The Old Tokaido Road was one of Japan`s most important means of transportation for centuries and passes through the heart of Hakone. The Tokaido Road connected the imperial and cultural capital of Kyoto with the political and economic center of Tokyo. The Tokaido Road is the background for many works of iconic art, stories, and even holds significance to this day. There are wonderfully preserved parts of the road between Hakone-Yumoto and Moto-Hakone that you can visit and walk.
Japan is a mountainous country that stretches from Hokkaido to Okinawa, but is not very wide at any point. The routes for traveling in Japan are limited to the valleys and coastal areas where passage was easy. The Tokaido was the most famous among them. Samurai, shogun, princesses, and others walked the Tokaido on their way to and from Tokyo and Kyoto. There are many wood block prints made from the daily scenes a traveller would have experienced during their time traveling.
Visitors can still see, walk, and even feel the history of the road in Hakone. The road was always heavily used, but was given an upgrade and a bit of beautification for the trip of a southern princess on her way to her marriage in Tokyo. The cobbled stones, drainage system, and reinforcement improved the quality of transportation. In the Moto-Hakone area, you can see the towering cedar trees lining the Tokaido road that were planted by orders from the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Adding to the experience is a stop at the Amazake Chaya. A traditional shop that has been serving the same menu for centuries. The family run establishment is now under the care of the 13th generation of the same family. The tea shop is located near the top of the Hakone mountains and would have been a welcomed site for rest and refreshments for weary traveller. The menu has changed very little over the years. Try the famed sweet fermented rice drink and pounded rice cakes that are famous and tasty. One of the best maintained parts of the Tokaido Road run from here to Lake Ashi and take about 30 minutes to cover.
The road from Hakone-Yumoto to Lake Ashi follows the same route as the Old Tokaido Road. You can access the lower parts of the trail using the K bus from Hakone-Yumoto Station to Moto-Hakone. There are various points to start your walk along the ancient road depending on the time and difficulty you desire. The K bus follows the original route of the Old Tokaido so there are different places you can get off and start.
Get off at Hatusdensho-Mae for hikers that want to use a few hours and get the whole experience climbing the mountain. Get off at the Hatajuku stop to see the mountain village famous for the Yosegi Zaiku woodcraft. The bus also stops at the Amazake Chaya if you just want to feel the atmosphere, see a part of the road, and have some tasty treats. The bus goes all the way to Moto-Hakone and is a short walk to the towering cedars of the Old Tokaido Road. Visiting Hakone gives you the chance to learn, feel, and experience Japan`s history and culture. Walking the Old Tokaido Road connects you to the stories and people of the past.