Did you like the little teaser I left you with in my last post? Well, now all is revealed! The place I simply couldn’t leave Hakone without visiting was the Amazake-chaya (甘酒茶屋).
Amazake-chaya is over 350 years old, and is just bursting with history and atmosphere. Unfortunately, most of the old Tokaido is now modern roads and railway, apart from a small preserved section in Hakone which leads to this beautiful teahouse (you can also get there by bus, along the road which runs parallel to the hiking trail, as I did). The building is not the original of course (wooden buildings always run into fires!), but the roof is still thatched and the atmosphere has been retained. It’s dimly lit inside, with cedar tree stumps for stools and ‘senjafuda’ (千社札) (worshippers’ name stickers or wooden slats) dotted around.
A ‘sugegasa’ (菅笠) (bamboo hat) hangs on the wall, and a ‘kago’ (駕籠) (a type of litter used as a means of human transportation) hangs from the ceiling.
The thing to try here is of course amazake (甘酒) – a sweet drink made from rice used to make sake. I had mine with some traditional chikara-mochi (力餅) (sticky rice cakes toasted with charcoal and flavoured with soy sauce). It was the perfect snack for the weary traveller.
The teahouse is so beautifully preserved, and despite being on quite a big road it seemed quiet. Even the outside looked lovely, with wisteria hanging by the entrance and pretty pink flowers growing nearby.
The Amazake-chaya is a perfect piece of preserved history, and it took me right back to the Edo period. Sitting there I was able to imagine travellers passing through, stopping to rest and have a snack, maybe even to compose a haiku.