Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hakone Checkpoint

Last weekend I went with my girl to Hakone, the hot-spring resort town about two hours from Tokyo. It was only mildly disappointing, with the onsens a pale overpriced imitation of those in Kagoshima, but the food and the service in the ryokan was very good.

But the most interesting thing to see was a little side trip on the last day, when we went to Hakone sekishyo, the reconstructed checkpoint that guarded the entrance to Tokyo during the shogunate, when Tokyo was known as Edo. There were guardrooms, inspection chambers, administration offices, barracks for troops, even a small jail. I was interested to learn, however, that Hakone checkpoint, known for its strictness, was, according to the brochure,

"primarily responsible for keeping women from escaping from Edo."

That's all the English-language brochure said about the subject, leaving me wondering just what that was about. In the inspection chambers were teams of female officials who inspected women from Edo. Why were these women (known as deonna) trying to get out? Were Tokyo women being systematically abused? Where did they want to go? Was there some other women-friendly place in Japan 200 years ago, some kind of medieval harassment-free safe house?
Was Tokyo really that bad ?

Eventually I worked it out, dictionary in hand, through Chizuru and the helpful staff. The checkpoint officials were on the lookout for escaping hostages, women from the families of rival daimyos to the shogun who were being held to guarantee the good behaviour of feudal lords in distant parts of Japan.

There. Just the normal cruel politics of humanity. Nothing sinister.
Hakone Checkpoint: Hard on the chicks


Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog - you always have had a way with words!

Firstly - you have a new lady on the scene? That's awesome!

Where are you living at the moment??

I'm patiently waiting to hear if I got JET...interview went well, but hey who knows what they are looking for.

No doubt if successful I shall end up in the inaka with a stalker (words from your mouth not mine!)

Hope all is well and we'll have to catch up when I come back to Japan either in July with JET or December for a holiday for 2 months.


Captaincassowary said...

Hey Nicola, thanks for the nice words.

Yep I am seeing a lovely girlie here. She doesn't speak my lingo so it is all nihongo- well challenging.

I reckon you are a shoe-in for JET. Come August you'll be in deep inaka with stalkers, panty-knickers and evil oyajis aplenty. You will be living the dream.

Anonymous said...

All Nihongo ay....that would be a challenge, but with your level of the language I'm sure you'd be finding it not too much trouble.

Yep, you were right, I have been offered a position with JET. I've accepted, but you know what they are like - won't tell you where you are placed till prob 4 weeks before I leave.

Haha yes, pantie stealers...that's all I need. Inaka will be quite a challenge, that's for sure.

By the way, do you have facebook? Please tell me you have given in and got an account. Makes life much easier to contact people yknow haha

If so, add me -

Hope to catch up when I come back in July and will no doubt have a few questions for you re JET stuff once I arrive. What better person to ask than you :-)