Friday, May 19, 2017

Like a Rolling Stone, in the Main Street: Oyama Omotesando 大山表参道

I haven’t climbed the Mt. Oyama from the standard direction, i.e. not going up via Omotesando 表参道 or Urasando 裏参道. Rather I went down these roads. So, this week and next are about my adventure with the “main street of Mt. Oyama” in reverse. Omotesando/Urasando can be found in many shrine towns in Japan. Omotesando means “the main road reaching to a shrine.” Urasando is “the supporting road for Omotesando to a shrine.” Let me talk about Omotesando first. To take Omotesando or Urasando from the top of Mt. Oyama, we have to walk the same road for the first 1K. Then, the road diverts to 2 directions at 16-Chome 丁目 sign post. Omotesando is to the left reaching to the Lower Afuri Shrine 阿夫利神社下社. Urasando is to the right arriving at Minogue Town 蓑毛. I tell you, I was glad I chose this strategy of going down the Main Streets.

Goodbye Mae-Yashiro.

Leaving Mae-yashiro 前社 and Torii behind, we see what’s in front of us before reaching to the bus stops, i.e., a scree covered road in a bit too deep mini-valley. These rocks are called Botan-ishi ぼたん石. Botan is peony flowers in Japanese, and the stones of Mt. Oyama looks like them (or bigger). Both sides of the slope are about 1m high from the road and covered by forests, first of Abies firma and Fagus crenata, then in 800m or below altitude with ancient Cryptomeria japonica. The rubble routes must have become as such due to tread pressures of pilgrims for millennia. Tanzawa Mountains 丹沢山系 were created when volcanic islands on Philippine Sea Plate, the current Izu Peninsula 伊豆半島, crashed to the Eurasian Plate. The sedimentary stratum and volcanic rocks were pushed up in a slanted way to the above sea level. Then, the ashes from erupted Mt. Fuji piled up over them. Consequently, the top soil is not deep in Tanzawa. The entire structure is fragile. For ages, pilgrims are getting rid of the ground binding the rocks and boulders geologically brought from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. People have created the rocky Main Street to the Afuri Shrine.

Large Abies firma,
probably a (descendant of the) survivor from the Ice Age.
The road has been excavated by human steps.
An observation point for environmental changes in Mt. Oyama.
Around the peak along Omote/Ura-sando,
we can find many of these placed by scientists.
More to it in my later post.

We can find many religious artifacts along these Main Streets. The most common, and practical, monuments are marble sign posts along Omotesando, donated by pilgrims to mark how far we have reached from the Lower Afuri Shrine. Each point has a suffix, Chome 丁目, and the Lower Afuri Shrine is 1-Chome. Yeah, it’s not zero … so Japanese traditional floor counting is not European, but American … I’ve now realized it ... (wow.) After leaving from the Torii of Mae-Yashiro, the first sign post we meet has the number 27 so that we can meet 27 posts before reaching to the Lower Afuri Shrine. All the posts are new. They have been inscribed the date of donation, the majority of which says just 40-30 years ago. There are several points where they stood side-by-side with old, moss-covered posts. The oldies show the date of the 18th or so centuries. So, people are really digging this road for centuries … except one point where deliberately artificial structure covers, not digs, the path. After 27-Chome post and another Torii, there are metal steps of grating, covering the dirt and rocky surface. It’s a treatment Kanagawa Prefecture takes against … deer. I’ll write about them in my later post. That’s a serious environmental problem in Japanese mountains these days.

I found a collapsed stone lantern
before the 27-Chome.
Was it because of the GreatKanto Earthquake?
27-Chome sign post
This Torii is beaten …
Grating steps.
Well, it’s certainly easier for us humans
to pass than through rocky route.
The standard feature of Omotesando
New signpost and the old one (lying flat on the left)

Soon after the anti-deer structure, about 10-15 minutes down from the Mae-yashiro, we reached the folk point named Honzaka-oiwake 本坂追分, an elevation of 1169m, between the Omote/Ura-sando to the left, and to the right to Itatsumi Ridge Way イタツミ尾根 we’ve visited from Yabitsu Pass ヤビツ峠. We go to the left and down, down, down … I warn you this is a very long descend of the pebbly steep slope. I knew several people who hopped down the road for a while, and suddenly their knees have “gone.” They crawled to the Oyama Cable Car Station, and then walked to the Oyama Bus Terminal along Koma Street こま参道, almost crying. Unless you are sure for your ability, I strongly recommend you crabwalking  down on this route, one step a time. After 1169m point there is a place where there are two benches. Please use the opportunity wisely for your knees. A bit down from the benches, there is a spot, called Fujimidai 富士見台, which is the final location for Omotesando to see Mt. Fuji, the deity Konohana-sakuya-Hime 木花咲耶姫 who is a daughter of Oyamatsumi-no-Okami 大山祇大神, aka Mt. Oyama. She stands over there serenely and beautifully as always …

Honzaka-oiwake. To the right is to the Yabitsu Pass.
You see?
Humans excavated the ground
this deep for centuries to make a road.
Let’s have a rest.
Before Fujimidai.
I think this is a statue of Bodhisattva.
A forest of Fagus crenata near Fujimidai.
There is a problem in this photo.
Could you figure it out?
(More to it in the later post.)
Mt. Fuji from Fujimidai

30-40 min. from Honzaka-oiwake via Fujimidai we arrive at 16-Chome, an elevation of about 900m, which is a junction between Omotesando and Urasando. Let’s take to the left first for Omotesando. From 16-Chome to the toilet of Lower Afuri Shrine, it’s about 1.3K, or 30 minutes’ walk plunging to an elevation of 700m. In 16-Chome, there is a 5.5m tall obelisk that was a donation of pilgrims from Edo (Tokyo) in 1716. People carried it to here … the power of religious belief. From around here, there come several shrine-like large monuments. At the same time, the size of Cryptomeria japonica gets bigger. They should be at least 500 years old as we were explained at Hinata Yakushi Temple 日向薬師 … Beautiful. “Two” of them at 8-Chome have a name, Meoto-sugi 夫婦杉, or “Husband-Wife Cedar.” They are deified by people praying for a peaceful marriage. Going down further, in 6-Chome there is another obelisk as a symbol for Oyamatsumi-no-Okami. Soon we arrive at the top of the stone steps starting from the west of Haiden 拝殿 in the Lower Afuri Shrine 阿夫利神社下社. Hurrah! Goal-in!

We’ve been working on the rocky Omotesando all the way …
But the scenery ahead is changing …
At 16-Chome.
This way to Urasando reaching to Minogue
The obelisk.
The passion for Mt. Oyama in the 18th century.
The name of this rock is Tengu-no-hanatsuki-ishi 天狗の鼻突石,
meaning “the rock with a hole made by a long nose of Tengu fairy.”
天狗 is a mountain fairy with an attire of Yamabushi.
Mt. Oyama has a connotation with Tengu
as it’s a place for Yamabushi.

After Meoto-sugi,
the road becomes more organized.
it’s the same in terms of stoniness.
The Oyamatsumi-no-Okami obelisk.
We are getting there …
Final stretch!
It seems to me from 1-Chome to 6-Chome
is a kind of cheating distance …
too short comparing with the places
of higher altitude, like 20-Chome.
Is it evidence about human psyche to deity?

So, I have now only Urasando to tell you my adventure with Oyama this time. It’s the matter of taste, but I like Urasando a lot … very quiet going down. To be continued!

Oyama Afuri Shrine 大山阿夫利神社社務局
355 Oyama, Isehara City, 259-1107 伊勢原市大山355
(phone) 0463-95-2006

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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