Friday, May 18, 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (a sort of): Sengen-yama Hiking Course in Hayama 葉山仙元山

We in Kanagawa Prefecture have wide-open beaches accessible in one hour from Tokyo’s downtown, even without the transportation of the 21st century. Our prefectural capital, Yokohama, was the first Japanese port opened to international clientele amid the expanding global interactions of the 19th century. As such, we have places where the celebrities traditionally come to stay during weekends for fresh sea breeze, or decide to move in from Tokyo. Hayama Town 葉山 is one of them. It is next to Zushi City 逗子市 where Ikego Housing Detachment of the US 7th Fleet locates. Though the forest of Ikego (; we visited there in my post on August 12, 2016) does not directly connect with Hayama Town, the feel of rush forests exists here. Actually, the catch phrase of the town for tourists is “Hayama, where the sea and mountains meet.” It does not have any commuter train station that is rare in metropolitan Tokyo. Sounds very secluded, doesn’t it? Fair enough. The town is VERY famous in Japan because it has Hayama Imperial Villa where Japanese Imperial family has enjoyed visiting so frequently. The grandfather of the Emperor Akihoto, Emperor Taisho 大正天皇, loved the place so much and passed away there. It is a quiet, but, I would say, fashionable resort town. They also have several hiking courses expanding inside of Miura Peninsula 三浦半島, although many of them are not self-containing within the border as the town is not large. Corollary: when you choose carefully, visiting Hayama’s walking route can provide a nice petit weekend fun from Tokyo. Today, we visit one of them, Mt. Sengen-yama 仙元山 Hiking Course.

Gallery Tiptoe in Hayama.
Hayama Town secretly hosts a community of international artists
 with small galleries for their artworks.
 It is one of them.
 In addition to irregular exhibitions,
 the town has an annual art walk festival in the first week of May.
 The organizer’s facebook page is here.

First, just reading the above, you may think you can visit Mt. Sengen-yama, ASL 118m, with flip flops. WRONG. People so erroneously think the mountains along the beach are an extension of parasols for sun-bathing. Geologically speaking, the hills of Hayama are the front line of plate tectonics where Eurasian, North-American and Philippines’ Plates crush. Even today they are getting higher by growing steep, sometimes of more than 60 degree, slopes. + Japanese Imperial Family quietly holds the tradition of naturalists. They do not like to illuminate their beloved villa and its environment with artificial street lights or the like. Say, you enjoy your weekend in Hayama Beach and around 3 o’clock suddenly fancy to hiking roads of hills behind you in short-pants and tank tops. Even on the summer solstice day, you in beach-wear will end up with a deep dark forest sans light or paved way but both of your sides are dropping down to precipitous valleys. The police and the fire station of Hayama Town these days have a frequent problem of rescuing such casual visitors in trekking roads. So, please be prepared. If you visit Sengen-yama, it is AT LEAST 3 hours’ course for visitors, without much help in deep forest. You must wear standard trekking wear (long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and good walking shoes) and carry water and food in a nice backpack. It’s a mountain. Not beach.

Common scenery of Sengen-yama Hiking Course.
 Both sides of the road are tumbling down to the bottom.
 Please imagine you are there when it’s completely dark.

For the access to the course, first you take a commuter bus called “Yamate-mawari (山手回りHill-Side Route)” from #1 Bus Stop in front of Keikyu Shin-Zushi Station 京急新逗子駅. They have lots of services so that you don’t have to worry time-table. We get off at Kazahaya-bashi Stop 風早橋, and walk south for about 100m to the direction of Hayama Tunnel 葉山隧道, or find a way to Hayama Presbyterian Church ... It’s difficult to download the map for Sengen-yama hiking course. Hayama Community Development Association 葉山まちづくり協会 is selling booklets of tourism information via internet or at Hayama Municipal Library. For detailed information, we have to use these facilities, or be very careful in the trekking road in order to avoid losing the way in deep forests of Miura Peninsula. A schematized version of the map can be found in this blog. There, the author entered the course via Hayama Presbyterian Church. This approach has a wider entrance to the top of Sengen-yama. For you to prefer more “mountainous” route, the entrance to the route is from the steps at the north exit of Hayama tunnel. You take this route, and from the top of the steps, you are immediately in a deep forest of steep hill. The way is a narrow mountain road where rock beds of Miura Peninsula show their face here and there beneath the shallow top soil. Via the church or not, to the peak of Mt. Sengen-yama from the foot of the hill it’s just 20 minutes’ climb. I guessed that’s the reason why so many are fooled to believe “this is an easy stroll.” The view from Mt. Sengen-yama is spectacular. To the west we can observe the entire Sagami Bay 相模湾, and if weather permitting Mt. Fuji is floating above the soma of Mt. Hakone. The serious hikers use this peak as a starting point for the length of “Miura Alps” in 10-15km itinerary (for example, here or here). Today, we are just coming back to the town of Hayama … 😇

Keikyu Shin-Zushi Station
#1 Bus Stop

The steps before Hayama Tunnel entering to the hiking course
Just going up the steps offers us this world of deep forest …
Our route soon joins with a wider road from Hayama Church.
Around the top of Mt. Sengen-yama,
 volunteers cleared the forest and planted cherry trees.
 In 10 years’ time,
 the place will be full of cherry blossoms in late March …
A view from Mt. Sengen-yama.
 When I’ve been there, it was cloudy, but we could still figure out
真鶴 and Izu 伊豆 Peninsulas over there.
Top of Mt. Sengen-yama has a memorial,
 commemorating war dead
 during the Japanese Civil War
西南戦争 of 1877,
 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/5.
The peak has several picnic benches, and
a public toilet.

Sengen-yama Hiking Course is a part of “Miura Alps,” and the route is taken care of by a volunteer association, Futagoyama Nature Conservancy 二子山山系自然保護協議会. The route for Sengen-yama Hiking Course shows the love of them to their forest. To the peak of Sengen-yama, we are welcomed by transparent plastic boxes of a secured lid with a note saying “Please throw in here your empty PET bottle after the use. We volunteers carry them to the town for recycling.” The sign posts of the route are often a paper from lazer-jet printers wrapped by a transparent plastic bag. From the top of Sengen-yama, the course runs very steep ups and downs along a narrow ridgeline, including the chains for supporting trekkers here and there. (So is the importance of proper hiking wears.) Sometimes the road is almost on the top of a cliff facing the beach where we can find Hayama Villa of the Emperor to the south. Actually, in 1990, the forest of this course was chosen by popular vote as one of the 50 most beautiful forests of Kanagawa Prefecture 神奈川の美林50. In spring, not only the rare plants, but also the familiar flowers like Erigeron philadelphicus or thistle had more beautiful shape and brighter color here than their siblings in downtowns. They made me reacknowledge their loveliness, honestly. Japanese wood warblers, and even pheasants were singing somewhere near. That was magical ... I mentally said thank you to the naturalist Emperors who quietly have pressured his subjects not to develop those hills so near to Tokyo.

One of the boxes in the peak of Mt. Sengen-yama
 to collect PET bottles.
A warning for forest fire,
 and a hand-made hiking map for Sengen-yama course.
 The course has points with numbers to pass.
 If you lose your way in today’s itinerary,
 refer these numbers to make it sure you are on your way.
Beautiful thistles
The slopes of this route are in general like this.
 Please be prepared.
Familiar Erigeron philadelphicus can be a bouquet here.
The point where I had my lunch, approx. ASL 180m.
 Imperial Villa is over there …

We have only one point to choose carefully in this course, which is famous even for the veteran hikers of the area. There is a sign post about 1.5K from the peak of Sengen-yama, showing the direction of Kan’non-Tsuka 観音塚 and Hayama Clean Centre (i.e. garbage processing plant). If you take Kan’non-Tsuka direction, you enter deeply to Miura Alps and some 10K is ahead of you before reaching to a human settlement on the shore of Tokyo Bay. Unless you have enough time and a good map, don’t go there, and take the direction of the Clean Center which is the designated road of Sengen-yama Hiking Course. The route soon becomes wide (for mountainous trekking road) and we eventually encounter a sign saying “Sanenori Temple 實教寺, this way.” The end of the course is the temple surrounded by housings. Let’s simply go down from the temple to the traffic light in front of Hayama Fire Station, and Hayama Elementary. From there to train stations in Zushi City, they have lots of commuter bus services.

A sign saying “Clean Center, this way.”
If you come this far to the sign for Kan’non-Tsuka,
 you’ve taken the road of Miura Alps.
 Today, let’s return to the point of above photo.
When the road becomes this wide,
 it’s a sign we are approaching to the end
 of the hiking course of Sengen-yama.
 This area now has wild boar problems.
 Please be careful.
We’ve arrived at Sanenori Temple.
And, going through the residential area to …
the crossing at Hayama Fire Station.
In front of the Fire Station,
 there is a café, Hayama Branch of Marlowe.

A bonus of this route is, you can procure gourmet sandwiches etc. at the cafés or delicatessen around Hayama Church (like here or here) before entering the forest, have a party wherever the view is wonderful along the road, and conclude your holiday with puddings at Hayama branch of Marlowe in front of Hayama Elementary. It’s an experience with forest with a touch of life of celebrities, perhaps ... 

Macha Pudding was lovely.

If you find problems in Mt. Sengen-yama of Hayama, please make a contact to

Yugawara Town Hall 葉山町役場
Phone: 046-876-1111

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