Friday, May 11, 2018

Forest of Celebrities: Mt. Shiroyama of Yugawara Town 湯河原城山

Hm. Telling you the truth, I have never had a result of my personality test describing me as a “delicate, artistic type.” One afternoon, when 3 of us had a girls’ talk in a forest, I was a sort of left alone in the discussion.

My pals: “Wooooooow, Tanzawa’s 丹沢 forests are so deep and could be creepy.”
“Yeah, I feel very ferocious spirits lurking in this space, now …”

I: “Oh yeah? It’s maybe because of lots of pollens from ciders and cypresses this time of the year! I know you had a severe hay fever.”

Pals: “……… Don’t you feel anything?”

Me:  “??????????????????????”

Pals: (With exasperation,) “I always think forests in Hakone 箱根 are really different!”
“Yes, I love the atmosphere around Lake Ashinoko 芦ノ湖! The place is so open!”

Me: “Lake Tanzawa 丹沢湖 is also large and surrounded by quiet forests. I love it too.”

My pals: “Oh, it’s not that! Don’t you understand difference?”

I: “???????????????????????????”

So, this spring I’m trying to learn ”difference” between the forests in two adjacent areas. This week, I tell you my adventure to hike Mt. Shiroyama 城山 in Yugawara Town 湯河原 where I noticed the distinctiveness. Forests in Yugawara are a part of Hakone Geo Park. We roughly traced this suggested course by the Park, starting from Yugawara Station 湯河原駅 of JR Tokaido Line JR東海道線.

JR Yugawara Station 湯河原駅
In front of Yugawara Station,
 they have hot spring faucets welcoming the visitors.
 The water is coming from the source of hot spring of this tourism town.
 You can stay Friday evening in Yugawara Spa
 that situates near the starting point of today’s itinerary.
 Next morning you trace the route of this post to Yugawara Station.
 Nice weekend!

JR Yugawara Station 湯河原駅

è Approx. 30 min. bus ride (Odakyu Hakone Bus 箱根登山バス from #4 stop of Yugawara Station: time table is here) to Shishidono-Iwaya Bus Stop ししどのいわや in Tsubaki-dai 椿台 (ASL 580m)

è 1.5 hour walk to the Top of Mt. Shiroyama 城山土肥城址 (ASL 563m)

è 10 min. walk to lunch at Picnic Ground (ASL 480m)

è 2 hour walk to Johganji Temple 城願寺

è 15 min walk to JR Yugawara Station

Total time: 5 hours of slow paced walk with lunch.

* You can go to Shishidono-Iwaya from Tsubakidai first, and then returning to Tsubakidai to follow today’s itinerary. In this case, it’s better to add 1.5 more hours for your plan.

#4 bus stop in front of the JR Yugawara Station
Let’s ride this bus.

We get off the bus at Tsubakidai with a view designated as one of the best 100 in Kanagawa Prefecture. To the south is Sagami Bay 相模湾 looking Yugawara Town and Hatsushima Island 初島. To the west is the valley of Yugawara Spa. Geologists think Yugawara Volcano was there about 40-23 thousand years ago as a somma of the original Mt. Hakone. Between 23-13 thousand years ago, Mt. Yugawara exploded massively, and became a big caldera. The place was eroded further and started to sprout hot springs that is the present-day Yugawara Spa. In today’s route, we walk along the rim of the caldera to the south, ended around Joganji Temple. Almost entire route is well-maintained, and half of the itinerary is paved. There is a little bit of ups and downs from Tsubakidai to the Picnic Ground, though no steep slope. Historically speaking, this is the area where Minamotono Yoritomo 源頼朝, the founder of Kamakura Shogunate Government 鎌倉幕府, started his battle in 1180 to grab the power of the nation. With helps of the local clan, Do’i Family 土肥実平, Yoritomo’s troop used the forests as their hiding place. Mt. Shiroyama was once the fortress of Do’i Clan. In today’s route, we can meet lots of rocks with legends like “Yoritomo had a break here.” I thought geography of the area is well-suited for the would-be ruler of the nation to ponder his strategy to win the war. The forest is dense enough to prevent his enemies, but not so precipitous as in Tanzawa. Yes, the forest in the somma of Hakone is more open, even though it has rush greens.

Tsubakidai with the bus stop and a view of Mt. Shiroyama.
From Tsubakidai, we can see Hatsushima Island.
From Tsubakidai,
 we can go either from a slope starting in front of the bus stop,
 or from steps next to the toilet.
 The 2 way meets at the back of the toilet, so don’t worry.
 In today’s itinerary,
 working toilets are at this point and at Johganji Temple.
 Don’t miss your chance!
The hiking course from the back of the toilet
 goes like this for quite some time.
 The wide road slowly repeats ups and downs.
On our way to the right is Yugawara Spa.
 It certainly has a feel of lucidity.
At about ASL 580m point, there is this small space to have a rest.
 In April, the place was adorned by flowers of very large Enkianthus perulatus. I’m sure in autumn they have spectacular leaves …
The route goes through afforested area of cypresses …
And a bit of climbing, which brings us to …
the top of Mt. Shiroyama.
 If you are lucky for a fine weather,
 from there you can observe Izu Ohshima Island
伊豆大島 and Toshima Island 利島 floating in the Pacific Ocean.
From Mt. Shiroyama, the road becomes a bit rustic,
 but the landscaping is done with lots of hydrangea.
The Picnic Ground.
 Around here, there are 2 huts that were once toilets.
 As they are not functional now, be careful.
From here, we can see Manazuru Peninsula 真鶴半島 clearly.
 If it’s a fine day, Boso
房総, Miura 三浦,
 and Izu Peninsulas
伊豆半島 are also observable.
 Geologically speaking Manazuru Peninsula could be made of
 an eruption of another volcano about 15 thousand years ago.
From Picnic Ground,
 the route soon connects to a paved forestry road
 (for permit holders only to drive).
The view from the forestry road is very free as well …

From the Picnic Ground to Johganji Temple, the road is simply descending. If you prefer, you can go down to Johganji via the surfaced road only. The route can give us open views of ocean to the south and a wide valley to the east of Shinsaki River 新崎川 whose geographical features were created by another ancient volcano erupted around 30 thousands years ago, i.e. older than Mt. Yugawara. The magma exploded at that time was cooled rapidly and became glass obsidian which made the area famous for the production of obsidian for centuries to come. Although they are now almost all extracted, near the Temple where orchards of mandarin oranges start to appear, the stone walls along the road sometimes can sparkle depending on the direction of sunlight. That’s a tell-tale sign of the contents of the rocks from the area. Also, in the middle of the forestry road, there is a small short cut that goes through the forest via a trekking road. In the middle of plunging, there is a large rock, called Kabuto-Ishi 兜石, or Helmet Rock, with a legend as a helmet holder for Yoritomo. Actually, in today’s course there are several of such peculiar rocks of lores off the paved road. Scientifically speaking, they are the remnants of ancient lava eroded to be interesting shapes in thousands of years. The legends may or may not be true, but the surrounding forests for the stories are not that intimidating and Yoritomo could relax here a bit even when the enemy is attacking his troops …

The road from picnic ground.
 Though permit holders only, cars can run here, so be careful.
Entrance to the short-cut via Kabuto Ishi.
 The reason why we don’t feel closedness in this forest
 might be the rich vegetation that is surviving
 the attack of deer, unlike in Tanzawa.
A beautiful country side with citrus trees in spring of Yugawara …

Yugawara village was once famous for their fishery and citrus farming. In a book “Oral Record of Daily Meals in Kanagawa Prefecture 聞き書き神奈川の食事,” there is a recollection of an old lady who lived in the early 20th century Yugawara. Men went fishing for Japanese amberjack that fetched handsome price in Tokyo’s fish markets. Women tended citrus orchards and vegetable patches below the trees. Before, the area was the northern limit of Japan for citrus growing so that their fruit tasted sour if consumed immediately. However, when the farmers stored the crop in icehouse for 3 months, they became extremely sweet. Such mandarin oranges were sold in high price after the main season of citrus from the warmer western Japan. Yugawara has been, and is, a rich town. The goal of today’s itinerary is Johganji Temple that was the family temple of Do’i Clan. After helping Yoritomo, this family first became the high-ranking officer for the government in Kamakura, and then changed their name to Kobayakawa Clan 小早川氏 surviving to be one of the “noble class members 華族” surrounding the Emperor until 1945. This southern part of the forests of Hakone was owned by celebrities. I noticed even in the forest, we could here JR Tokaido Line running near the coast down there. The reason why the forests of Yugawara give us an impression of openness is … such proximity to prosperous human life? … My inner trickster then said “Huh, the more the forest is near to the virgin, the more we feel menacing, don’t we?” Is it?

Our route eventually enters the housing area.
And please turn right here.
 Over there is a gate of Johganji Temple.
Johganji Temple
In the sanctuary,
 there is this 800 years old Juniperus chinensis which is designated as
 a National Natural Monument of Japan.
 It was certainly planted by one of the Do’i clan members long ago.

If you find problems in Mt. Shiroyama of Yugawara area, please make a contact to

Yugawara Town Hall 湯河原町役場
Phone: 0465-63-2111, FAX: 0465-63-4194

For general enquiry about Hakone Geo Park, the contact address is

Secretariat for the Promotion Council for Hakone Geo Park 箱根ジオパーク推進協議会事務局
Phone: 0460-85-9560, FAX: 0460-85-7577

You can download the introductory pamphlet of Hakone Geo Park in English, Chinese and Korean from here.

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