Oyama: A Sacred Mountain Close to Tokyo


Mt. Oyama is one of the most popular attractions in Kanagawa Prefecture. It is famous for its beautiful nature, hiking trails and ancient religious sites. The mountain has been an object of worship for hundreds of years. The Oyama Afuri Shrine at the top is the end of the Old Oyama Kaido, a route travelled by pilgrims in the Edo Era. Many worshippers climbed to Oyama Afuri Shrine and prayed for rain. Nowadays the place still attracts a steady stream of visitors, especially during the summer, when numerous events such as Osamedachi (a sword-offering rite) are held. For many visitors today, it is a journey done for enjoyment and not out of religious devotion, so you can do it anytime for whatever reason.

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It’s best to visit Mt. Oyama during the fall when the trees reveal riots of autumn color. You can experience the scenic sights of fall foliage along the stone stairway to Oyama-dera Temple, the main Buddhist temple serving the mountain. This temple enshrines the guardian deity Fudo, who is often associated with sacred springs and waterfalls. Another famous autumn leaves viewing spot is the Shimosha (the lower shrine) of Oyama Afuri Shrine, the shrine dedicated to the god of rain. During the peak of the season the trees are lit up in the evening, creating a spectacular effect. Also, you can find autumn delicacies such as persimmons and chestnuts sold at a bargain price at the shopping street near the cable car station.

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Hiking to the lower shrine takes about an hour at a leisurely pace. Depending on your fitness level, you can choose the “men’s” or “women’s” trail, the former being steeper and the latter having more interesting sights such as the statues of Jizo and the Seven Wonders. Climbing this sacred mountain is a fine thing to do but not for everybody. If you prefer relaxation to energetic exercise, the cable car will do the job very well.

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Afuri derives from a Japanese word for rainfall. During droughts, farmers visited the shrine praying to the deity of rain who is enshrined here. At the main hall, visitors will find a narrow passage displaying relics and religious statues. Inside this passage there is a pool with a dragon head fountain. The water provided here is pure enough for drinking and believed to bring good luck. A short walk from the main hall allows you the visit the Niju Waterfall, the two-tiered beauty that is said to be inhabited by a powerful dragon spirit. The falls used to be the site of the annual amagoi rain-praying ceremonies.

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To the left of the Shimosha, you can continue the journey climbing to the main Oyama Afuri Shrine on the peak. The trail to the top is steep and challenging for inexperienced hikers, but it is well-maintained and clearly marked, so climbing up to the peak is fuss-free. However, it’s important that you come back to the lower shrine before the cable car’s final departure. Walking down at dusk can be dangerous.

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If you plan to visit Mt. Oyama this fall, don’t miss its autumn illumination: 11/18 to 11/27. Also, be sure to drop by the Ukiyoe photo spot at the cable car station (10/1-11/27) and the Shimosha of Oyama Afuri Shrine (10/1-10/31) for fun photos.

For more infomation → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/destination/tanzawa_oyama/