Photo: Jessica Sayuri Boissy
travel japan by the stars

Hakone sightseeing recommendations for your star sign this December

By Jessica Sayuri Boissy

Hot springs, a historical checkpoint, and hikes along the ancient Tokaido Road are among the prime attractions awaiting travelers in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture. This onsen resort town is a picturesque getaway from the buzzing metropolis of Tokyo — accessible in 80 minutes from Shinjuku station via the Odakyu Romance Car.

Travel — whether a day trip or overnight excursion — should ideally be a break from the mundane. So why not break from routine, give into wanderlust, abandon the travel book, and place one’s fate in the stars?

This article features 12 destinations in Hakone that correspond to your star sign: one of the 12 signs of the zodiac your birthday falls under. Start by reading your sun sign or head straight to your rising sign for those in the astrological know.

This is the first of a monthly travel series sprinkled with astrological insights ― from your sun sign to additional planetary placements ― to personalize travel destinations alongside the zodiac constellations and their ruling planets.

1. Aries (Mar. 20-Apr. 20): Hakone Checkpoint

A looming, dark blue gate marks the sight of the old Tokaido Road. Photo: GaijinPot Travel

The lore of the samurai still permeates the minds of many who venture to Japan. While these sword-wielding figures are but shadows of the past, Arians can marvel at the militarist traditions following the end of the feudal era at Hakone Checkpoint. Foot-bound travelers heading in and out of Edo (present-day Tokyo), which reigned as the “shogun’s capital” from 1603 to 1868, were required to stop at this checkpoint along the Tokaido Road that connected it to Kyoto — the country’s ancient capital.

Like a ram’s horn, the security checkpoint served as a shield against weapons smuggling into Edo and women leaving from there — a consolidated effort to prevent an armed rebellion against the Tokugawa shogunate. There’s even a familiar phrase iri teppo de onna (guns entering, women exiting) summarizing these strict measures that allowed the shogun to police weary travelers and take up arms.

Among 53 checkpoints monitoring mountainous foot trails, this remains the only one to be restored to its former glory.

2. Taurus (Apr. 21-May 21): Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands

The Hakone Botanical Garden of the Wetlands in autumn. Photo: shikema/Pixta

Ever the lover of lush greenery and long walks in the park, Taureans will relish the herbaceous plants and alpine trees inhabiting Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands.*

Founded in 1976 along former rice paddies, this botanical garden in the scenic Sengokuhara area has become a wildlife-rich ecosystem spanning four types of wetlands: marshes, swamps, bogs and fens. With a plethora of native plant species, including komakusa (Dicentra peregrina) coined the “Queen of Alpine Flowers,” the slow-and-steady celestial Bull can leisurely admire these literal earthy delights beneath our soles.

*While the botanical garden remains scenic throughout the seasons, it is closed annually from Dec. 1 to March 19.

3. Gemini (May 22-June 22): Honma Yosegi Museum Featuring Hakone Yosegi-Zaiku

Masterful artisans in Hakone have been handcrafting yosegi-zaiku marquetry, adorned in awe-inspiring geometric patterns, since the late Edo period. Photo: edamame/Pixta

If you tell a Gemini to “chillax,” be prepared for a myriad of reasons why their mind is spinning mental maps rather than being mindful on vacation. But hand the mercurial twins a Hakone yosegi-zaiku (wood marquetry), however, and you’ll be met with a bemused pause, having piqued their insatiable curiosity.

Masterful artisans in Hakone have been handcrafting this marquetry, adorned in awe-inspiring geometric patterns, since the late Edo period (1603-1868). Unlike typical woodworking that sources one tree variety, Hakone yosegi-zaiku employs various trees in a spectrum of shades to create intricate cabinets, coasters, and other eye-catching household items.

However, Geminians will be captivated by the “puzzle box” — complete with an obscured lid — to store their mini-cabinet of curiosities.

4. Cancer (June 23-July 22): Lake Ashi

Ashinoko and the majestic view of Mount Fuji. Photo: GaijinPot Travel

As the homebody of the zodiac, it may require some gentle nudging to get Cancerians to step out of their shell. One glance at Ashinoko (Lake Ashi), however, and the majestic view of Mount Fuji beyond its glistening waters will lure these crustaceans out of their cozy comfort zone.

Ruled by the moon, the celestial crab is no stranger to lunar sensibilities — prone to reflecting on life’s ebb and flow like the luminary’s ever-changing phases. Serendipitously, there’s a sublime spectacle of an upside-down reflection of Mount Fuji, or Sakasa Fuji, visible from the lakeshore, granted the weather conditions are right.

Don’t fret, this isn’t a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence.

5. Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Hakone Fujiya Hotel

The Fujiya Hotel. Photo: Kanagawa Prefectural Government

Anything fit for a king is satisfactory for a Leo — governed by the sun, who takes kingship of the solar system. In Japan, the closest thing to the crown is the imperial family, who sought solace in the luxurious confines of their former villa where the Hakone Fujiya Hotel presently stands.

Established during the modernizing Meiji era in 1878, Japan’s first bona fide resort hotel beautifully blends Japanese and Western-style architecture into a sprawling yet stately vacation retreat. Among the designated cultural landmarks are ornate paintings and engravings of mythical creatures — from phoenixes to dragons — peeking out from ceilings and above revolving doors.

The roster of prestigious guests also includes foreign dignitaries, real-life royals (Duke of Windsor) and rock royalty (John Lennon).

6. Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Amazake Chaya Tea House

Amazake Chaya Tea House. Photo: ビンゴ/Pixta

Soothe your aching soles from trekking the Tokaido Road at the thatched-roof Amazake Chaya Tea House, situated along one of five historical routes (Gokaido) in Japan.

Known for their fixation on all things health and wellness, Virgoans will be nourished by the tea house’s namesake drink: amazake (sweetened sake). Served in wabi-sabi (simple and quiet) ceramic cups, this sweet fermented rice beverage is a simple yet effective remedy for alleviating the clutter accumulated from the daily grind of life — something the mercurial Maiden can succumb to when overstretching their selfless service.

With your soothing brew, why not warm up around the crackling irori (open hearth) with a side of sweet or savory mochi (glutinous rice cakes)? It’s bound to be restorative for the body and soul.

7. Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Hakone Open-Air Museum

The Hakone Open-Air Museum. Photo: GaijinPot Travel

Love is in the air. The love of art, that is, at the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

High up in Hakone’s mountains is where Librans, the art aficionados of the zodiac, will be charmed by indoor and outdoor exhibitions that strike a balance between contemporary and modernist sculptures by world-class artists. While notable names include Picasso, Rodin, and Miró, the most striking feature is the 70,000-square-meter garden with roughly 120 permanent pieces displayed against the backdrop of seasonal shifts.

With balance being a virtue to the sign of the scales, the sight of ethereal artworks appearing to seamlessly harmonize with nature is in synch with the Venusian sensibility of unity — be it a union of Hakone’s hot-spring foot bath, serene mountain landscapes, and monumental sculptures by the greats.

8. Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22): Hakone Sightseeing Cruise (Hakone Pirate Ship)

The famous Hakone Sightseeing Cruise at Lake Ashi in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, is also operated by the Odakyu Group. Photo: Odakyu Electric Railway

Scorpios may do a double-take upon spotting a pirate ship on the tranquil waters of Ashinoko. That’s because sailing the high seas for this subterranean water sign is second nature, possessing a sea captain’s resilience to weather any storm — both literally and figuratively.

Passengers can select among three ships to board: the Royal II, Victory and Queen Ashinoko. Ruled by Mars, the planet of valor, it’s only natural to hop aboard the Victory and revel in the speedy voyage (approximately 30 minutes) from the ports of Togendai, Motohakone or Hakone-machi.

Regardless of their rulership under the god of war, Scorpios will be magnetized by Hakone Shrine’s striking red Heiwa no Torii (Gate of Peace) suspended in water.

9. Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Hakone Kowakien Yunessun

Hakone townscape, near Hakone Kowakien Yunessan, and the surrounding hills with autumn leaves. Photo: jooko3/Pixta

With an arrow perpetually pointing toward what lies tomorrow, Sagittarians embrace and embody the ethos of “eat, drink, and be merry!” As fortune would have it, Hakone Kowakien Yunessun is a quirky amusement park and spa resort that will tickle the centaur’s penchant for off-beat adventures.

While there’s no shortage of sulfurous hot springs in Hakone, the opportunity to luxuriate in a red wine, Japanese sake or coffee bath is a rarity reserved for Yunessun hot spring hoppers. Plus, the assortment of 23 themed baths, including mixed bathing with swimsuits or an old-fashioned rotenburo (open-air tub), is in step with the Sagittarian’s motto of “less is a bore.”

Cheers to indulging in guilt-free merrymaking without the dreaded hangover!

10. Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 21): Owakudani Valley

Hot springs in the Owakudani Valley. Photo: JunAh666/iStock

Trodding through the cut-throat corporate world is no different from the rocky terrain of Owakudani Valley, as both grueling sites are where the sea-goat reaps satisfaction.

Upon entering the volcanic crater called the “Great Boiling Valley,” Capricorns will look to the past — roughly 3,000 years to be exact — when Mount Hakone last erupted, creating long-lasting ripples in time as seen from the bubbling sulfur vents.

Driven to climb, these high achievers will likely hike the Owakudani Nature Trail, spanning 700 meters with a view of Mount Fuji — Japan’s tallest peak. Then, earning the right to a snack, the saturnine GOAT should taste the kuro-tamago, or boiled eggs that exhibit Saturn’s signature shade of black and excrete a sulfurous scent reminiscent of rot.

Contrary to its grim description, these eggs are said to increase lifespan by seven years — keeping the Grim Reaper at bay.

11. Aquarius (Jan. 22-Feb. 20): Hakone Ropeway

Ropeway over Owakudani_005.jpg
A cable car ride over Owakudani Valley. Photo: Kanagawa Prefectural Government

If Capricorn is about the climb, Aquarius is about the vantage point of such great heights.

The Hakone Ropeway is where the water bearer can get a bird’s-eye view of Owakudani Valley’s ancient cratered terrain with sulfurous smoke plumes arising from its crevices. Although known for their cool composure, this air sign will be aroused by the altitude at which the aerial gondola traverses the sky — suspended 130 meters above ground from Sounzan to Owakudani stations.

But the sight of snow-capped Mount Fuji from Owakudani to Togendai, with Ashinoko glistening below, will melt even the iciest hearts of these notoriously rigid Saturn-ruled natives.

12. Pisces (Feb. 21-Mar. 19): Hakone Shrine

The Hakone Shrine. Photo: Japan Today

Pisceans are often lauded as the most spiritually inclined sign of the bunch, with the fish symbolism tied to the golden age of prophets. However, people of all faiths can slip into serenity and solace upon passing through the beckoning vermillion torii gate at Hakone Shrine.

What makes this Shinto shrine stand out is the Heiwa no Torii (Gate of Peace) — signaling entry into a sacred space — that appears floating on the horizon where Ashinoko meets the cerulean sky. But don’t ditch visiting the shrine’s precincts, dating back to its founding in 757.

While the original worship site (Mototsumiya) remains on Mount Komagatake’s summit, the relocated lakeside sanctuary offers a shinrinyoku (forest bathing) path through towering cedar trees and cobblestone steps. This mini-pilgrimage will undoubtedly make Pisceans feel at one with nature and the divine.

Jessica Sayuri Boissy is a practicing traditional Western astrologer in Tokyo. She has a Practitioners Level Horary Certificate from the School of Traditional Astrology (STA) and earned her Fundamentals Certificate for natal and predictive techniques at Kepler College.

© Japan Today

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It's fascinating. Having lived in Tokyo, I'm eager to explore some of the locations mentioned here in the winter! I'm also curious about astrology and would love to know where I can learn more.

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The ruling planet for Aquarians is Uranus, not Saturn.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@TrevorPeace, she's practicing traditional western astrology.

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