars. There are many on the Shizuoka Prefecture part of the hike. We walked through the Hakone Check Point and stopped for a nice lunch at Café Komon.
With full stomachs we continued on and came upon a Shrine dedicated to dogs. Back in the early years of the road there were wild wolves that would attack the travelers. The family dogs would fight off the wolves to protect their owners and so they created a shrine to memorialize their bravery.
On some parts of the Old Tokaido Road there are tunnels you have to pass through; be sure to duck as they are not for us six foot plus travelers.
Although this first half of our hike is in Hakone (a well-known tourist area), it is full of natural walkways and lots of nature giving you a peaceful enjoyable experience.
For more information on this and other Tokaido Road Tours see https://hakonehachiri.com or call 090-1292-0388
Here is a ink for the second half of this fantastic journey.