This week, let me tell you my experience with Oyama Temple and the town of Oyama. When you plan to visit them directly from Isehara Station 伊勢原駅 of Odakyu Odawara Line 小田急小田原線, please take Kanachu Bus 神奈中バス I-10伊10 or I-11 伊11 from the Terminal #4 in the North Exit of Isehara Station. (Time Table, here.) It’s a 25 minuets’ bus ride to Oyama Cable 大山ケーブル Bus Stop (terminal stop). From the train ticket gate to the North Bus Terminal in Isehara Station, if you use steps rather than escalator to go down you’ll find a tourist information center on the right at the landing. They have a good free tourism brochure in English. As they open only for 9:00-17:00, the service may not be so convenient especially when you plan to hike Oyama Area (9:00 is the time you start walking in the mountain!) … but if you happen to be there during their business hours, the place is worth a visit. The office is run by Isehara Tourist Association. As of April 2017, their home page does not have a link to the brochure to download. Sad. From the north exit of the station, you may notice a big Torii 鳥居 next to Isehara Branch of Resona Bank. That’s the sign we have reached this near to Afuri Shrine in Oyama Pilgrimage Road ... I with a sort of pious feeling … The bus route runs mainly a narrow historical road, “Old Oyama Road,” where both sides show lots of banners saying “Welcome to Oyama.” You may notice, in addition to the 21st century marketing, the road has many ancient looking signposts made of stones.
|Torii next to the Bank|
the signs the pilgrims built|
as a commemoration of their visit
Until about 100 years ago, people walked this route, and before reaching to Oyama Temple and Afuri Shrine purified themselves by taking “shower” under the sacred waterfalls along the way. One of the purification site is Misogi-no-Otaki (禊の大滝 “the Big Waterfall for Purification”) that is less than 10 minutes’ walk from Shamukyoku-Iriguchi Bus Stop 社務局入口 of the I-10伊10 service (; the stops of I-10 can be checked here). I found the waterfall and the way leading to the place are far from tidied-up for the 21st century tourists, but may preserve the atmosphere of ancient pilgrimage. Two more stops from Shamukyoku-Iriguchi Stop is Roben-taki Stop 良弁滝 which is penultimate stop for the bus services. From the bus stop, we can see another popular bathing point, Roben-taki (“Roben Fall”), on the right. The site was so popular that there are Ukiyoes by Hokusai and the others and a scene in Kabuki repertoire “Oyama and Shougun Iemitsu大山と家光” that employed the waterfall as a motif. Simply imagining people who took showers there during winter … I thought they must have had a good reason. Some say the admiration of Oyama Pilgrimage was partially due to popular contests of endurance among male artisan class of Tokyo (Edo). They formed travel clubs, called Koh 講, according to their occupation or address, and saved money collectively. A group did not travel together, but members visited Oyama in turn probably due to economic reason. “Hey, their group purified themselves for 3 minutes under the ice-cold shower last week. We must do it for 5 minutes.” “Mr. A of Carpenter Koh had a beautiful tattoo on his back, and people admired his art under Roben Fall. So, this time we, Steeplejack Koh, must send Mr. B with even better coloring!” Hm, well, those days guys took freezing showers to show off how macho they were. OK, if you must …
Shamukyoku-Iriguchi Bus Stop (inbound to Isehara Station),
this is an entrance to the road leading to Misogi-no-Otaki.
|A bit messy trekking road|
Torii over there is|
the sign for the waterfall.
Eventually, the road via Misogi-no-Otaki
will meet with a paved forest road
that reaches to Minoge Town 蓑毛 of Hadano City 秦野.
In a later post,
we’ll visit Minogue as a relay point
for one of the hiking routes to Mt. Oyama.
Roben-taki Bus Stop,|
cross this red bridge over Oyama River 大山川,
you’ll meet Roben Fall.|
The Fall situates
almost among the inns of the town.
Between Roben Fall and the terminal bus stop, Oyama Cable Stop, is about 200m, not much. From the terminal stop, the uphill road ahead is available only on foot. Next to the terminal stop there is a municipal car parking + toilets on the right, and a tourism information house on the left. Soon, we’ll be greeted by an arcade and rows of souvenir shops, inns, and restaurants on the both sides. The street is called Koma-sando こま参道. Sando 参道 means “an entrance path to a temple / Shinto shrine”. (“Omotesando” is an entrance path to Meiji-Jingu Shrine. Got it?) Koma-sando is an entrance path to Oyama Temple and Oyama Afuri Shrine. And, just like Mont. Saint Michel, the way to the sanctuary is a perfect place for doing business with tourists! I think Jesus did not prohibit business outside the place of worship, did he? Actually, from around Oyama Elementary School Bus Stop, we are greeted by many traditional Japanese Inns on the both sides of the road. (The list is here.) Many could claim their origin as Sendoshi/Oshi 先導師・御師, who were travel agents with hotel services until about 100 years ago. This town is also famous for tofu cuisine so that many Inns have a restaurant where we can enjoy a full-course meal of tofu, and of gibier meats. The third weekend of March every year since 1990, the town has Oyama Tofu Festival. During the event, the restaurants offer bargain menus + Free Yu-tofu Pot serving in Lower Afuri Shrine + Quick Tofu Eating Contest (… an endurance contest for the 21st century, I guess) + music concerts, etc. Although not all the meals are vegetarian, you can try many variations of tofu dishes during the event. 😋
|Oyama Cable Terminal Stop|
|Tourism Info on the left|
|Municipal parking and toilet on the right|
from the Terminal Stop
is a paved road parallel to|
Koma-sando running along Oyama River.
It’s for the residents of Koma-sando only,
and ends with a dead end.
traditional inn on Koma-sando.|
Before, each inn was “membership only,”
having exclusive contracts with a particular Koh 講.
Now they are standard inns so that we can make reservations
without being a member of a specific travel club.
|Koma-sando is practically steep steps with lots of shops.|
souvenir from Oyama is Koma,|
wooden tops, and so,
the street is “Koma-sando.”
They are cute.
the oldest Inn, Togakuboh 東学坊 established in 1600,|
near Atago-taki Bus Stop, before reaching to Koma-sando.
Here, they can arrange your sessions for
meditation and transcribing sutras in
Oyama Temple and Lower Afuri Shrine.
afternoon tea at Togakuboh:|
with a tofu-based “Flower Petal” mochi-cake
and a warm moist tofu and coarse rice powder cake
wrapped by camellia leaves.
purchase tofu in town as well.|
This photo was taken in one of those tofu shops,
At the end of Koma-sando is the entrance to Oyama temple, and then Afuri Shrine. Here we have 3 choices. Choice 1: use cable car service from Oyama Cable Station. Even if you wear pin-heels, this strategy can transport us almost to the entrance doors of Oyama Temple (adult one-way ticket, 350 yen) and of Lower Afuri Shrine (adult one way ticket, 630 yen). Time table and the other info for Oyama Cable is here. Choice 2: take Otoko-zaka 男坂on the right of Oyama Cable Station to the foot of Lower Afuri Shrine. If you plan to hike to the Lower Shrine in the shortest way, this is the route which takes about 55 min of VERY steep climb of steps covered by moss. Choice 3: go On’na-zaka 女坂 which from the left of Oyama Cable Station goes to Oyama Temple first, and then to the Lower Afuri Shrine. The suggested time required for On’na-zaka to the Lower Shrine is 1 hour. You may notice it’s just a 5 min difference between Otoko-zaka and On’na-zaka, even though On’na-zaka is via the Temple. i.e., Both of the routes are extremely steep and moss-covered. I warn you some steps feel like a ladder against stone wall. Definitely we need good hiking shoes to conquer them. Elementary school kids could call help easily far before the goal. I would say the routes may simply be dangerous for uninitiated, but can offer a special satisfaction of “I did it!” (in addition to economizing the cable car fares … not for nothing the service is “not cheap.”)
|Oyama Cable Station|
can bring us to Afuri Shrine Station here.|
I warn you unless there is a special event
in the Lower Afuri Shrine,
the last service from the Shrine to Koma-sando is
If you miss it,
the only way you go down is on foot.
|The beginning of Otoko-zaka|
is basically a continuation|
like this for at least 55 min.
|The beginning of On’na-zaka|
the scenery along On’na-zaka is more diverse.
The lower part of On’na-zaka is surrounded byEdgeworthia chrysantha of pretty yellow flowers late March.
is also much closer to Oyama River.|
This place is one of the sources of the River.
Legend says it never dries up.
Sure enough, when I visited there late March,
the upstream from the point did not have water.
we cross bridges several times in On’na-zaka.
On’na-zaka, I found an image of Buddha|
which is said that famous abbot Koboh 弘法大師sculpted only with his nails overnight.
It might be possible to do that given a weak soil of Tanzawa.
I’ll return to the issue
when we visit the environmental problems in Tanzawa later.
|Please do not think On’na-zaka is flat …|
|The cable car track seen from On’na-zaka|
Roughly ½ point of On’na-zaka, there is Oyama Temple. Theologically, the Temple is dedicated to Acalanaatha 不動明王 expressed in the iron image of the 13th century (said to be) done by abbot Gangyo 願行. The statue and its attendants Kimkara 矜羯羅童子 and Cetaka 制多迦童子, are registered as a National Important Cultural Property 国重要文化財. The Temple opens the special cabinet for them situated in the main hall on 8th, 18th, and 28th of every month. Japanese iron statues were made mainly during the 12-13th century, but the technique to express intricate details was not so sophisticated. Even though, the images in Oyama Temple are relatively well-casted, the experts say. Well, they would be good enough to attract lots of funs who made pilgrimage to Oyama Temple.
steps leading us to Oyama Temple.|
The images of attendants for Acalanaatha welcome us.
They are actually cute.
Legend says the Temple was established by abbot Roben 良弁 in 755 after he became the first head priest of Todaiji Temple in Nara. According to another legend, later in the 9th century Kukai 空海 became the third chief priest of Oyama Temple. Both of them were advisors to the Emperor. Academically, these stories are not verified, but we can say this for sure: the place has been well-known in the center of Japanese national politics for more than millennium. The couple of Minamoto no Yoritomo 源頼朝 and Masako 政子, who started Kamakura Shogunate Government 鎌倉幕府 in 1192, patronized the place. There is a record that Yoritomo offered a splendid sword for victories in wars. 500 years later, this sword giving story was mimicked by pilgrims who presented ridiculously long wooden sword to the temple, and became a symbol of Oyama Pilgrimage. The power of the first samurai Shogun continued a lot for Oyama Temple. Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康, the first Shogun who made in 1600 for the first time Tokyo (Edo) the center of Japanese national politics, directly involved in Oyama Temple management in the early 17th century, and the Tokugawa Shogunate continued to be a powerful patron till 1868. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Temple had several buildings in the mountain, and the place of current Lower Afuri Shrine was the center of the temple sanctuary. Meiji government abolished Oyama Temple completely once … anything done by the previous government must have been “horrible” for them … But the institution was resurrected in 1885 and moved to the current place. In the end, people who loved Oyama Pilgrimage won.
|The main hall|
You may have noticed Acalanaatha and his pageboys are having ferocious faces … They are suitable for a temple which had patrons of samurais for centuries. In fact, the priests of mountain worship to Mt. Oyama, Yamabushi 山伏, are to some extent the descendants of samurai spirits. They make Oyama Temple as their hub and perform their rite … in a wild way. I met one of their rituals. As they did for Yoritomo or Ieyasu, the Temple is accepting requests anytime from the believers for purification ritual, called O-goma-kitoh お護摩祈祷. During the ceremony, the monks recite mantra and burn wood chips with herbs, fragrant oil, and the other magically meaningful things in front of Acalanaatha image. Wood chips are the symbol of worldly desires that make us miserable. We purify ourselves by burning them with a help of Acalanaatha ... OK, good ... The abbot of Oyama Temple does this with loud speakers. I mean, electronic loud speakers. When I’ve been to On’na-zaka, suddenly there came a mantra recitation with deep intimidating voice accompanied by heavy and relentless beats of drums, echoing in the cavernous mountain valley … At the beginning I was upset, but after kept listening it for a while the “music” from the speakers sounded hypnotic like … Black Sabbath.
with “Black Sabbath”-ish ritual,|
you can purify yourself by circling 3 times
clockwise around this tower in the Temple campus.
Your worries will be pacified …
bell is not for O-goma-kitoh,|
but it can sound overpowering from Oyama Temple …
Otoko-zaka and On’na Zaka will meet at the foot of final steps to the Lower AfuriShrine. Before climbing up glittering marble steps of the Shrine, there is a toilet structure on your left. Actually, it is the last toilet available for us when we enter the higher altitude of Mt. Oyama. Please use the opportunity well. 😉 Otoko-zaka and On’na Zaka will meet at the foot of final steps to the Lower Afuri Shrine. Before climbing up glittering marble steps of the Shrine, there is a toilet structure on your left. Actually, it is the last toilet available for us when we enter the higher altitude of Mt. Oyama. Please use the opportunity well. ;-) Let’s visit the Lower Afuri Shrine 阿夫利神社下社 and do a small walk to Miharashi-dai 見晴台 next week for “Oyama Lite.”
down from the toilet at Afuri Shrine.|
To the left is Otoko-zaka.
To the right, On’na-zaka.
public toilets for the Lower Afuri Shrine.|
The flushing is always weak as we are nearer to the peak.
Donation box is situated at the entrance.
Any amount is welcome to keep the toilet clean.
Oh, by the way, this ancient pilgrimage route to the Lower Afuri Shrine via On’na-zaka is for one of the venerable citizen marathon events in Japan, Oyama Hiking Marathon 大山登山マラソン. It is held on the second Sunday of March every year since 1985. Although it’s only 9km, the difference in elevation between the starting point (Isehara Station) and the goal (Lower Afuri Shrine) is 650m and the course is almost entirely uphill. It seems to me running this marathon is addictive. I know at least 2 regulars who’re participating for more than 20 years. (“Roll-over Tokyo Marathon!”) The entry starts every November 1st. If you dare, please check their homepage here. Other than these festivals, Oyama Town has many annual events, such as Japanese Sake Festival (this year, on May 28), Autumn Festival in the last week of August, Noh Theatre dedication in October by artists of Living National Treasure, and the others. Please check here for this year’s calendar. Oyama Town is proudly a tourism community!
|An ideal marathon course … ?|
Oyama Temple 大山寺
724 Oyama, Isehara City, 259-1107 伊勢原市大山724