In preparation for my summer goal of conquering Mt. Fuji, I been trying to squeeze in as much weekend hiking, as the weather could possibly allow. Let’s just say, I want to do a lot of “practice hike” before I go for the big one.
Back home if you tell your friends that you consider climbing mountains as a hobby, they will look at you with admiration; make you feel that you are one cool and tough gal. Here in Japan, if you tell your colleagues that you went hiking last weekend, they will just look at you like you just told them that you had bento for lunch.
Hiking in Japan is a lifestyle. It is normal to see kids or elderly taking the same trail and oftentimes, I see myself having less stamina compare to them. Using the same reasoning, if you want quiet time and nature all by yourself, you need to choose carefully where to hike or else you will be going together with teenagers who choose to climb the mountain with a portable radio tuned to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.
Mt. Oyama at Isehara, Kanagawa was my chosen destination, on the hope that a less popular mountain will attract lesser number of people. With a total height of 1,252 meters, Mt. Oyama is consider as a holy mountain, included on the list of Kanagawa-ken’s 50 most scenic spot and part of the Tanazawa-Oyama Quasi National Park.
Here is a series of photo and few stories about my day hike. How I wish that the actual hiking is as easy as creating this blog post.
From the bus stop to the start of the trail, first you need to pass by series of stairs along with several souvenir shops that sells spinning tops and tofu restaurants. Both products are well-known local specialty, so you might be encouraged to buy or try one.
Since my past hikes at Mt. Takao and Mt. Mitake involves riding a cable car half way thru, this time around I completely ignore the cable car and was determined to climb all the way. After all, the main purpose of this is to push myself and see how far my legs can take me.
Now, I was at the official start of the trail. I can see that there were only about 2 to 3 people in front of me. The surrounding greenery and splashes at the nearby waterfalls were proof that I made the right decision of ignoring the crowded cable car.
Few jizo statues and small wooden temples along the way, I feel relaxed and confident that I can reach the top.
After series of stone steps with several slippery parts, I started to feel the strain on my legs but still with enough energy and will power to push.
Almost 1 hour walking, I saw a high, pave stairs and a glimpse of a pagoda style roof. I climbed the stairs while taking photographs of the small statue of the Buddhist temple guards and finally make my first stop at Oyama Temple (Oyama-dera).
After resting for 5 minutes, I resume back to hiking. I was not surprise anymore when I saw another set of stone-covered path. This part is steep and really tiring; to make matters worst the hiking trail is exactly parallel to the cable car route. I can see the car passing me by and started to question myself of the earlier decision I made.
I finally reached the location of Afuri Jinja Shimosa. I was thinking of continuing to reach the peak by lunch time, but seeing the brand new, shiny, marble stairways made me silently declare that I officially hate stairs. If I see another stairs, I might go crazy.
I stopped for a while and ate ramen at one of the few shops located nearby the shrine. After a quick 10 minutes slurping, I pushed myself to climb the stairs.
Parts of Afuri Jinja Shimosa are under-renovation and the whole complex seems to be newly built. If it were a sunny day, I heard that the shrine elevation offers a good vantage point to see Mt. Fuji and Sagami Bay, just look at the statue of the children pointing directly to where you are supposed to see Fuji-san.
I believe the presence of shrines and temples on most mountains are good enough encouragement even for non-hikers to start going outdoors. Personally, it was the first reason why I started doing day hikes.
Afuri Jinja Shimosa is the half-way point of the trail, still a long way to go.
I went nuts for a few minutes, started to laugh all by myself which attracted the attention of few hikers. This is because of one reason- seeing more stairs.
I consider the succeeding trail as the hardest part of the hike. The rocks along the path appeared to be bigger and bigger. I started to attack the trail as if I was solving a puzzle, Should I step on this stone or maybe the other one? I was studying my every footing, I have to, I was hiking all by myself.
Climb, climb, climb some more.
The light rain created a fog, making some portion of the trail less visible. But the combination of rain and fog also makes the whole scenery even more beautiful.
I have no rain gear, so I started to pray silently that it will not continue to shower.
Countless of Konichiwa greetings and climbing stairs after stairs, I finally reached the peak of Mt. Oyama. Seeing the torii gate of Oyama Afuri Jinja is comparable to the yellow, finish line marker of a track and field.
So what did I do at the peak of Mt. Oyama? I ate an egg sandwich.
After few minutes savoring every glorious moment of reaching the peak, I started to descend by taking the same route. I find it easier to go up than to go down, I guess mainly because I am always afraid to slip. Taking the same precautionary measures and even finding the initiative to remove some unwanted small stones along the trail as my way of showing concern for the other hikers, I completed hiking Mt. Oyama.
For the next 3 days, I can barely walk and I still hate stairs.