Hakone Shrine is a popular day trip from Tokyo. This shrine was founded around 750AD, and its hillside location has deep esoteric Buddhism meaning. Around the time of the shrine’s founding, ancient beliefs said that mountains, like the one where the shrine is located, are holy sites for ascetic practices and attaining supernatural powers.

Ascetic: Hakone Shrine is definitely visually appealing, set among a green forest on a mountain side, overlooking Lake Ashi, where Mt Fuji can be seen on a clear day.

Although Hakone Shrine has a long history, one of its sub-shrines is relatively new. Sitting next to the main hall is the Kuzuryu Shrine, dedicated to the protective spirit of a dragon that lives in the lake.

9-Headed-Dragon (Kuzuryu) Shrine
「Kuzuryū-jinja 九頭龍神社」

Hakone Shrine: Looking through torii
NIKON D5200 (18mm, f/8, 1/30 sec, ISO100)
Kuzuryu Shrine, a sub-shrine at Hakone-jinja

In Japanese, dragon is ryū 「竜」. Local legend tells the story of a dragon that lived in Lake Ashi, who would inflict damage on the lives of people living near the Lake. A chief priest of the shrine used his magical powers to change the dragon into a 9-headed protective spirit.

Kuzuryu Shrine was built in 1988, the year of the dragon.

Every year on the night of July 31 at the Ashinoko Kosui Matsuri, the chief priest alone takes a boat out onto the lake and pays tribute to the dragon’s spirit.

Map of Kuzuryū-jinja’s location:

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View this location – Map coordinates: 35.204762, 139.025608.