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Fuji, Hakone and Nikko By Shyam Amladi

 

Mount Fuji

Where are these Places

From Tokyo (Japan) Mount Fuji is 61 miles South-West; Hakone 55 miles South and Nikko 95 miles north

We chose these for sightseeing rather than Tokyo because of their history, their religious stature and the fact that nature has endowed them with incredible beauty. Also, they epitomize Japan’s history, culture, and its refinement.

History- Mount Fuji

So what is exceptional about Mount Fuji? For starters, it a UNESCO World Heritage site and Fuji is not one mountain but is comprised of overlapping volcanoes. But its uniqueness is much older.

Japanese have revered it as a Mount of Faith. It is the tallest mountain and Japan-12,388 feet and has long been revered for its exquisite beauty and for its frequent volcanic eruptions Japanese worshipped Mt. Fuji from afar. Its last eruption (known as Howi) was in 1707 AD.

These days Fuji has become a popular climbing destination. Climbing season is July 1 to mid-September.  While the climb is not extremely dangerous, it has a treacherous elevation gain, extreme weather, steep inclines, and long switchbacks. All-in-all, the climb is about 5-7 hours.

Highlights

Things to see around Mount Fuji:

  • Aokigahara Forest also known as “suicide forest. While it has a nasty reputation because of the number of suicides, trekkers will find beautiful vistas and scenic spots.
  • Mount Kachikachi Ropeway

This ride is about .66 miles, and gives you a fantastic view of Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi.

  • Sengen Shrine  Built in 788 AD, it is a serene but majestic shrine offering equally majestic view of the Mt. Fuji..
  • There are other things to see—museums, mineral baths, gardens and lakes.

History - Hakone

Hakone derives its name from the Caldera (a large volcanic crater). It has a historic and important past. It was the seat of the Shogan, the ruthless military dictators that ruled Japan from 8th to 12th century AD. Hakone was also an important checkpoint between Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1868). It is, according to Guinness, the place where the oldest hotel was built in 7th century AD – Nishiyama Onsen.

Highlights

However, like many other sight-seeing places in Japan, Hakone now entices visitors with lot more…..natural beauty, lakes specular views of Mount Fuji, sulfur springs and enchanting shrines 

Key sites to see:

  • Oldest hotel: If you love things ancient, may be you could book a room—a bit pricey at around $400 a night
  • Lake Ashi: A specular lake, it was created by the last eruption, and is about 3,000 year old. Today, it is a serene, calm body of water that offers you clear site of Mount Fuji.
  • Hakone Tozan Railway: It is a slow train. It celebrated 100 years. It is worth the ride and a beautiful, scenic trip thru mountains and foliage.
  • Onsen baths: unique Japan tradition, warm, geothermal sulfur spring – Caution: no clothing is allowed in the in the bath. You can carry a small towel.
  • Hakone Shrine: Founded in 757 AD, this Shinto temple was built during the reign of Emperor Koushou and is on an incline from Lake Ashi. It is a hallowed ground for worship and is well preserved. The entrance to the shrine is painted with brilliant red.
  • If you have time, do take a cruise on Queen Ashinoko, the golden sighting ship.


Hakone Train, 100 years young.

History – Nikko

Rinnoji Temple, is Nikko's most important temple and is designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. It was founded around 1,200 years ago along the shores of the Daiya by Shodo Shonin, a Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to this area. Priest Shodo crossed the turbulent Dayia River, climbing Mount Nantai, 8,500 feet. After Shodo, Nikko became famous as the seat of the powerful Shoguns, the military dictators of Japan from 1185 to 1868. The title was given by the Japanese Emperor. While the old shrine is no more, one its, might Shoguns, Tokugawa Shogun ate built the Nikko Shrine in 1617 BC. However, in 1616, the dying Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made it known that his final wish was for his successors to "Build a small shrine in Nikko and enshrine me as the God. I will be the guardian of peace keeping in Japan." As a result, Nikko became home of the mausoleums of two Tokugawa Shoguns, Tokugawa Ieyasu and his grandson, Tokugawa Iemitsu. Unlike most Japanese temples and shrines, the buildings here are extremely resplendent and ornate, with multicolored carvings and plenty of gold leaf, and show heavy Chinese influence. Some sense of dignity is restored by a magnificent forest of over 13,000 cedar trees, covering the entire area.

Highlights:

Key sites to see:

  • Nikko Shrine: It has been awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples of Nikk?. It is also is the place of enshrinement of Tokugawa.  There are about 16 structures that make up the UNESCO Site. Here are some of more prominent ones:
  • Gojoto: 5- stories Pagoda built in a well-hole style. The top story is in a Chinese design and the four are Japanese style.
  • Yomeion Gate: One of arguably the most magnificent gate in Japan with 500 carvings.
  • Shinyosha: Portable Shrine used for sacred procession.
  • Kairo Corridor: Beautifully carved in wood and colorfully painted, the three monkey carving is worth seeing,  for all of the grandeur the shoguns could muster, they're now over-shadowed in the eyes of many visitors by a trio of small wooden carvings on a stable wall: the famous three wise monkeys.

 

  • Shikyo:  The Sacred Bridge: It is a path to the Shrines, and was built in 1636 BC.
  • Kanmangafuchi Abbyss: 70 statues are lined up. They are said to be of Bodisatva, (meaning, the enlightened one). These were carved around 12th century BC. These are by the Daiya River. You can take a nice stroll.
  • Famous lakes and falls:

It is for the right reason that Nikko is called the land of waterfalls, with 47 of them. Some of the spectacular ones:

Ashi Lake, Hakone

  • Chuzenji falls, along the way there are mini falls
  • Ryuzu, named because of its resembles to dragons’ head
  • Yu falls Yunoko lake, among best 100 lakes in Japan
  • Onnetto falls –these are hot manganese falls 109 farenheight

Aside from the spectacular sites like Mount Fuji and Nikko there are other attractions. We learned of a very nice motto that Japanese people believe in and practice: “Think of the next person”. They are very helpful. They believe in good hygiene and they are very cultured and well behaved.

 

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