Tokyo residents are spoilt for choice in terms of hiking. Mount Jinba and Mount Mitake are among the usual list of favourites for those seeking to get away from the Tokyo metropolis, while Mount Takao is often noted as one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world. However, Mount Oyama in the Tanzawa-Oyama area is often criminally overlooked and deserves to be considered one of the Tokyo region’s best day hikes. With three shrines, two different routes to choose from and one glorious summit, Oyama has much to offer; and even a cable car if you wish to skip a portion of the climb. Furthermore, at 1,252m high, it is a great deal more challenging than the likes of Mount Takao (599m) but ultimately, much more enjoyable and rewarding.
Mt. Oyama is part of a ‘quasi-national park’ and is reached in just under an hour with the Odakyu-Odawara Line from Shinjuku station to Isehara (¥590 one-way). Follow signs for 大山 (Oyama) and head out the North Exit. From here, Oyama is a simple 25-minute bus ride (¥300) away. There is often a large queue but thankfully buses run every 10-15 minutes so it’s hard to miss. The bus will drop you off at the foot of the mountain and this is where you begin your climb.
The initial portion of the hike is known as the ‘Koma-sando Approach’; a partially covered paved path that will take you past a host of different souvenir shops and restaurants. You also have the option of buying a famous Oyama spinning top, a unique design synonymous with the area. This section will only take 10-15 minutes, before you reach the cable-car station, and is a very relaxing way to ease into the hike.
Those wishing to take the cable-car have several options. The service goes as far as the Afuri Shrine (¥1110 return, ¥630 one-way) but you also have the option of getting off about halfway at the Oyama-dera temple (¥600 return, ¥350 one-way). Cable-cars operate every 20 minutes with the first going up at 9:00 and the last at 16:20.
Those who wish to hike also have a choice to make; the ‘Men’s trail’ or the ‘Women’s trail’. The ‘otoko-zakka’ or the ‘onna-zaka’ option, as they’re respectively known, both reach the same point at the Afuri Shrine but take different routes to do so. The former is much steeper and more direct but will get you to the top quicker, while the latter is a more gradual climb and passes through the peaceful Oyama shrine.
After completing your chosen route, you’ll reach the Afuri Shrine where the cable-car terminates. The shrine is believed to have been founded as long ago as B.C. 97 during the time of Emperor Shujin. This shrine is known as ‘Shimosha’ (the sub shrine) and is 696m up, while the ‘Honsha’ (the main shrine) is located right at the summit, a further 1.9km climb. The Shimosha shrine complex has several restaurants offering the chance to rest your weary legs and take in lunch with a great view. If you wish to carry on to the summit, head past the main temple to the left and proceed directly up the stone steps. The peak is 1.9km further on and is a fairly gradual 90 minute climb over rocky terrain but worth it for those who think they’re up to the task.
Formerly known as ‘Amefuri yama’ (the ‘rainy mountain’), don’t be surprised if you meet some fog or rain along your climb. However, don’t let that put you off – this is a climb worthy of your time and energy. Regardless of when you attempt it, you will almost certainly be accompanied by many others who are doing the same. The summit is a happy spot, dozens of hikers of all ages having achieved their goal and celebrating by tucking into a well-deserved bento. Thanks to the cable-car service, Oyama makes a great experience for those seeking a less strenuous day. However, with Mount Fuji climbing season just around the corner, Oyama is also a perfect way to warm yourself up for the coming hiking season.
For more information → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/destination/tanzawa_oyama/