Today we continue the virtual tour of Hakone Shrine with a trip to the water gate.
In the Shintō faith, torii (the red-orange gate in the images) mark the boundary between the secular and the sacred – though on occasion, it often seems that the areas on both sides of the torii are equally sacred. The water gate at Hakone Shrine is one of those places.
The gate sits on the shore of Lake Ashi, and marks the entrance to the shrine precinct.
According to legend, during the 9th or 10th century, a Shintō priest persuaded the dragon that lives in Lake Ashi to become a benevolent protector of the shrine and the town of Hakone. The water gate was constructed when the shrine was moved to its current location (after pacification of the dragon).
In the summer months, visitors to Hakone can rent swan-shaped paddle boats and take them out on the lake (the cost is about $10 for 30 minutes).
My son and I took one out:
and got a spectacular view of the water gate from the front side, which faces outward, toward the lake.
We also got a great view of the (other) tourists taking photos from the back side of the gate. As you might expect, it’s a popular place for selfies and group photos.
Although most Shintō shrines have numerous torii, and Hakone Jinja itself has quite a few, the water gate has a special place in my heart for its beauty and serenity. Looking at or through it, I can definitely understand why the founders of the shrine considered this place, and its landscape, sacred.
Have you ever felt sacred energy in a natural setting?