The current Hakone Checkpoint was rebuilt based on the “Report of the Restoration of Sōsyu Hakone Checkpoint in 1865” discovered in 1983, as well as in accordance with findings from excavation and research around the site, and has been open to the public since April 2007. Along with the restoration of the checkpoint buildings, including the main guardhouse, the senior guard lounge, and the foot soldier’s guardhouse, the stone walls and stairs and wooden fences were also restored. Environmental improvements were implemented, such as laying electric cables underground and maintenance of the cedar trees along the road. The museum next to the rebuilt checkpoint exhibits 300 historical items including old documents, checkpoint passes, official bulletin boards, official stamps, checkpoint diaries, and matchlock muskets.
The Hakone Sekisho, or facility for inspection, ensured that weapons did not enter feudal Edo, modern-day Tokyo; and stopped the relatives of feudal lords from fleeing the city, as their wives and children were more or less de facto hostages thanks to the era and caste they were born to. However, as has been documented, the checkpoint guards did little to halt the flow of guns into the city, while being extremely strict on women trying to leave the checkpoint.
Altogether, there were fifty-three inspection facilities defending the major roads across the nation—all working to defend the Tokugawa shogun’s Edo. The Hakone Sekisho was placed on its current location in 1619, during an early period of the Edo Era; in addition, it is thought to be one of the largest facilities and most important among the fifty-three. The Hakone Sekisho was in operation for about 260 years during the Edo period but fell out of use when the government changed and dissolved in 1868.
The inspection facility standing today was restored about 140 years ago, using tools and craftsmanship methods of the Edo Era. Along with the checkpoint buildings, the main guard house, senior guard lounge, foot-soldiers’ guard house, the stone walls, stairs, and wooden fences were also restored to Edo-time condition. Not only that, but the view around the inspection facility is also free from modern equipment, like electric cables as they’ve been buried to ensure a vista free of interference. When you look at the checkpoint’s dignified appearance you will feel like you’ve jumped back in time.
If you’d like an even more in-depth visit, why not visit the nearby museum? The museum next to the rebuilt sekisho has more than 300 historical items on exhibit: authentic and historic documents; stamped checkpoint passes; official bulletin boards; official stamps, checkpoint diaries; and authentic matchlock muskets are just some of the items on exhibit. The checkpoint and museum aren’t the only worthwhile things in the area; while visiting Lake Ashi and the checkpoint, be sure to enjoy the walking trail around the facilities. Komagata Shrine and Otama-ga Pond are especially interesting for their history; the tale of Otama-ga Pond is especially tragic and a reflection of the strict policies in effect at the time of the checkpoint’s operation.
The Hakone Inspection Facility is open from 9 am to 5 pm from March 1st to November 30th; from December to the end of February the sekisho is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Entry fee for adults is 500 yen and children are 250 yen; discounts are available for groups of twenty or more people. In order to visit the Hakone Checkpoint and its museum, take the bus from Odawara Station to Hakonemachi; from there it is a short 2-minute walk.
Hakone Sekisho was part of the Edo-period road from Tokyo to Kyoto. This checkpoint ensured weapons did not enter Edo (Tokyo) and prevented feudal lords' relatives from fleeing (their wives and children were de facto hostages). Nowadays, it is a good place to see historical buildings along the street.