For centuries Hakone served as way station for travelers between the eastern and western parts of the country. It was also the site of a roadblock manned by shogunate troops. They served a dual purpose–keeping firearms out of the capital of Edo and keeping the wives and daughters of feudal lords in. The women were held hostage to guarantee the loyalty of the provincial warlords, a system that remained in place until the Meiji Restoration in the second half of the 19th century.
With its volcanic mountains and many hot springs, Hakone was one of the first tourist spots in the country. It attracted both Japanese and foreigners, with the nobility and the wealthy constructing summer retreats in the area.
Hakone also was the site of Japan’s first Western-style hotel, built mainly for the large foreign community living in relative proximity of Yokohama.
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