Oyama Mountain was to be our next challenge. Especially, after conquering the likes of Fuji and plenty of other mountain trails on offer in Honshu. Recently, my weight gain had also reached to heights of Fuji. I figured it was not only good to escape the city limits, but also socialise and exercise with others of similar interests. For June, the prospect of Oyama Mountain was going to be a new challenge for me. Yet, my friend assured me, this was a lot easier and less painful than Tsukuba Mountain last month, so off we set with little knowledge of our next conquest.
So he called my bluff, if not just to boost my exercise routine, or because he personally wanted more of a challenge. Oyama Mountain presented its own set of obstacles to overcome. Believe it or not, there is a guide in Japanese which rates the difficulty of each mountain in Japan. Oyama Mountain is not only rated most difficult in the Kanagawa district, it is considered a 上級 ( Jyokyu) advanced or high-level conquest according to the Yamaquest website. That’s right if you also clicked on the link, you’ll notice the URL and site is very video game-esque, similar to many things this country.
The Journey to Oyama
Getting to Oyama Mountain will take you some time, so leaving early and preparing your journey in advance is key. Depending on which prefecture you’re travelling from, the main journey starts from Shinjuku Station, and to Isehara station it takes about 55 minutes, depending on your train, we took the faster express towards Odawara. In addition, you have the alternative of the pricey, faster and more luxurious Romance car (bullet train). However, the romantic factor found on this type of train could probably kept for more important, couple orientated weekend getaways to Hakone and the like.
Upon arriving at Isehara station, we get off and head towards the bus stop (バス乗り場 – Basu Noriba) where you can ride one of the many frequent coaches that escort you directly to the Cable Car Station. This trip takes about 25-30 minutes, and drops you off at the base of a stairwell that seems to take you beyond the heavens. The beauty of the signage used on your ascent up the never ending stairway is the continuous signs of encouragement which egg you on to the top. Although, the further I went, the more I could smell some kind of ill-joke or sarcasm, as I passed what seemed like the fifth ‘not long now’ sign.
Finally, as you reach the base of the Oyama Cable Station and the ticket office, there is a queue of people waiting to join the next arrival. It is better value to purchase the return ticket in advance, as this will save you lining up on the way down too. After about a ten-minute break, organising the group’s tickets and restocking of water supplies, we were able to board the Cable Car which takes you up to the shrine located around 2/3rd’s of the way up the mountain.
Up and down Oyama Mountain
At the end of the Cable Car line, some 4-5 minutes later, there is a short journey to the Afuri shrine, and this is marks the beginning of our journey. After a brief stop, and bite to eat, we began our ascent up the mountain. The journey up supposedly takes around 90 minutes, and we completed in around 100 minutes, with a multitude of breaks on the way up, so the estimates are accurate. The trail to the top is a mixture of steps, jagged rocks, steep inclines and more gradual slopes, which provide an interesting amount of variety, but also pose a physical challenge. Indeed, the recent rainfall also proved a little tricky, as we navigated some slippery and muddy surfaces to the eventual 1,252m peak.
After some heartbreaking inclines, a vast amount of steps, and sweat-soaked clothing, we had finally reached the top. The sweeping views that greet your eyes have to be experienced to be believed, bright blue skies, healthy green from the foliage and deep blues of the ocean. They are a sight to behold. This was the time to take the obligatory group photo, celebrating our conquest with crisp and refreshing Asahi beer cans, there was a group cheers and short-lived celebration. It was now time to go back down …
As we began our descent, we started on a trail of stairs that seemed to gradually disappear into the muddy path that lay ahead of us. Some of the declines were very steep, where navigating via a rail and chain was our single life-depending option. We still had similar stones and rocks to traverse on our downward journey, however, they were nowhere near as intense or challenging as the way up. We also managed to take fewer breaks as we ventured back to the Cable Car Station, the return journey only taking around 60 minutes.
Upon arriving back at the temple, we recollected our thoughts, got a final celebratory Ice Cream, and made our way back to the station so that we can celebrate our day’s achievement. However, on the way down we noticed the rescue team had taken the cable car up, hauling a large amount of equipment. There was no doubt an accident that needed attending to, somewhere up on the mountain, I cannot imagine how tough and frustrating that must be for anyone … so please be careful!
Celebrating our success
We made our way back to Isehara Station, via bus, and settled into one of the Saizeriya chain restaurants situated next door. This Italian themed restaurant is incredibly cheap and provides surprisingly good value for money, with a range of alcohol, food selection and the notorious drink bar. This was our option to refuel, but ultimately also led to our sleepy surrender to sleep as we caught the fastest train back to Shinjuku station.
Until our next adventure, conquering the beginner course of Mount Takao, but the advanced course of the all-you-can-drink beer garden.
What to bring
In any season, I would definitely bring proper hiking gear, with the key item being footwear. During the warmer seasons, bring plenty of water, food, sunscreen, a towel and spare shirt. During the cooler periods, food and water are still essential, a towel and warmer wear, especially as it can get quite cool at the top of the mountain. In addition, make sure you plan your trip properly, arriving early especially as less experienced hikers may slow your journey. Good luck on your adventures!