Oyama, Kanagawa: 2-Star Michelin Mountain with Nature and a History of Worship – 2
This is part two of the Mt. Oyama series, the record from our visit to Afuri Shrine and Oyama Temple.
Oyama Afuri Shrine
After getting off the cable car when you are almost at the shrine, you will find plates with cut vegetables on them. They are sold as feeds for deer inhabiting the shrine woods. At many shrines around Japan, deer are called “shinroku,” which literally means “god deer,” and treated with great care as divine messengers of the god.
The place inhabited by deer is separated by a fence from the shrine site, so you will throw feeds over the fence to feed the deer.
As you go up the stairs and through the shrine gate, you will see the hall of worship (haiden) in front, where maidens offer prayers and people pay visits. To the right of the hall is the entrance to the area with a spring known for its great water quality.
Among the three gods enshrined here at Afuri Shrine, Oyama Tsumino Okami is the grand tutelary god and known as the god of mountain and water. Also, as Mt. Oyama has a triangular shape and is easy to spot from the sea, in the past, it served as a directional landmark for vessels and ships and has been worshipped as the god of industry and marine navigation.
Going past the entrance to the right of the hall, there is a spring you can drink from. If you go further back, you will find a stone considered to be the road guardian, to which sake is offered.
The main shrine hall is located further up the mountain, but the hall of worship is a great point of interest in itself for the view you see from here. You can see the Shonan Sea and Enoshima Island from here, and when the air is clear you can see as far as Mt. Fuji. The exquisite view from here is given two stars in the Michelin Green Guide.
Photo by flickr
The hall of worship here is actually a remote shrine and you will have to climb further up to the summit of the mountain to reach the main shrine hall. To the left of the hall of worship is the gate to the stairs which leads to the main shrine hall. It takes about an hour on foot for an average adult to go up the stairs and get to the summit.
Descending via Onnazaka Route
We took the cable car for the way up, but let’s try going on foot on the way back.
There are two routes for descending the mountain; the Otokozaka route and the Onnazaka route. Otokozaka is the shorter descending route of the two and does not pass through Oyama Temple, but has many steep sections. Onnazaka is less steep and allows you to drop by Oyama Temple.
Let’s take Onnazaka for this time.
Though Onnazaka is less steep compared to Otokozaka, some steep sections do involve a risk of slipping down. If you are not in the best condition especially for walking, we would suggest to take the cable car on the way down.
Onnazaka has “7 Wonder Spots” scattered along its route and you can find a signboard for each of them. The photo shows one among them. A legend says if you approach the cave, which is itself a small shrine, and listen carefully, you will be able to hear the sound of the sea in the distance.
Try and discover the rest of the wonder spots on your way.
Ukosan Oyama Temple
Now we have come all the way down the Onnazaka route and finally arrived at Oyama Temple.
When Buddhism and Shinto were still merged in a mixed form of religion, Oyama Temple was founded around the 8th century at the present location as a remote shrine of Afuri Shrine.
In 1861, when the Meiji government introduced a law to separate Buddhism and Shinto religion, the temple and the shrine in Mt. Oyama were clearly separated and the temple was soon abolished when it was decided the mountain was to be dedicated solely to Shinto religion.
However in 1876, there occurred a movement to construct a temple and enshrine the god of Fudomyo’ou, or Acala. It eventually led to the restoration of Oyama Temple in 1915 and the temple has resided at the present location ever since.
One thing we want you to remember and try at the temple is “kawarake nage.”
It is a kind of ritual where you purchase two pieces of “kawarake” for 300 Yen and throw them down the cliff from a designated spot. The ritual first started in 2005 to celebrate the 1250th anniversary of the opening of Oyama Temple.
“Kawarake” is a small unglazed pottery plate, which has been used in Japan since long ago. Besides everyday use, people used them for a Shinto ritual where they pour some sake in a kawarake plate, drink it up, throw the emptied plate and break it to drive away the evil luck.
While it is believed you can drive off evil just by throwing a kawarake plate, you might also be blessed with good luck if you can throw it through the ring in the photo.
At Oyama Temple, you can ask a priest to give you a Goma prayer, the ritual specific to Shingon esoteric Buddhism in which the prayer is offered by burning woods on the altar. But “kawarake nage” is a far more casual and fun way to drive off evil spirits away from you.
Now let’s get back on the way down the mountain along Onnazaka. The route down from the temple gets less steep and easier to be traveled on foot.
The long stairway comes to an end as you get to the stone post where the road splits in two ways. For climbers, on the other hand, this is their starting point.
If you take the stairs to the right of the splitting point, you will soon find Yagokoro Omoikane Shrine. Otokozaka, one of the two walking paths, starts from the stairs here in the back of the shrine and provides a route to Afuri Shrine which does not pass through Oyama Temple.
Those leaving the mountain can go from here back through the shopping district to the bus terminal.
Specialty Food: Oyama Dofu
Photo by flickr
If you have an appetite on your way to or back from the mountain, grab some tofu, which is the specialty food of the Oyama area.
Actually, the Oyama area has never been known as an area producing soybean, which is the ingredient of tofu. It is said that tofu became the specialty here as the mountain Sendoshi priests here often received soybeans in return for the lucky charms and prayers they provided to worshippers and people around the area also started to make tofu when they found the water of Oyama was suitable for making and preserving tofu.
Another reason that made tofu common in the area is that tofu is often used in the vegetarian dishes served to priests and people visiting the temple for religious training.
We have now gone through the two part series about Oyama in Kanagawa Prefecture, the Michelin two starred tourist spot. Oyama is a great tourist spot which is blessed with rich nature and allows you to get close to religious sites and activities and trace their histories.
If you are someone who likes trekking in the mountain, the steep mountain path on one of the routes you can choose to take should make your trip enjoyable. It is a great spot you can make a day trip to. Or, trying an old style trip and staying over at one of the shukubo lodges like the pilgrims of the Edo Period did would also be a wonderful idea.
Make sure to visit Mt. Oyama sometime, take the best course that fits you and enjoy the sacred mountain.