Local Nature

Mt.Oyama: The Hidden Sacred Mountain near Tokyo

Mount Oyama was registered as one of the Japan Heritage(日本遺産) on April 25, 2016.

The beautiful views of the mountain are legendary. There has long been regarded as a holy mountain and object of worship. "Oyama mairi(大山詣り)" is especially famous for traditional worship in Edo era. 

This article will present Mt.Oyama, the hidden sacred mountain near Tokyo.

About Mt. Oyama(大山)

The sacred Mount Oyama and the Abundant Nature

Located in the middle part of Kanagawa Prefecture, which shares its border with Tokyo on the east, Isehara City enjoys Mount Oyama surrounded by abundant nature. At one time, Isehara prospered as the land of Oyama-mode, the pilgrimage to Mount Oyama, the area still has classic shukubo(temple and shrine lodging) and quaint shops and stores, as well as many historical heritage sites. Only 2 hours away from Tokyo, you can enjoy hiking, visiting historic sites, and eating specialty tofu dishes in Isehara.

Sacred Mountain

Mount Oyama has been worshiped as a holy mountain since ancient times. Oyama Afuri-jinja Shrine, whitch is said to have been established around 97 B.C., has a main building on the mountain top and a Shimo-sha building in the middle.  The shrine enshrines Oyama Tsumi no Okami, who is the father of Konohanasakuya-hime no Mikoto, enshrined in Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine; therefore, there is a belif that if you climb one –either Mount Oyama or Mount Fuji- you shoud also climb the other mountain.

History of Mt.Oyama

Sadahise Utagawa, Sagamino-kuni Osumi-gun Oyama-dera Amefuri-shrine Shinkei, 1858

In 1590, the Shugensha(修験者), who practiced a mountaineering asceticism in Oyama, fought against the most influential military commander; Tokugawa Shogun(徳川家康). They lost the war and were ousted from Oyama temple. However, they continued to have strong faith and ran lodges in the middle of Oyama. They also engaged in missionary works to spread the miracle efficacy of the gods Hudoumyouou and sekisondaigongen by distributing paper to Danka (a family which supports a temple).

The mysterious fascination for Oyama has passed from Sendoshi (a Japanese priest) to Sendoshi. We can see a lot of different types of religious events still here. In the pilgrim's lodges and souvenir shops as well as the entrance path to Oyama, we can enjoy the taste of Edo period food made with local ingredients. By communing fully with nature, enjoying the history and seeing majestic scenery from the top we will understand the reason their ancestors longed for this mountain.

You could view Mt.Oyama from the Kanto region. If you view from the Edo direction, you could view both Mt.Fuji and Mt.Oyama. At that time the Mt.Fuji pilgrimage was more popular than the Mt.Oyama Pilgrimage. However, the Mt.Fuji Pilgrimage required about 7 days to visit. It was a long trip and you would need to bring a document to pass through the “Sekisho of Hakone(箱根)”. On the other hand, if you want to try the “Mt.Oyama pilgrimage” you don't need to pass the “sekisho(関所)” and it was also a much shorter trip of 3 or 4 days, even if you went through “Enoshima(江ノ島)”.

Worship for Oyama became the theme of Kabuki and Ukiyo-e

Visiting Oyama was so attractive for people in Edo that it was made a popular theme for Japanese traditional arts (kabuki, jouri, rakugo, senryu). It is said that about 200,000 people visited Oyama every year though Tokyo’s population was a million people.

Pilgrim’s lodges are surrounded by fence (Tamagaki). The hosts take care pilgrims in every way and pray for their safety. Oyama is famous for Tofu cuisine because associations in each area brought soy and made Tofu for pilgrims. Oyama Koma (spinning top) is famous for lucky charm with money, so many people brought it as souvenir. A lot of visitors for Oyama produced prosperity in bottom of Oyama.

5 Must visit places abound Mt.Oyama

Atago fall (愛宕滝)

Along with Roben Falls(良弁滝), this fountain is said to have been used by pilgrims to Mt.Oyama for their ablutions.

You can find more informations about Experiencing Zazen in Waterfalls on this article.

・Address: 397 Oyama, Isehara-shi, Kanagawa  259-1107

Koma Nando (こま参道)

The 362 stone steps along Koma Sando road take approximately 15 minutes to walk down.gift stores. You can see tofu restaurants and souvenir shops line both sides of the road.

・Address: 574 Oyama, Isehara-shi, Kanagawa  259-1107

Oyama-dera Temple (大山寺)

Fudo of Oyama is a popular place to visit. The temple is a center for the worship of Fudomyoo, a god. Amulets of great significance to the Buddhist religion may be purchased here. The temple was founded by Priest Roben of Todai-ji(東大寺). Temple in A.D.755. The figure of the god Fudomyoo(不動明王), the principal image of Buddha and Nidoshi figures(二童子像) were cast in iron by Saint Gangyo. They have been designated as important cultural assets. Having survived a murder plot in which his enemies planned to crush him beneath a falling celling in Utsunomiya, the Shogun, Iemitsu(徳川家光) believed he had been saved by Fudomyoo. He became a follower and his nurse Lasugano-tsubone also visited the temple.

・Address: 724 Oyama, Isehara-shi, Kanagawa  259-1107

Oyama Afuri Shrine (大山阿夫利神社)

This is said to have been built in B.C. 97 under the reign of Emperor Sujin. The enshrined Deities are Oyamatsumino-okami(大山祇大神), Oikazuchino-kami(大雷神) and Takaokamino-kami(高龗神). Torinoiwakusubuneno-kami(鳥石楠船神) is also defied here Honsha as the guardian of sailors. The sanctuary of the shrine stands on the summit, and further down the mountain is a branch of the shrine, called the Shimosha.

・Address: 12 Oyama, Isehara-shi, Kanagawa  259-1107

The Seven Wonders of women’s trail (女坂)

1) The Kobo Daishi’s Water (弘法の水)
It is told that this water gushed out once Kobo Daishi pushed the rock with his stick and it never dries up even in summer and the water level has never changed.

2) The Parenting Jizo (子育て地蔵)
In the beginning, it was laid to rest as an ordinary Jizo. Before anyone knows, the face became childlike. It is said that kids grow up in good health if you pray in front of this Jizo.

3) The Jizo made with nails (爪切り地蔵)
It is said that it was made by Kobo Daishi with his nails without any tools for only one day. This legend is telling that dreams come true if you make every effort. 

4) The upside down linden tree (逆さ菩提樹)
This is called “upside down linden tree” due to its appearance. Surprisingly, the upper part is thick and the lower part is thin. This way of glowing is completely opposite of ordinary trees.

5) The Mumyo Bridge (無明橋)
“Mumyo” is one of the Buddhism terms and it means “bewilderment”. Any kind of bad thing like falling from the bridge, and losing your belongings might happen if you chat while crossing the bridge. 

6) The Sea Roar Cave (潮音洞)
You might hear the sound of sea roar when you approach the cave. If you would like to hear the sound, you need to calm down and listen carefully.

7) The eye-shaped Rock (眼形石)
It is said that any disease of the eye would be healed if you touch this eye-shaped rock and pray.

・Address: 697 Oyama, Isehara-shi, Kanagawa  259-1107

We hope this article was illuminating and arms you with the knowledge to experience the sights, sounds and experiences around Mt Oyama. There is far more to see than what is listed in this article and we look forward to you making your own discoveries!

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Koki Miyashita

Author & Editor