Friday, March 23, 2018

Snow Mountain 101: going to Mt. Oonoyama covered with snow 大野山

I don’t recommend wading in snow-capped Tanzawa area 丹沢 for those who don’t know the place. But, this winter, we happened to climb up Mt. Oonoyama (ASL 722.8m) 大野山 a day after heavy snow. It was gorgeous. So, in this post and the next, I tell you my adventure on that day. Come to think of it, if you try your first snow in Tanzawa, going up Oonoyama with virgin snow may be one of the safest bets. Actually, we can drive up very near to the peak, even with snow. When we had lunch there, we’ve met several kids who came to play in the snow with their daddies by car. Of course, tires for snow and ice are MUST for your family drive.

Mt. Oonoyama in March.
No snow already. You see? It’s a very gentle mountain.

When we look around from the shore of Lake Tanzawa 丹沢湖, to the south we can see a mountain of a flat summit with lots of towers which is Mt. Oonoyama. Until a couple of years ago, the top of Mt. Oonoyama was a ranch of Kanagawa Prefecture where prefectural researchers bred cattle for local milk industry. The place was closed in March 2016 and an exhibition cottage and public toilets in front of the parking lots went under the management of Kadoya Beef Co. 門屋. Then, in the late 2016, 27 years old girl, Kaoru Shimazaki 島崎薫 who studied organic cattle breeding in Iwate Prefecture 岩手県 moved in Yamakita Town 山北町 at the foothill of Mt. Oonoyama. She started to work for reviving the ranch, which invited to Yamakita several 20-and 30-somethings who sympathized with her. They are a kind of vanguard of Japanese rural revival these days. If you go there in a fine day (without snow, I mean), you might meet with them. Also, on one Sunday of every autumn, the Japan Mountain Guides Association 公益社団法人日本山岳ガイド協会 and the National Mountaineering Research Institute 国立登山研究所 hold Mt. Oonoyama Outdoor Festival which is secretly famous for grand bargain sale of gears of Patagonia, Montbell, Mammut, Mizuno, etc. etc. On that day many veterans climb Mt. Oonoyama with an empty rucksack and descend with their large shopping. It’s not yet announced the date for 2018 event, but you can check it from here. It’s really worthwhile to reserve your weekend for that. All in all, Mt. Oonoyama provides one of the best itineraries for novices to mountaineering in Japan. Spring is with fresh greens, summer with lots of flowers, gorgeous autumn leaves, and snow. Weather permitting, to the west from the top we will admire the entire shape of Mt. Fuji with Lake Yamanaka 山中湖. The place is one of the 100best viewing spots for Mt. Fuji from Kanto Region.

Mt. Oonoyama, seen from Lake Tanzawa

Having said that, needless to say, you have to prepare WELL for snow-covered Mt. Oonoyama. Crampons are the MUST. Also, bring light-weight blanket or the like. Snow in Tanzawa is often wet and heavy. Moreover, normally before dark temperature does not drop below zero when ASL is less than 1000m. So, there is no dry place to sit down in the mountain. Blanket is handy for this situation. Strategically layering your gear is also required. For the day we visited this winter, snow did not appear before ASL 300m. At the foot of the mountain, it was a walk of snowless country side, while the temperature dropped continuously to around 2°C at the peak. When we gain the altitude, it was a nice exercise of sweating, and then, the air rapidly turned damned cold as we proceeded. At the peak, we had a hot lunch of pork & vegetable miso soup + hard liquors. That was a bingo for our freezing body. Roads in Mt. Oonoyama are well-maintained, but be very careful. Do not deviate from the defined paths. You can easily be frozen to death by hypothermia if you lose your way in Tanzawa’s snow.

Cooking our lunch
in the pergola at the top of Mt. Oonoyama.
We, before climbing.
FYI, in addition to this, all of us wore warm head-gears.

This time, our route to Mt. Oonoyama followed the most standard itinerary.

<Visiting snow-covered Mt. Oonoyama (ASLs are approximate.)>

è Mountain Cherry Tree of Yoritomo 頼朝桜 (; there are toilets at this point. ASL 340m)
è Top of Mt. Oonoyama (ASL 723m)
è Jizo-Iwa 地蔵岩 (Rock of Kṣitigarbha, ASL 420m)
è Kyowa Elementary School (closed) 共和小学校(廃校)
è Sakurano-yu Spa さくらの湯 at JR Yamakita Station 山北駅 (ASL 110m)

Total time: 6 hours including 1.5 hour lunch at the top.

Caution: all the JR stations are of Gotemba Line of JR Tokai (JR東海御殿場線), and hence no PASMO is accepted. We have to buy a good-old train ticket and pass a manned ticket gate in their stations. Yaga Station is unstaffed and a conductor of the train checks and collects your ticket. The service of Gotemba Line here is limited (one service per half an hour at peak time) so that you’d better check the timetable of the train first and modify your plan accordingly. We could have only 1 hour at Sakurano-yu Spa to catch 17:34 train returning to the downtown. (er, too much drinking over there …)

Yaga Station.
This station “cottage” was built
by local volunteers in 2000.
Yamakita Station
Yamakita Station has the D52 locomotive that was resurrected for operation 3 years ago. Until the opening of Tan’na Tunnel 丹那トンネル in 1939, the place was a station of the most important artery train service of Japan, Tokaido Line. From here to Numazu Station 沼津駅, the locomotive had to climb steep mountains, which was uber-difficult during the 19th to the early 20th centuries. Yamakita town was the most fashionable place for the best and brightest Japanese mechanical engineers who made such difficult travel possible. In the 21st century, the service between Kohzu 国府津駅 to Numazu via Yamakita is a local Gotemba Line, and people do not think even Tokaido Line the artery. The title is for Shinkansen Bullet Train 東海道新幹線 … All glories must fade, but memories can remain just like D52. The machine welcomes tourists every October 14th. The super-popular ticket to ride is extremely difficult to have. You’d better ask Yamakita Tourism Association well in-advance. You can send them an enquiry from here.

Next week I tell you my adventure to Mt. Oonoyama. 😄 It’s unbelievable the snow was less than 2 months ago. Now, we are ready for cherry blossoms’ party …

At the top of Mt. Oonoyama.
Why is the half of this photo smoky?
That’s because I got drunk and dropped myself in snow with camera.
The “smoke” is snow covering the lens. Cheers!

If you find environmental problems in Mt. Oonoyama, 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

For more general enquiry about tourism in the area, the contact address is
Office of Policy Planning, Yamakita Town 山北町役場企画政策課 企画班
Phone: 0465-75-1122, FAX: 0465-75-3660

You can send an enquiry to them from here.

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