I’ve always wanted to experience hiking outside the Philippines. But of all my oversea trips in the past years, I’ve never really had enough time or the chance to do it. Perhaps now that I’ll be staying in Japan for quite a while, it is the best opportunity to cross it out once and for all. Together with some new local friends, we organized a climb to a peak just an hour away from our place Yokohama.
Mt Oyama is one of the popular hiking spots in Kanagawa region, situated at the border of three cities : Hadano, Isehara and Atsugi. Standing at 1252 meters, it caters both budding and advanced mountaineers. Mt Oyama is considered a sacred mountain. Shrines and temples can be be visited on the way to its summit.
Our climb to Mt Oyama was a visual treat to the unspoiled beauty of the Tanzawa mountains and many historical and heritage sites within..
How to Get to Mt. Oyama via Isehara
- From Yokohama
Take the Sotetsu Line going to Ebina Station. Transfer to Odakyu Line going to Isehara station. Ride bus no. 10 going to Mt. Oyama.
- From Tokyo
From Shinjuku Station, take the Odakyu Line going to Isehara station. Ride bus no. 10 going to Mt. Oyama.
Sights and Scenes
Our group gathered up in Isehara Station on a Saturday morning. It was already the mid of winter season so we were a little worried on the low temperatures at the summit. As a first time hiker in Japan, I didn’t know much what to expect but just to be safe, I wore three layers of clothing – a normal t-shirt topped with a fleece and a down jacket.
The jumpoff point to Mt. Oyama is around thirty minutes by bus from Isehara station. The scenery on the way is a glimpse of the countryside of the Kanagawa region. A small roadside farm is always a refreshing view. Fruit harvests like mikan (japanese citrus fruit) are sold just outside one’s household for very cheap prices. Anybody can simply pickup what they want and leave the payment on a box usually beside the fruit baskets.
We arrived at Oyama jumpoff point half past 10 am. Two options are available for day-visitors, either hike all the way or take the cable car going to Afuri Shrine. For us, we chose to ride the cable car. We didn’t only saved time and energy but we also had the chance to get a good overlooking view of the surrounding lowlands.
The cable car’s end destination is the shimosha of the Afuri-jinja Shrine. This shrine is an annex (lower shrine) to its main building (honsha) at the summit. People stop by here to pray for good fortune.
At the right side of the main hall is an entrance where visitors can access the small museum at the back.
To the left of the Afuri Shrine is the start of the actual trek. This route is the typical way for beginners.
Navigating to the top to Mt. Oyama is one less worry. The trails are well established and signs and directions are placed on forks. There are also stone pillars/markers on each of the thirty stations going to the summit.
Mt. Oyama is a favorite hiking destination of all age groups. It’s nice to see parents hike with their kids as a form of family bonding. But it’s even more amazing to see ageless seniors in their 60’s and beyond still hiking like a young adult.
The first few kilometers of Mt. Oyama’s trail is mostly covered by towering trees, which could easily be over hundred feet tall. Along the way is the tree called Meotosugi, a famous dimorphic cedar tree believed to be more than 500 years old.
Approaching the summit, the change in vegetation can easily be noticed. The tall trees are now replaced by medium size ones. On a clear day, Mt. Fuji Can be seen peaking from the west.
From the jumpoff point, the distance to the summit is 6.5 kilometers while the hike from Afuri Shrine Shimosha to the top typically takes about two hours on a leisure pace.
Since the ancient times, Mt. Oyama has been regarded as a sacred mountain – a place of worship for the early Japanese. The Oyama Afuri-jinja Shrine which stands at the summit is believed to be established as early as 97 B.C. A Shinto Shrine, its name was derived from the Japanese word for rainfall. Farmers pray on this shrine to the god of rain.
Hikers can take a picnic on tables and benches available at Oyama’s summit. There is also a small cafeteria where you can order a hot mountain soba or udon.
We stayed at the summit for around an hour. The sky was not too clear on this day so Mt. Fuji was not visible. But regardless, the view from the top was still splendid.
Descending down was a lot faster than climbing. When we reached the Shimosha, we opt not to take the cable car and take the women’s trail to Oyama-dera temple instead. It is another one of the heritage sites of Mt. Oyama.
Oyama-dera temple is said to be built in year 755. Also know as Oyama-no-Ofudosan, this temple is one of the three great shrines to the guardian diety Fudo. There are 36 Fudo shrines in Kanto region and Oyama-dera temple is the first pilgrimage site.
The complex is surrounded by a number of Buddhist and Shinto stone symbols. And perhaps the most notable of all is the group of small black statues standing beside the stairs leading to the temple’s main building.
During Autumn, Oyama-dera temple offers a very lovely sight when the surrounding maple trees are blooming with their vibrant red color.
After a resting at the Oyama-dera temple, we trekked back to the jumpoff point where we freshened up before heading back home.
My first hike in Japan was really special. Climbing on a totally different climate than what I’m used to was a great experience. Our route (via Isehara) was only one of the possible trails to the summit. It is also possible to climb Mt. Oyama by way of Atsugi or Hadano and I look forward to try them on my next visit.
Mt. Oyama Day Hike Sample Itinerary
0930 Arrive at Isehara Station. Get quick Breakfast.
0945 Ride bus going to Mt. Oyama jump-off point
1040 Arrive at Mt. Oyama jump-off point.
1045 Trek going via Men’s Trail to Afuri Shrine
1130 Arrive at Afuri Shrine.
1200 Continue trek to Summit (main Shrine)
1330 Arrive at summit. Have lunch. Soba and Ramen is available on a small restaurant.
1430 Start Descent
1530 Arrive at Afuri shrine (annex)
1545 Trek back to Oyama-dera via women’s trail
1600 Arrive at Oyama-dera temple
1630 Return to jumpoff point
1700 Ride bus back to Isehara Station
Budget / Expenses*
- Ramen at the summit : ~500 Yen
- Bus from/to Isehara train station : 310 x 2 = 620 Yen
- Cable Car to Afuri Shrine (one way) : 630 (Adult), 320 (Child)
- Cable Car to Afuri Shrine (round trip) : 1100 (Adult), 550 (Child)
*as of January 2016
Mt. Oyama Hiking Tips / Notes
- Check the last trip of your bus and train
- If you are climbing on a winter, an extra layer of jacket/clothing is really handy
- Always waterproof your electronics
- Leave no trace
- Observe proper manners especially when entering shrines and temples.
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