Hakone Shrine has been considered to be one of the most prestigious shrines in the Kanto region and is the site of prayers for traffic safety, realization of wishes, and good luck/expelling bad luck. The origin of the shrine dates back to the reign of Emperor Kōshō, about 2,400 years ago, when the holy priest Shosen was enshrined as the object of worship in Komagatake, Hakone, which since that time has became the most sacred site for mountain worship in the Kanto area. In 757, the holy priest Mangan established the village shrine to enshrine the Great God of Hakone in the current location. The Hakone Shrine’s traditional “Kosui” (late water) festival held every summer derived from the historical legend that Mangan defeated the nine-headed dragon that had been troubling the people by often blowing up storms, and enshrined it as the dragon god of Ashinoko Lake. The area surrounded by the rich natural environment such as Ashinoko Lake, the old cedars, and the pure forest of hime-syara stewartia, a designated natural monument, is considered to be one of the major spiritual spots in Hakone.
Enter a magical world where you can almost feel nature staring back at you. Hakone Shrine creates not only a spiritual experience but one of rejuvenating natural wonder. The beautiful red buildings surrounded by the towering trees of the forest makes it a one-of-a-kind shrine. A Japanese Shinto shrine on the shores of Lake Ashi, Hakone Jinja enshrines three “kami” or gods:
Ninigi-no-Mikoto, sent by Amaterasu to pacify Japan with the three celestial gifts used by the Emperor.
Konohanasakuya-hime, the blossom-princess and symbol of fleeting earthly life.
Hoori-no-Mikoto, the third and youngest son of Ninigi-no Mikoto and Konohanasakuya-hime. One of the ancestors of the Emperors of Japan.
These three are collectively known as the Great Gods of Hakone.
The vermilion “torii” gate at the base of the shrine entrance has its feet in the serene waters of Lake Ashi. The shrine was relocated to the shores in 1667, but originally the shrine stood at the summit of Komagatake peak of Mount Hakone, and—according to tradition—was founded in 757, during the reign of Emperor Kosho. Credit for the establishment of Hakone Jinja is given to Priest Mangan, who (in legend) pacified the nine-headed dragon that lived at the bottom of Lake Ashi. The dragon, now chained to the rocks beneath the lake, is celebrated with a grand firework show during the February holiday, Setsubun.
Hakone Shrine’s annual festival is held on August 1st. With lanterns floating on the surface of Lake Ashi like gentle fireflies and a “torii” gate bonfire it’s an experience unlike any other. There is also a small museum on the premises of Hakone Shrine, which display many of the shrine’s treasures—it’s quite a rarity to be allowed to view shrine treasures. Among these treasures are five items ranked as national Important Cultural Property.
During the Kamakura period, the shrine was popular with samurai and shogun, and that support continued through the Sengoku period. However, during the Battle of Odawara in 1590, the shrine was burned down by forces of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It was later rebuilt by Tokugawa Ieyasu and received support from the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1875, Hakone Shrine was listed among the 3rd class of nationally significant shrines in Japan.
Today, the shrine is particularly famed for being a shrine of marriage and on the 13th of every month, it becomes flooded with young people seeking good fortune in their relationships. In addition, its 89 stone steps are said to repel misfortune. After praying at the main hall, be sure to pat the large mallet there three times while making a wish; the “patting mallet”, as it is known, is a traditional fairy tale item which grants whatever you wish for when shaken. And don’t forget to wash your hands in the healing miracle waters of Mount Hakone, called “ryuujinsui”, as it’s supposed to clear away impurities. Bottles are even sold for you to take home. Nearby you can also enjoy peddling swan boats, local wooden craft shops, or just a leisurely stroll through the moss-dressed forest.
On July 31st, the shrine organizes the Ashinoko Kosui Matsuri Festival to celebrate a legendary dragon. Monks sail the lake on pirate ships offering red rice to the depths below. Floating lanterns illuminate the lake waters while fireworks light the skies above.