Lake Ashi 芦ノ湖
A Reflection of Fuji
Although it never ceases to fascinate and attract visitors who come to see the hot springs and the surrounding forests, without the reflection of Mt. Fuji, Lake Ashi - Ashinoko in Japanese - might not be as successful!
Peaceful as far as the eye can see, a stillness suddenly broken by a few ferries or boats making their way across the water. Suddenly the reflection distorts, the shape expands and breaks, the image breaks apart.
Raise your head-- it will take a while before everything returns to its calm, impassive state. Unless, of course, another boat succeeds the first and splits the water's surface again, dashing the hopes of photographers. But perhaps it is the fog that has already discouraged many who came from far away to see, admire, and capture the reflection of the legendary snow-covered king of the island and even beyond, an Emperor of Japan often mythologized, rarely climbed. Mount Fuji might let you see it... or it might not. The sun might peek over the tops of the surrounding mountains... or it might not.
Lake Ashi, a crater lake that formed around the caldera of Mount Hakone, whose last eruption was three thousand years ago, boasts all of its reflections and idyllic views in complete isolation. Jealous, perhaps, of the preferential treatment the artist HOKUSAI Katsushika (1760-1849) gave to the lakes Kawaguchi and Suwa in his famous Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, Ashinoko can claim to be today one of the most photographed lakes in Japan with the archipelago's emblem, Mount Fuji, in the background.
Welcome to all the hopeful Hokusai of our time, who take Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji through the clicks of cameras rattling on the deck of a pirate ship, a curious tourist attraction sailing on the lake. Perhaps these boats are they reminiscent of a time of mythological warriors, where the nine-headed dragon that lay dormant in the depths of Ashinoko terrorized residents, before a monk from Mount Komagatake made it a patron deity instead of an exorcised beast.
The walks and boat rides are highly recommended. Two companies make the crossing in about thirty minutes, the "Hakone Sightseeing Boats" and "Izuhakone Sightseeing Boats" from the south shore (Hakone-machi and Moto-Hakone) to the north shore (and Togendai Kojiri) and vice versa.
In the distance looms Hakone Jinja. Every July 31st, at nightfall, the toro-nagashi, floating lanterns, twinkle in the lake at the Ashino-ko Kosui Matsuri, a festival held in honor of the famous nine-headed dragon. The first tourist site in the region assumes its label.