Friday, May 26, 2017

Ring off: Japanese women and Mt. Oyama in Urasando 大山裏参道

16-Chome with the 18th century obelisk

Now let’s talk about Urasando 裏参道 for Mt. Oyama. Major Shintoism shrines often have two approaches to its sanctuary. Omotesando 表参道 is the main street, and Urasando is a supporting road for Omotesando. In Mt. Oyama, Omotesando and Urasando shares the same route for the first 1K from the peak until 16-Chome (16丁目, 995m ASL). Uradando diverts from Omotesando there, and brings us to Minogue Town 蓑毛 in Hadano City 秦野市. From Minogue commuter bus services (time table, here) bring us to Odakyu Hadano Station 小田急秦野駅. When we see Oyama from Tokyo, the road from the east is surely the main street, and from the west is a backup. Urasando from the west of Mt. Oyama is exactly so. You know, when a major social change happens, people adjust the main thing first for the new, and then proceed to deal with the 2nd tier matters later. If it takes a long time to settle the primary, and treating the secondary is not so important, it is happily forgotten ... There is one particular scenery in Urasando in Oyama, which could be in this category.

To Urasando

As I told you last week, till 16-Chome, the route is scree-covered from the top. You may have a slight expectation the alternate route would be less so ... Fat chance. Not for nothing Mt. Oyama is for the mountain worship for millennia. The backup of the Main Street has also played its part for centuries, and inevitably shows the effects of tread pressure by the pilgrims. The scree-covered mini-valley continues for about 300m in Urasando from the 16-Chome. This side of the slope of Mt. Oyama is in Hadano City. It is a continuation of the forest we’ve visited last fall for Kashiwagui Forestry Road 柏木林道 from Yabitsu Pass. The vegetation we go through for Urasando is of afforested coniferous trees. In less than 15 minutes from the 16-Chome, we meet a junction. To the left is for the Lower Afuri Shrine 阿夫利神社下社 at the Cable Car station 大山ケーブル. To Minogue, we go straight. From here, the route becomes a bit less steep with smaller scree. Phew.

At the beginning, the road raises our expectation …
But soon, it’s all the same.
Though, the signposts are well-situated.The forest maintenance work has been down there.
The junction to the Lower Afuri Shrine and Minogue

Very soon from the junction to the Lower Afuri Shrine, at 829m ASL we find on the right a moss-eaten obelisk, accompanied by a small signpost with an inscription of “the Lord of Sohshu-Odawara Han 相州小田原藩領主.” The signpost is the declaration this obelisk was built by the governor of the area who was directly designated by the Tokugawa Shogunate Government in Edo (Tokyo).  i.e. It was a serious stuff. The obelisk itself has an inscription, “Koreyori Nyonin Kinsei 従是女人禁制.” It’s an ancient legal phrase, saying “From this point no woman is allowed to enter the mountain.” Well, Mt. Fuji might be a goddess, Konohana-sakuya-hime 木花咲夜姫, but at least until 1872 no female pilgrim was officially admitted for the top of Mt. Fuji. UNESCO World Heritage of mountain worship in Japan has this kind of history. In Mt. Oyama , the dad of Mt. Fuji, Oyamatsumi-no-Okami 大山祇大神, it was also not permitted for  lady believers to express religious passion as male counterparts. I just wonder in those days how women visited Afuri Shrine / Oyama Temple. If they took Urasando from Minogue, they have to turn right at the junction that appears after this obelisk. I am sure the same warning was standing somewhere between the current Lower Afuri Shrine and Koma-sando street. If they obeyed the governmental order, they could not worship the deity in the shrine, lower or upper. And there is that cursed-doll shrine, Niju Yashiro 二重社. It is said that Ushino-koku-Mairi 丑の刻参り rituals were often performed by female. I don’t think women are more resentful than men, but if there were enough number of women who visited Niju Yashiro 200 years ago, there must have been the itinerary for them. The route to the cursed doll is one narrow trekking road coming right below the Lower Afuri Shrine that was off-limit for women. Did they sneak in? How? What kind of urge did our female ancestors have for Mt. Oyama? They even committed the crime of “climbing the mountain” in dead past-midnight …

No Woman Allowed,
Signed by the Lord of Odawara

According to Dr. Yukie Takeya 竹谷靱 of Takushoku Univ. 拓殖大学, no matter the legal prohibition, Japanese women tried, tried and (secretly) succeeded in reaching to the peak of Mt. Fuji for more than 500 years. He concluded their persistence in the end opened the “official” door for Japanese women to climb the mountains in the late 19th century. (“Mt. Fuji and No Admittance to Women 富士山と女人禁制” June 2011, ISBN978-4-87294-690-1 C3039) … I wonder why that obelisk is still standing there in Oyama. Maybe, people in the 19th century were busy sorting out the mess of Oyama Temple and Afuri Shrine during the Meiji Restoration. They forgot to deal with a trivial matter of female prohibition and left the relic of previous era intact … or, there could be people who still believe what the obelisk says is important ... Our elder hiking sisters may have chosen to leave it as an educational tool. In any case, these days, scholars of Japanese mountain worship argue there is no fundamental female exclusion in Shintoism theology, and a trend is apparent for population growth in female Yamabushi. Huh! I’ve been to the top of Oyama, many many times! Mt. Oyama is definitely more manly and generous than the “Lord of Odawara.” Oh yeah.

Near the obelisk,
there are vigorous trees of Lidera praecox which were in full bloom in mid-April.

Our road is steadily descending after the obelisk. Along the road within the afforested coniferous forest there are several broad-leaved trees whose trunk is covered by plastic mesh. Approx. 15 min after the obelisk, we arrive at another junction. To the left the road goes to Minogue-goe 蓑毛越 and eventually reaches to Odakyu Hadano Station 小田急秦野駅 in about 5 hours walk. To the right is Oyama Urasando, so let’s take this direction. We would notice the forest floor has a peculiar feature. It may be because of congested planting of cedars and cypresses … but it is sure Hadano City is thinning the area as there are lots of logs lying on the slope. The floor receives some sunshine, and there are even open spaces. In spite of this, the ground looks very bare in April. The vegetation we can find in the forest floor in mid-April consisted of violets (cute 😙), Pteris cretica L., Skimmia japonica Thunb., and Daphne pseudomezereum. The combination of them continues almost to Dainichi-do Temple 大日堂, the terminal point of Urasando in Minogue town, except at 3 crossing points for the paved forestry road, named Shungaku Rindoh 春岳林道. Each crossing between our Urasando and Shungaku Rindoh preserves the other kinds of plants like sasa bamboos which conceal the almost exposed inside of the forest … Why? A hint: the paved forestry roads around Minogue and Yabitsu Pass are very popular for cyclists and bikers training for races a le Tour de France. I’ll return to the issue next month, after telling you my adventure in Yadoriki forest やどりき水源林 … The thing here and there are connected. 

The trees wearing the plastic
Don’t you think it’s too naked?
Flowers of Daphne pseudomezereum.
It’s an odd plant,
having leaves and flowers during winter
and early spring.
They will shed everything soon
to spend summer as stems and branches only.
They have enthusiasts for
their very understating brown flowers
and red berries.
The Junction for Minogue-goe and Minogue town
In any case, the signposts are well-located on this route.
The end of Shungaku Rindoh
which is our first crossing with
the popular paved road in Minogue area.
The other side of the above photo has
a signpost for continuing Urasando.
2 more crossings have the same arrangement.
Dreaming for yellow jersey …
We cross Shun’goku-sawa Stream 春岳沢 which annihilated a village in upstream
with debris-avalanche
of the Great KantoEarthquake.
Immediately after crossing the small bridge is,
our Goooooooooal!
On the right is Dainichi-doh Temple.
We turn left at the Temple for Minogue bus stop.
By the way, along this road on the right
there is a small restaurant
whose specialty is BBQed trout
freshly caught from Shun’goku-sawa.
For a brief moment of 2 weeks in April,
they sell tempura of fresh spring herbs
morning-gathered from nearby.
Take-away available.
They tasted so pure …
Spring ephemeral 😋
Minogue 蓑毛 Bus Stop

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

No comments:

Post a Comment