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Tokyo’s backyard nature oasis: Tanzawa-Ōyama

Mt. Oyama
Mt. Oyama
RD Foster

Tokyo may be among the world’s most frenetic, fun cities, but just outside city limits stretches a stunning natural landscape.

Mt. Oyama
RD Foster

An exploratory adventure around the three prefectures that surround Mt. Fuji is a nice break from 24/7 Tokyo. True to form with all of Japan, public transportation is ubiquitous. It’s easy and inexpensive to get from the heart of Tokyo, right up to Fuji’s half-way mark at the Mt. Fuji 5th station.

Tanzawa-Ōyama Quasi-National Park

Tanzawa-Oyama is among Tokyo’s closest nature preserves. A good start is Mount Oyama and Afuri Jinga Shrine, founded about 2,200 years ago when Emperor Sujin reigned. The shrine is dedicated to various high gods; current structures were built about 20 years ago, but yet maintain a mystical allure.

Mount Oyama in the Kanagawa prefecture is found in North Isehara City in the broad Tanzawa-Ōyama Quasi-National Park.

A fifteen-minute walk up 600 steps brings you part way (from the start at the Oyama Cable bus stop), the rest traversed by cable car. Both Shinto and Buddhist shrines are found here, at about 1200 meters up.

Spinning tops bring luck and money

Along the walk are shops, many selling spinning tops. It's a leisurely stroll, and browsing the shops packed with the bright tops is a nice diversion before or after visiting the mountain.

You can watch craftsman hand carve the wooden toys, and even buy custom tops made in front of you. Japanese consider the spinners as charms that bring good luck and money. Look down and you’ll see that the pavement is embedded with spinning tops as well.

Fudo Myoo - the immovable one

A fierce looking statue of Fudo Myoo (the immovable one) is found near the rear of the Shinto shrine. Cast in 1264, this Diva King is worth the trip up alone. With furrowed brow and bit lip, surrounded by flames and a golden halo, Fudo Myoo is a tempestuous sight. Japan lists the treasure among its Important Cultural Properties.

And you can bring Fudo Myoo home - at least his characterization written in Japanese script and printed on a T-shirt found in the gift shop, $30.

Panoramic views are also found at the top – Enoshima Island, the Chiba prefecture, and Miura Peninsula, even Mt. Fuji if the weather is clear.

About 50 ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) exist in the area, offering food and lodging.

Among the best tofu in Japan

A great place for lunch after your climb and shrine visits: Tougakubu, now run by 18th generation owner Mr. Aihara. Exquisite presentation and both delicate and pungent tofu flavors are found here. The region’s pure rainfalls and spring water help to create among Japan’s best tofu.

Transport to Mt. Oyama from Tokyo

Inexpensive public transportation is available from Shinjuku in the heart of Tokyo, right to within a short walk to Oyama cable car.