Sunday, November 22, 2009

Part Four: Hakone Shrine

Our last stop of the tour was Hakone Shrine, whose Torii gate we had seen on the water during our boat cruise across Lake Ashi. The presence of a Torii gate indicates that you are passing a gateway into a spiritual world, which is definitely what it felt like at the Hakone Shrine:

I don't know if you can get the feeling from the pictures, but it was incredible to be walking up to the shrine surrounded by these incredibly tall and ancient trees, which exuded a sense of peace:

Before entering the shrine, visitors traditionally wash their hands and mouths with spring water. In this time of swine flu, we skipped touching our mouths but made sure to show respect for old traditions by rinsing our hands:

For a lack of better words, this was definitely one of the coolest springs that I have ever seen at a shrine - can you see the water coming out of the dragon's mouth?

Andrew standing under a Torii gate for one of the smaller shrines along the path to Hakone shrine:
When we made it to the top, one of the first things we could see was a wall lined with people's prayers and wishes:
This was Hakone Shrine itself, located in a clearing amongst the tall trees and facing Lake Ashi - it was a pretty impressive sight:
Andrew and I posing by the front gates - I love how the light is illuminating the front entrance:
Also on display at the bottom of the path for the shrine was a piece of fossilized tree - I wish I could tell you more about its significance, but the sign was all in Japanese:

Peering through the tree, my wise guy's head popped up on the other side:
After this, we were exhausted. We hauled our butts on the bus and promptly fell asleep on the two hour ride home. After being stuck on the Narita bus for over three hours the night before, we decided to take a break on Monday from anything that would require us to travel long distances!

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