Hakone Tokaido Checkpoint

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Hakone, Japan

Hakone Tokaido Checkpoint Reviews

Toonsarah Toonsarah
566 reviews
Hakone Checkpoint Oct 08, 2013
In Hakone-Machi you can visit this reconstruction of a checkpoint on the Tokaido Way, the old highway which linked Tokyo with Kyoto during the feudal Edo Period. This was the most important of the highways, and connected Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto. At intervals there were checkpoints like this one, known as sekisho, where travellers had to show the permits that were necessary to allow them to travel the route.

The sekisho, had two main purposes: to control “incoming guns and outgoing women”, i.e. to prevent weapons from being brought into Edo and to prevent the wives and children of feudal lords from fleeing from Edo. At Hakone the second purpose is thought to have been by far the more significant.

The checkpoints were removed soon after the Meiji Restoration, which saw the end of the feudal period. But in recent years this one has been restored exactly as it would have been, thanks to the discovery of some old records which showed every detail of the buildings here. This has the somewhat disconcerting effect of the various structures looking incongruously new. But a visit is worthwhile as the work has been very carefully done and the role of the checkpoint cleverly brought to life. We visited the reconstructed officers’ quarters and the much less spacious ones allocated to the lower ranks. Shadowy grey figures have been used effectively to show the activity that would have taken place in each part of the buildings – sleeping, cooking, checking permits and even inspecting the long hair of female travellers for hidden weapons. Apparently researchers were not able to discover enough details about the colour or design of their clothing, so the models were created like this, but I also found it rather evocative – almost as of the ghosts of the past officials still linger here.

In the open area between the two sets of quarters the tools used to catch criminals (those trying to evade the checkpoint by passing around it) are displayed, and they look pretty effective. I didn’t take a photo but you can see one on the website: [http://www.hakonesekisyo.jp/english/data/returns/returns10.html] – nasty!

After visiting these quarters we climbed a hill to the lookout tower. It was a bit of an effort on rather large steps, but we were rewarded with a good view of Lake Ashi (but not Mount Fuji). From here the soldiers would keep watch over the lake as it was prohibited to cross it my ship and thus evade the checkpoints. We also went in the small museum which has displays about the checkpoint and about the Tokaido, but unfortunately no English signage whatsoever, so many of these were lost on me. I did however find the video of the restoration work quite interesting.

Admission to the checkpoint (which also includes the museum) is 500¥ (October 2013) but the Hakone Freepass entitles you to a discount of 100¥. It is open seven days a week from 9.00 -17.00 for most of the year, but closes at 16.30 between December 1st and February 28th.
Display at the Hakone Checkpoint
Display at the Hakone Checkpoint
View from the lookout tower at the…
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