Tokaido Highway Tour is a small group tour for people staying in Tokyo/Yokohama, Atami, or Moto-Hakone areas. Enjoy Amazake Chaya teahouse, walking 3km of the ancient forest-clad highway, Hakone Checkpoint, Yamanaka Castle Ruins, Mishima Taisha, lunch at Kanbara, Hiroshige Museum of Art, and Satta Pass lookout. The tour affords stunning vistas of Mt Fuji, weather permitting. Your certified driver-guide will help interpret the formative role Tokaido has in Japan’s past and present culture, as well as the stunning natural settings (geographic and biological) you will pass through. Visitors originating from Tokyo/Yokohama should first catch the Tokaido Shinkansen to Atami (about 40 mins) to join the tour. Bookings essential. (If you are up for more walking, about 6km total in the day, check out Hakone Hachiri Tour).
Be sure to start your day with a hearty breakfast at your hotel because we won’t reach our lunch stop until about 1pm. What to bring?
Visitors originating from Tokyo/Yokohama:
Catch Tokaido Shinkansen Kodama #637, departs Tokyo Station 0756. You get to travel the first 100km of the Tokaido in about 40 minutes! Get off at Atami Station at 0844, look for your guide waiting at the station exit.
Visitors originating from Atami hotels:
Please be in your hotel lobby ready to depart from 0800. Your pick up will be between 0800 and 0830.
First we head over Hakone Pass to Moto-Hakone, on the shores of Lake Ashinoko, a 40 minute drive. We’ll make a Fuji photo-stop en route, weather permitting. (Folks originating from Moto-Hakone don’t worry, we’ll make a second Fuji photo-stop later at Yamanaka Castle Ruins).
Visitors originating from Moto-Hakone hotels:
Please be in your hotel lobby ready to depart from 0920.
Hakone and Lake Ashinoko, Hiroshige, 19C, Tokaido Station #10
With everyone now on board, we coach up to the Amazake Chaya teahouse, one of the few remaining of hundreds of teahouses that dotted the ancient Tokaido from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. Amazake means sweet sake, so why not try a cup (price included) to boost your spirits for the walk ahead. Next door to the teahouse is a tiny museum housing an original Edo Period palanquin used to carry gentry along Tokaido.
Leaving Amazake Chaya we start the 2km walk mostly downhill to Lake Ashinoko. This is one of the few original stretches of Tokaido remaining, replete with mossy highway stones and shrouded in ancient forest. Watch your step.
We make a left turn with Tokaido on reaching Lake Ashinoko, and follow the shoreline for a kilometre through Cedar Avenue. This part of Tokaido is lined both sides with magnificant towering Japanese ceder (Cryptomera japonica), planted in 1618 on the orders of the 2nd Tokugawa Shogun, to shade travellers.
Cedar Avenue takes us to Hakone Checkpoint (entry included), one of the key control stations on the Tokaido during the Edo Period. The Shogun didn’t want any terrorists or would-be-assasins from the regions slipping into the Capital, so only persons with the proper papers where permitted through here. Enjoy strolling around the recreated wooden Checkpoint and small museum. There is also a small cafe and conveniences.
Now we coach up and head westwards following Tokaido to Yamanaka Castle Remains. This 16C castle had a guarding view of Tokaido and was constructed by Hojo Dymyo to protect the route eastwards. It wasn’t enough though, to keep out the huge army sent by Osaka in the late 16C to subdue Hojo, as you can see by what they left of the castle (foundations only). Importantly for us, the site also offers an excellent view of Mt Fuji (weather permitting) so have your camera ready.
We coach westwards again along Tokaido to Mishima Taisha. One of Japan’s key shrines, it was frequented by the first Shogun Yoritomo in the 12th century to pray for his new regime. Like most wooden structures in Japan, those of the Taisha have been reconstructed many times over the centuries after frequent earthquake damage. The current main building is about 150 years old, so Hiroshige would have enjoyed its previous incarnation when he passed through in 1830. But there is an Osmanthus tree in the grounds believed to be 1200 years old, which stills blooms beautiful orange in Autumn.
Mishima Taisha, Hiroshige, 19C, Tokaido Station #11
Our coach hurtles ever westwards, and you are hungry by now so we’ll skip a few of the ancient Tokaido Stations and head non-stop to Kanbara for lunch (price included, Japanese style and Halal OK). The good folks of Kanbara have been serving lunch to hungry travellers for half a millennium, but that won’t dent the warmth of their welcome to you. One of the mysteries of Hiroshige is that he painted Kanbara in a snow blizzard, but it’s location near the Pacific coast (in Suruga Bay) means that actually it has a rather subtropical climate. That’s journalism for you.
Kanbara, Hiroshige, 19C, Tokaido Station #15
With full bellies our trusty Tokaido express pushes farther westward to Yui. Here we will take in the Tokaido Hiroshige Museum of Art (entry included), your chance to view some of the Masters’ original works. Then, as the panoramic view from the Satta Pass is one of Hiroshige’s most famous works, we will take in the real thing.
Yui, Hiroshige, 19C, Tokaido Station #16
By now the sun is shining (we hope) on Fuji from low in the western sky, so why not overnight at Okaya (not included in tour fee), a traditional Japanese Inn (ryokan) that has been accommodating Tokaido travellers for 8 generations, before continuing your journey throught Shizuoka.
Hara, Hiroshige, 19C, Tokaido Station #14, near Shin Fuji
Those folks needing to return to Atami will do a U-turn, and with the orb at our backs head eastwards in our trusty coach for drop offs at hotels as required. All going well, everyone should be back at their hotels around 6pm so you don’t miss your dinner there. (Atami folks can get back about 1 hour even earlier if you take the Shinkansen from Shin Fuji station and then public taxi from Atami station back to your hotel, your cost, sorry, although this Shinkansen leg is covered by Japan Rail Pass).
Customised tours available on request. firstname.lastname@example.org