Friday, May 5, 2017

Hello Ghosts! I’m going up to Mt. Oyama: Kotakuji Temple Route

The third route to climb up Mt. Oyama I tried is from Kotakuji Temple 広沢寺. Distance wise, it’s the longest walk to the peak (6.5K) compared to the routes from Hinata Yakushi Temple 日向薬師 (6K), Yabitsu Pass ヤビツ峠 (2K), or from the Oyama Cable Bus Stop via Lower Afuri Shrine 阿夫利神社下社 (3K). Though, I felt gaining altitude in Kotakuji Temple route is similar to the route from Yabitsu Pass, i.e. gentler, and we can enjoy a pleasant ridge walk along a well-maintained trekking road. When your objective in Mt. Oyama is to have a nice hiking weekend rather than experiencing historical pilgrimage, starting the day from Yabitsu Pass and going down to Kotakuji Temple could be the best option. The bonus of this itinerary is Gyokusui-Roh Spa 玉翠楼 next to the Kotakuji Temple. We can conclude our Oyama hiking in a quiet spa in forest. 😇

A view to Kanto Plain from the ridge way of Kotakuji Route

Even though, 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 should always be the starting point of your 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, a free parking space at the beginning of the route has a drop-in box. Tanzawa is the place where Japanese alpinists for Mt. Everest train themselves. Never underestimate the place.

The drop box for reporting your itinerary today.
The road beyond, especially around the tunnel we’ll go soon,
has ghost stories of lost souls ...
better be prepared anyway.

The commuter station we start for Kotakuji Temple route is Honatsugi station 本厚木駅 of Odakyu Odawara Line. We leave from the north exit of Honatsugi, and walk 5 minutes to the Atsugi Bus Center 厚木バスセンター next to the Atsugi City Central Library. Kanachu Bus connects Kotakuji Temple with downtown Atsugi City from #9 stop of the Bus Center by Atsu-38 (38) service (to Kotakuji Temple Spa stop 広沢寺温泉). As we can find the timetables to and from Kotakuji Temple, there are fairly limited services between the downtown and Kotakuji Temple. If you don’t mind prolonging hiking distance for about quarter an hour along the bus route, using Atsu-33, 34, or 39 (33, 34, 39) to/from Kotakuji Temple Spa Entrance stop 広沢寺温泉入口 could be an alternative. (Time Table from the Bus Center for them is here.) The bus runs through Nanasawa Hot Spring town 七沢温泉郷 via the campus of Kanagawa Nature Conservation Center 神奈川県自然環境保全センター, and Kanagawa Rehabilitation Hospital 神奈川リハビリテーション病院. The hospital is specialized for the people who suffer serious stroke, heart attack, etc. From the window of the bus, we understand why the Rehab Center for severe medical problem is there. We proceed through a peaceful countryside equipped with hot springs. When cherry blossoms are in full-bloom, the Nanasawa hills surrounding Mt. Oyama were so beautiful with various hues of green and polka dots of pale pink. I wish very good luck for those who are busy in their rehab schedule …

Atsugi Bus Center.
# 9 stop is in the middle of this photo where people gather.

Kotakuji Temple Spa is a part of Nanasawa Hot Spring which is clear and cold (23°C) mineral springs with ph9-10, i.e., strong alkaline. Bathing in strong alkaline spring yields smooth skin, and hence the springs in Nanasawa have a nickname, “Springs for Beauties.” 😍 The discovery of a spring next to Kotakuji Temple is in the 1930s. There is now a Japanese Inn, Gyokusui-Roh Spa. They have day-spa menus (usage of spa only, spa + soft drinks, spa + alcohol and tapas, spa + wild boar dishes, spa + …), or overnights options. Kotakuji Temple was a private temple for Uesugi clan 上杉氏, the lord of Nanasawa Castle that in the 15th century stood on the place where the current Rehab Hospital is. The clan was never be a major league player in Japanese history … I don’t think they wanted to be anyway. If you live in such a pastoral place, rat race of any kind could be nonsense ... Kotakuji Temple Spa bus stop is in front of the Gyokusui-Roh Spa and the steps going up to Kotakuji. To the route for Mt. Oyama, we go back 50m or so the bus route from the terminal stop. If you want to skip Gyokusui-roh and Kotakuji Temple, you can ask the bus driver beforehand to stop at the junction immediately before the road to Gyokusui-roh. Actually, between Kotakuji Temple Spa Entrance stop and Kotakuji Temple Spa stop we can get off the bus wherever we like, provided we ask the driver beforehand.

Gyokusui-roh Inn.
For a day-spa, they allow us to use open-air spas
(; male and female are separated).
Private spa is for overnight stay only.
Kotakuji Temple
Kotakuji Temple Spa Stop
We can get off the bus here without going to Kotakuji.
This is a free parking space with toilet.
The facility has western style toilets with wash basins,
and a drop box for reporting your itinerary today.

The Tanzawa-Oyama Quasi- National Park starts from the point where the free parking space is. Beyond, there is a paved 3.5K road proceeding further into the mountain. It’s a community road for local farmers and forestry. Especially at the beginning, the south side of the road is sealed off with electric wires that are to stop wild animals wondering into the ag land. (More to this in my later post.) Corollary: if you try to enter the mountain off road here, you’ll be electrocuted. A steep climb eventually begins after the last house on the way. Roughly 1.5K from the parking there is a gate that allows only the cars with official permit to enter. The road now runs along Yamano-kami Stream 山の神沢 (“Mountain God Stream”). 300m more walk from the gate, we reach to the mouth of a tunnel, Yamagami Zuido 山神隧道 (“Mountain God Tunnel”). Yamagami Zuido is something for “urban legend” as several TV stars insisted they have seen a male ghost inside. When I walked there … I could not feel any mysterious thing. It’s a long and narrow tunnel without light. The only light we can see is the other side. Rather than ghost, I found the road very good for walking meditation … I love the place, I tell you.

The road ahead from the parking
Please keep off from the fence.
Getting altitude …
This soil erosion controller became functional just last year.
Yamano-kami Stream.
We’ve entered forestry area …
From there no car without permit can enter.
Oh, by the way, before the gate,
there on the right is a small detour
that allows us to get a bit nearer to the watercourse.
At this point, we find an even smaller spurt
pouring to Yamano-kami Stream, with a plastic cup provided.
It seems to me locals come here to gather water for their tea.
I haven’t tried it, but could be sweet, as Gomayashiki Spring.
Beyond the gate is more and more a forestry road.
And over there is Yamagami Zuido, approx. 250m long.
The toilet on the left is the second from the last facility
we can use for today’s itinerary before the peak.
Oh so symbolic!

A paved road still continues beyond the tunnel. We find lots of small streams running down from the left slope of the road to Yamano-kami Stream. It’s an area with abundant water. “Nanasawa” means “7 streams” in Japanese. The name of the town must have logic. Thanks to these water-flows, we are able to observe the soil of Tanzawa mountain directly … very shallow top soil and the rocks underneath. About 20 min. walk from the tunnel, we reach to the end of the vehicle road. Beyond is a bridge crossing the Yamano-kami Stream. At the other side, there is the final toilet we can use for today’s itinerary. Please do not miss the opportunity! A paved road continues for a while after the toilet, but the surface is covered with screes and fallen trees. We have a feeling we are really entering deep into the mountain … Soon we meet a derelict concrete bridge without parapet crossing once again the Yamano-kami Stream. At the mouth of the bridge, there is a warning the structure is too fragile so that any wheeled device should avoid crossing it. Beyond the bridge is an open space, called Fudohjiri 不動尻 (453m ASL) that was once a camping site. This place also contains the legend of ghosts, this time a necrophilia eating roasted meat of baby girls … I could not feel any gruesome atmosphere there. Rather, I was welcomed by late blooming of Edgeworthia chrysantha adoring the beginning of the trekking road to the peak. If you don’t mind the legend, it’s a fairly good place to have a break and prep for a steep climb. 😜

The other side of the tunnel continues like this.
Along the way on the left there is a road leading us
to Kanegatake
鐘ヶ嶽 (an elevation of 561m) and then
to Kotakuji Temple Spa Entrance bus stop.
It’ll be 2 hours walk from here to the bus stop.
A huge rock along the route.
It looks like raised in a slanted way.
This feature is the key why the main pilgrimage
routes to the peak of Mt. Oyama,
表参道 and Urasando 裏参道,
are scree-covered.
I’ll tell you what they are when we go there.
One of the waterfalls
we can meet along the road.
The end of the paved road
The road beyond toilet
It will be beautiful in May here.
A bridge with a warning
A former camp, or crime, site
Edgeworthia chrysantha.
Now, let’s climb!

Almost immediately after Fudojiri, we meet a junction of 3 roads. To the left is to the peak of Mt. Oyama, and to the right is for about 5 hours hiking to Mt.Mitsumine 三峰山 (934.6m ASL) and Miyagase Lake 宮ケ瀬湖. (I hope you click the link to Mt. Mitsumine before you plan to go there. The route is not for uninitiated.) Today, we take Oyama direction. The road is sharply going up through the afforested area of Japanese cedars and cypresses. As we gain the altitude huge wild Pinus densifora start to appear as in Hinata-yakushi Route. It seems to me the City of Atsugi is doing the maintenance work for the forest, and there are lots of cordoned road with a notice “This route is not to the peak of Mt. Oyama, but for forest maintenance.” It’s a bit confusing arrangement, but as long as you follow the direction, signposts appears several times before we reach to the ridge. Please be patient. Climbing up further we begin to see the forest of Fagus crenata beyond the afforested area on the right. i.e., We are going beyond 800m above sea level. About an hour climb from Fudojiri, we reach to a small peak (844m ASL) with a sign post. Here we are already surrounded by natural beeches, Comus kousa, and Abies firma. I’ve come back to Mt. Oyama!

To the right is for Mt. Mitsumine.
To the left is for Mt. Oyama.
Gaining the altitude …
3.3K to go
This direction is off-limit for hikers.
In mid-April, the forest of Fagus crenata had so pale green of new leaves that
was a palpable contrast with dark green cypresses ...
By the way, have you noticed the trunk
of afforested trees wrapped by plastic mesh?
I’ll return the topic in my later post.
The sign post at 844m above the sea level

From here for about 1K, the route becomes fairly pleasant ridge road. We go down for 10 min. or so to Karasawa Pass 唐沢峠 where there is a pergola and picnic benches. There would be a strong temptation to have lunch now … but often the place is occupied by earlier visitors. If your stomach can accept 20 more minutes’ walk, there will be another good place ahead … After Karasawa Pass, the ridge way shows the feature of seriously precipitous rim of the mountain typical in Tanzawa. As this route is well-maintained, the route is clear with lots of wood decks and chains. So long as we are careful it would be OK. Though, I simply imagine the other routes that are assigned for “good walkers of Tanzawa.” The bushes cover the way, and there won’t be any help to pass rocks … No wonder many incidences occur in Tanzawa mountains. 0.5K from the Karasawa Pass, the ridge becomes somehow wider, and then suddenly the both sides of the road open up. On the left is the vast Kanto plain, and on the right are the North Ridge and the Peak of Mt. Oyama. You’ll soon find a picnic bench ahead. Some say this spot is better than Karasawa Pass for lunch.😋

A view from the ridge way to Oyama North Ridge.
Over there is a pro-only route.
Hello, dear firs!
Yellow cute flowers are Lidera praecox.
Karasawa Pass picnic place
A part of ridge way is like this,
or like this …
Very obvious ridge
The view ahead becomes wider …
This bench (908m ASL) is better for Picnic!

Soon after the bench with views, the road once again starts to gain altitude rapidly. The route is a continuation of steps of logs. It lasts for about 30 min. till Fudojiri-Bunki (不動尻分岐, Fudojiri Junction; 1148m ASL) where the Kotakuji Route meets with the end of Kaminari-no-mine O’ne (雷ノ峰尾根 The Ridgeway of Thunder-Peak) for the Hinata-yakushi Route. You may notice the vegetation around you is a bit limited …  natural beeches, ancient Abies firma, a bit of Acuba japonica, trimmed Boehmeria spicata, and large bushes of Pieris japonica. Admitted the flowers of Japanese andromeda are pretty, and they were in full-bloom in mid-April. But… they are poisonous. Why can they grow this vigorous here near the peak of Oyama? A hint appears at the next picnic bench situated before Fudojiri-Bunki. When you take a rest on it, to the west is a high-voltage power line going near the peak of Oyama. To the east is wire-fenced space where inside are baby trees covered by mesh. They are protected from being eaten ... I a sort of felt a pain. The situation is not yet settled in Mt. Oyama … I’ll return the issue next month … Any way! After a heart-pumping climb of 30 minutes, we meet the hikers who came from Hinata Yakushi at Fudojiri-Bunki. The top of the mountain is within 30 minutes’ walk now!

The long and winding and steep road
There is another picnic bench along the way.
Could you see the wired fence over there?
And next to us is a very 21-st century structure.
The way becomes more and more like this.
Yep, Japanese Andromeda are cuties, but …
Nearly there …

If you find environmental problems in 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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