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.
This beautiful pyramid-shaped mountain with an altitude of 1,252 meters has been familiar to people as a popular tourist site that is easy to reach. On clear days, its top commands a splendid view.
Mount Oyama has been worshipped as a holy mountain since ancient times. Oyama Afuri-jinja Shrine, which 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 belief that if you climb one–either Mount Oyama or Mount Fuji–you should also climb the other mountain.
Mountain with a View
You can enjoy a spectacular view of Mount Fuji, Enoshima Island, and the Izu Seven Islands, as well as TOKYO SKYTREE® and Tokyo Tower. People used to affectionately call Mount Oyama “Amefuri Yama” (raining mountain). Clouds and fog are formed above the mountain top, bringing in rain; therefore, people worshiped the mountain while praying for rain.
There are well-maintained walking paths, which were created for people for offering a prayer, so you can enjoy a hike in great nature. The popular route is to go halfway up the mountain by cable car, and walk up to the top.
Oyama-dera Temple and Oyama Afuri-jinja Shrine Shimo-sha are also famous for beautiful autumn foliage. During the season, the trees are lit up in the evening, creating a mesmerizing view. The night view of the town looking down from Oyama Afuri-jinja Shrine is also wonderful. Himatsuri Takigi Noh: early October, Illumination of autumn foliage: November
Shukubo and Specialties
Shukubo is an accommodation facility operated by a temple or a shrine for people visiting the mountain to offer prayers. As Oyama-mode (pilgrimage to Mount Oyama) became increasingly popular in the Edo period, shukubo also became popular and busier with people visiting the mountain.
In Oyama, try local specialty tofu dishes. You can enjoy tofu in simple dishes featuring the delicate flavor of the materials as well as elaborate dishes. Other local specialties include kyarabuki, fuki giant butterbur cooked in soy sauce, and Oyama-koma (colorful wooden tops).
Traditions and Entertainment
In summer, annual Oyama-osamedachi is held in Oyama. People bring wooden swords to Oyama-dera Temple and Oyama Afuri-jinja Shrine Shimo-sha building. In October, Oyama Himatsuri Takigi Noh is held, where you can enjoy top-class Noh and Kyogen (traditional comic drama). This holy entertainment has been carried on for 300 years in Oyama.
A new summer event of Mount Oyama, Oyama Summer Jazz Latin Friendship Concert, has been successfully popular. It is held on the magnificent Noh stage in Oyama Afuri-jinja Shrine. E-Toro Matsuri (paper lantern festival) is held during the same time, and the approach to the shrine is beautifully lined with lit paper lanterns, creating a fantastic light corridor.
Located at the eastern base of Mount Oyama, Hinata has precious cultural properties. Hinata Yakushi Temple is said to be opened by Buddhist priest Gyoki in 716. It enshrines statues of Yakushi Sanzon (Yakushi Nyorai and two Bosatsu), each of which was created from a single piece of wood in natabori carving style (characterized by chisel marks), presumably between the 10th century and the early 11th century. They are usually not open to the public, except for January 1 to 3, and 8 and April 15. The temple also has a collection of other National Important Cultural properties. The main building (National Important Cultural Property) has been under major renovation (scheduled to be completed in 2016). The area around the temple is also known for various flowers, including cherry and plum blossoms in spring and spider lilies in autumn.
You can enjoy a nice relaxing walk from Hinata Yakushi Temple via Mount Hinata to Nanasawa Onsen. The water temperature of Nanasawa Onsen is relatively low, which is believed to make your skin beautiful.
Sannomiya Hibita-jinja Shrine
Sagami-no-kuni Sannomiya Hibita-jinja Shrine, the third of the six shrines in the old Sagami Province has a long history and it is said that the building was constructed in 655 B.C. In the area around the shrine, which is considered to be the birthplace of ancient culture in Japan, there are many ancient tombs, and the local museum displays many unearthed articles found in the area.
There are hiking routes, and you can enjoy going deep into the forest while admiring various plants and animals. (It is recommended to get a copy of a hiking map, which is available at the tourist information center at Isehara Station.)
Koyasu Myojin Hibita-jinja Shrine
There was an old tradition that said that drinking an infusion of shredded pieces of the front shrine’s columns would bring you a healthy baby, and many people scraped off the columns, thinning them out. Now it is not allowed to do so, but it is said that you can expect the same effect from eating the rice that has been offered to the god (in a charm available at the shrine).
Aburisan Oyama-dera Temple
This temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism is said to be founded by the highest-ranking priest Roben in 755. The iron statue of Fudo-Myo-O guardian deity (National Imporant Cultural Property) is open to the public on the 8th, 18th, and 28th on every month.