A man wearing a hanten (半纏, half-coat)—probably Kozaburo Tamamura’s guide or the carrier of his equipment—stands near the entrance of the cryptomeria road (杉並木) in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture.
This is the old Hakone Highway (箱根旧街道) near the Ichinotorii gate (一の鳥居) at Moto-Hakone (元箱根)1. Although this was an important and well-traveled road, the road surface looks a bit painful to walk on with straw sandals. It certainly was a beautiful one, though. Through the majestic cedar trees, Lake Ashi (芦ノ湖) can be seen.
Hakone used to be an important checkpoint on the Tokaido, the main highway connecting Edo (pre-1868-Tokyo) with Kyoto. It was the tenth of the fifty-three stations (宿, juku) of the Tokaido and established in 1618 (Genna 4). Hakone-juku was first established on the Edo side of the Hakone Checkpoint (箱根関所, Hakone Osekisho). But because inhabitants of that area refused to build a honjin (本陣, inn for government officials), it was moved to the Kyoto side. Settlers were forcibly moved there from Odawara (小田原) and Mishima (三島), both juku neighboring Hakone.
The barrier (関, seki) in Hakone was manned by a large number of guards and checks were strict. Townsend Harris (1804–1878), the first United States Consul General to Japan, experienced this when he passed here in a norimono (Japanese palanquin) in 1857 (Ansei 4). On November 26 of that year he wrote in his diary2:
Established in 1619 (Genna 5), the Hakone Checkpoint was abolished in 1868 (Meiji 1). In 2007, a reconstruction of the Hakone Checkpoint was opened. It is very well-done and traditional architectural techniques were used. The site features gates, a guard house, an office, a lookout tower, a bulletin board, a shooting range, stables and a small museum.
Today Hakone is a popular resort destination, especially for people—among them many foreign residents—living in Tokyo. This popularity started early. American orientalist and author William Elliot Griffis(1843–1928) already mentioned Hakone in his 1876 (Meiji 9) book The Mikado’s Empire, which contains a lyrical description of the area3:
A telephone, telegraph or electric wire pole is visible in the back of the photograph. The Hakone post office first used telecommunications in July 1881 (Meiji 14)4, so this photo dates from after that period. If these are electric wires, it was taken after 1905 (Meiji 38)5.
1 Metadata database of Japanese old photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period. The Hakone Road.
2 Harris, Townsend (1930). The complete journal of Townsend Harris, first American consul general and minister to Japan. Garden City, N.Y., Published for Japan Society, New York, by Doubleday, Doran & Co., 420-421.
3 Griffis, William Elliot (1876). The Mikado’s Empire. Harper, 128.
4 Metadata database of Japanese old photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period. Old town by lake ashinoko.
5 Metadata database of Japanese old photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period. Rows of cedars along a road.
Reference for Citations
Duits, Kjeld (). Hakone 1880s: Cryptomeria Road, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on January 20, 2022 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/254/cryptomeria-road
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