The Hakone-Sekisho was an important site in the history of transportation in the Edo period (1603-1868). The Sekisho was a checkpoint along Lake Ashi that enforced the strict travel regulations imposed by the Tokugawa Shogunate (1600-1868) on the people of Japan. The Hakone Checkpoint was one of the most important because of its proximity to the capital.
Role of the Hakone Sekisho
The Hakone Checkpoint was first established at its present location in 1619, in the early Edo period. The Tokugawa Shogunate established more than 53 barrier stations across the country, and among them, the four stations at Kiso-Fukushima (Nagano Prefecture) and Usui (Gunma Prefecture) on the Nakasendo Highway, Arai (Shizuoka Prefecture) on the Tokaido Highway, and Hakone (Kanagawa Prefecture) were considered to be the largest and most important. The role of these checkpoints was mainly to control “guns entering and women leaving” the Edo area to prevent any possibility of revolt against the newly established government. Japan had gone through hundreds of years of civil war and the checkpoints were one way to ensure that the Tokugawa government would remain in control of the country.
Restoration of Hakone Sekisho
In 1983, a detailed report on the dismantling and repair of the Hakone Sekisho in the late Edo period, titled “Soshu Hakone Gosekisho Gosekisho Goshou Shokei Chou” (1865), was discovered in the Egawa Bunko (library) in Nirayama-cho (now Izu no Kuni City), Shizuoka Prefecture. As a result of the deciphering of this document by Hakone Town, an understanding of the buildings and structures of the Hakone Checkpoint at that time was better understood. Based on the results of the excavation and the analysis of the documents, it was decided to restore the buildings and improve the environment around the barrier station.
A Brief History of the Hakone Checkpoint
The checkpoints were only open during the daylight hours and travelers needed specially approved passports to pass through the gates. Travelers were encouraged to spend the night in one of the post towns in Mishima or Odawara before coming to the Hakone Checkpoint. There were thorough checks of people and especially young men who may have been women in disguise. During the Edo period, the Tokugawa Shogunate forced daimyo, regional feudal lords to keep estates and family in the Edo period as a form of insurance from insurrection.
It was a very serious crime to try to bypass the checkpoints and if caught there were serious consequences. The potential punishment for this crime would have been jail and even death. There is a temporary jail also reconstructed at the Hakone Checkpoint.
Based on materials such as the “Hakone Gosekisho Nikki Shobunaki” (Diary of the Hakone Customs House) written by the officials of the Hakone Customs House in the Edo period, the furnishings, weapons, and armor have all been faithfully reconstructed, but the physical characteristics of the officials and the colors and patterns of their clothes have not been clarified in detail. However, the physical characteristics of the officials and the colors and patterns of their clothing are still unclear, so the dolls on display are displayed in white to avoid giving a false impression.
Hakone Sekisho Museum
The Hakone Sekisho Museum is a museum where you can learn about the history of the Hakone Checkpoint in detail, with exhibits such as various passports, stories of elephants crossing through the checkpoint, records of people being caught trying to sneak past the checkpoint, old documents, and weapons. A video of the restoration of Hakone Checkpoint is also shown.
The Hakone Checkpoint is on the southern shore of Lake Ashi between Onshi Park and the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise ship dock.
9:00 – 17:00 (until 16:30 from December to February)
Admission is until 30 minutes before closing time.
Adults: 500 yen (400 yen for Hakone Free Pass, etc.)
Children 250 yen (Hakone Free Pass, etc.: 150 yen)
Group rate discounts available
Free admission for people with disabilities.