Tonosawa’s Secret Benten Shrine

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, Tonosawa Station is a tiny stop on the Hakone Tozan Railway between Hakone-Yumoto and Gora. For most people, the station is either a one-minute stop where the train takes on new passengers before continuing its run up the mountain or else a place to disembark and head for one of the nearby ryokan.

However, Tonosawa Station also has a lovely secret–a Shintō shrine called Tonosawa Fukazawa Zeniarai Benten, that sits just off the train tracks on the “uphill” side of Tonosawa Station. In the photo below, the entrance to the shrine is just to the left of the covered bench:

Tonosawa Eki Hakone (1)

Although it’s not actually hidden (or really a “secret” for that matter–except that not many people stop to see it) the shrine sits on the edge of a river where, according to legend, washing your money will make it increase and return to you many times over.

Tonosawa Shrine

Benten–also called Benzaiten–is the Buddhist goddess of everything that flows: music, water, words, time, and speech. The indigenous Japanese Shintō faith worships her as Ichikishima-hime-no-mikoto – and it’s in that form that she is worshipped at Tonosawa’s little shrine.

Tonosawa Shrine Closeup

The guardians are carved from stone, and stand on watch outside the altar, with bright red paint to accentuate their details.

Left guardian

Several statues of frogs also stand in various spots around the shrine.

Toad Statue

I looked for real frogs around the shrine–it’s wet and humid, making it a likely spot for amphibians. While I didn’t find frogs, I did see several ghostly looking crabs near the river. Unfortunately, they moved too fast to photograph, but I’ll try to get an image the next time I visit Hakone.

Have you visited this little shrine? Would you, if you visit Hakone?

Tune in Wednesday for more as the journey through Hakone continues!