Friday, April 28, 2017

Walk on the Wild Side … ?: From Yabitsu Pass to Mt. Oyama ヤビツ峠

When we look west from the Metropolitan Tokyo area, Mt. Oyama (the altitude 1252m) is right next to Mt. Fuji. It stands out. In contrast, if you look east from, say, the city of Hadano 秦野 that is in the west of Mt. Oyama, the mountains you would see is higher peaks of Tanzawa 丹沢山塊, such as Mt. Tonotake 塔ノ岳 (the altitude 1490m). From the cities of the west, Mt. Oyama cannot “stand out” with the taller siblings. Although pilgrims have come from all the directions, the largest population has been from the direction of Edo / Tokyo that is in the east of Mt. Oyama. Naturally, people consider the “Main Pilgrimage Route to Oyama” is from the east, such as from Hinata Yakushi 日向薬師, or from Oyama Temple 大山寺. The way from the west to Oyama is a kind of secondary route. Incidentally, a not-well-known approach can sometimes be the easiest to tackle a challenge. The route to Mt. Oyama from the Yabitsu Pass ヤビツ峠 is exactly in this category. 😀

Mt. Oyama next to Mt. Fuji, seen from Yokohama

Before going to Yabitsu Pass, could I repeat the thing I told you last week? Never try off-road, but keep the route clearly marked by the park rangers. Also, think the season and equipment when you go there. Checking the weather of your scheduled date is always the starting point of your itinerary. Actually, it snowed heavily in the first week of this April in Tanzawa. Many friends of mine gave up their weekend spring hiking itinerary. If you plan to go there during cold spells, crampons are the MUST. It is definitely advisable to carry a good map of Tanzawa before your walk. For the most popular and reliable map, the info is here. The site of Japan Mountaineering Association aggregates the information of the mountains in Japan. Though they are mainly for the peaks of higher altitude, if something serious happens in Tanzawa they can cover. Consider leaving your plan in a written form at the entrance of the route; for this week’s schedule, the #4 bus stop of Odakyu Hadano Station 秦野and the entrance to the public toilet in Yabitsu Pass have a drop-in box. Tanzawa is the place where Japanese alpinists for Mt. Everest train themselves. Never underestimate the place.

Yabitsu Pass with a terminal bus stop has 761 ASL. We certainly have a motorized leg-up for the remaining 491m to the peak of Mt. Oyama, 1252 ASL. Moreover, thanks to its secondary status, the mountain road from Yabitsu Pass has not suffered the accumulated tread pressure of pilgrims as much as the route from the Lower Afuri Shrine 阿夫利神社下社 (700 ASL). For a beginner, I strongly recommend to take this route to conquer Oyama. Even though, this is Tanzawa, deceptively near to Tokyo, and killing so many hikers in its history. Please be prepared for your safety … Now, first, let’s take Kanachu bus Hada 21 service (time table, here) from #4 stop of Odakyu Hadano Station 秦野. Yabitsu Pass is the terminal stop, which takes 45 minutes to reach from the Station. Yabitsu Pass is one of the gateways to the main peaks of Tanzawa Mountains. … Inevitably, the bus service, concentrated in early mornings of weekends, is ALWAYS congested. It might be better mentally prepared for a bus-ride as you would do for morning rush hours in Tokyo Metro … When you arrive at the bus stop, please do remember to complete your toilet necessities here. There is no toilet today, except for July and August, until we return to the foot of the mountain. In front of the Yabitsu Pass public toilet, there is a post where we can drop our hiking plan … just in case, and fingers crossed from now on … Oh, by the way, flushing is weak in Yabitsu Pass toilets, and sometimes no faucet water is available. Carrying wet wipes and hand sanitizer would be handy.

Yabitsu Pass terminal bus stop

The road to Mt. Oyama is just in front of the bus stop: the steps going up in the above photo is the one. The landing at the end of the steps has picnic benches that would be congested during summer. For a breakfast in a forest, it could be an ideal location, though. The other side of the landing to the east, there is a road going up. At the mouth of this route, there is a signboard saying “The forest of this area is for Kanagawa Prefecture’s water source cultivation 水源かん養保安林.” Actually, we have already been deep in theTanzawa-Oyama Quasi-National Park 丹沢大山国定公園. Please do not deviate from the trekking road, and avoid destroying or harvesting anything in the area. This is the environment to be protected. And so, the route is lovely for bird-watching. We can meet wild birds very frequently on this route. In the first 300m from Yabitsu Pass the other day, I met beautiful Garrulus glandarius and Troglodytes troglodytes in very pure beige. They were singing and eating carelessly above the tree branches ahead of me. Good morning, guys!

The benches at the landing from the bus stop
This way to Mt. Oyama,
with a “water source cultivation” notice board

The road to the peak of Mt. Oyama from Yabitsu Pass is called Itatsumi Ridge イタツミ尾根. First, the both sides of the road are the forest of coniferous trees among which are beautiful wild Pinus densiflora. They are rare in Satoyama on foot of mountains, owing to the deforestation during World War II. It’s reassuring to meet them here ... This route has many picnic benches, road signs notifying how far we should go to the peak, and wood decks that are actually protecting the fragile soil of Tanzawa mountains. I’ve met several hikers who complained “Oh, that artificial wood panels deep in Tanzawa! I hate them.” But during the Forest Instructor trainings, the park rangers told us they are to protect the ground from the tread pressure of humans … Tanzawa is too popular these days to maintain its eco-system. I think we must be humble enough to recognize “innocent” harms we leave in the nature … In a later post, I tell you what I have learned in the Forest Instructor course about the environmental problems in Tanzawa.

The way to the peak from Yabitsu Pass
is fairly well maintained.
And the sign post is very clear, with English translation!
Beautiful Pinus densiflora in Itatsumi Ridge
For having a quiet tea here …
A mini-shrine to the god of Oyama …
This is the mountain for worship.
Along the way, there are several signboards like this.
It basically says
“The forest of this area is for Kanagawa Prefecture’s water source cultivation”
with more details about the landlords.
Japanese National Parks are not entirely government-owned,
but consists of the agreements between the public and private sectors.
For this particular forest,
the owner, Kin’me River Flood Prevention Cooperative
has agreed to leave the management of their property
to the prefectural government.
Wooded route
They are the civil engineers who are building
these wooded roads this high-up in Oyama.

Another charm of this route is the views we can enjoy. When we climb Mt. Oyama from the east, we see the Megalopolis Tokyo below us … From the west, we are greeted by natural beauty of Tanzawa and Mt. Fuji. In Japanese mythology, Mt. Oyama is the god Oyamatsumi-no-Okami 大山祇大神 who is the father of the goddess Konohana-sakuya-Hime 木花咲耶姫 aka Mt. Fuji. That’s why there is a shrine for Mt. Fuji, Sengen Shrine 浅間社, next to Haiden 拝殿 of the Lower Afuri Shrine 阿夫利神社下社. When we observe Mt. Oyama from Yokohama or Tokyo, it’s somehow understandable these two peaks are the families. But pilgrimaging to Mt. Oyama from the eastern approaches, the father-daughter relationship between the two is a bit difficult to recognize. Not so from the Yabitsu Pass. After about 20 minutes’ walk from the bus stop, we can see Mt. Fuji to the west almost always, weather permitted. She lives “in a distance within which a hot meal could be carried from one house to the other without needing re-heating,” really.

These are the main peaks of Tanzawa Mountain
seen from Itatsumi Ridge.
Oh, so sorry of my level of photo taking …
could you figure out the peak of Mt. Fuji here?
She’s almost floating above all the lower peaks,
very elegantly ...
Spring sky in Kanagawa can be something like this
… hazy. But it’s not pollution.
Natural weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean
produces the effect regularly.
Oh, hi, dad.
A view to Hadano City to the south is
also refreshing from Itatsumi Ridge.
We can figure out the Izu Peninsula over there …

After about 1 hour climb of the well-maintained trekking road from Yabitsu Pass, we arrive at a folk point named Honzaka-oiwake 本坂追分, an elevation of 1169m. From here to the top, the name of the road changes to the Omotesando 表参道 (oh, yeah) to the Upper Afuri Shrine 阿夫利神社上社 about which I tell you in a couple of weeks’ time. The view to Mt. Fuji is gone from here. I just warn you: from now on it is a well-trodden road for millennia by the pilgrims so that it is scree-covered. Unlike Itatsumi Ridge, it’s not a route easy to walk. … Itatsumi Ridge is quiet and pleasant. But, we have met evidence for ecological problems in Tanzawa along the way, if you know it. Since the road from Yabitsu Pass is well maintained, the sides of the route are the place where sun light can reach regularly to the forest floor.  For natural vegetation in Tanzawa, that’s where Boehmeria spicata can make their colony. Sure enough, we are greeted by lots of them along Itatsumi Ridge of Oyama … but they look like after a trimming by a motorized hand-mower. Their height is almost uniform and the tips are cut. Is it a work by too-enthusiastic gardeners who ventured in the higher altitude of deep mountains? … Er, no. But surely there is somebody who did it. I explain this to you in my later post. That’s a serious nation-wide problem in Japanese forests these days.

A job by a secret gardener

If you find environmental problems in Mt. Oyama, please make a contact to
Kanagawa Nature Conservation Center 神奈川県自然環境保全センター
657 Nanasawa, Atsugi City, 243-0121 2430121 厚木市七沢657
Phone: 046-248-0323

You can send an enquiry to them by clicking the bottom line of their homepage at

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