Anyone who knows me knows I send a lot of visitors to Mt. Oyama, once one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Japan and still a great destination for hiking and gourmet tofu lunches. The mountain’s proximity to Tokyo and Yokohama makes it perfect for daytrips, and transportation is easy and affordable. Isehara station (on the Odakyu Odawara line) is the gateway. Express trains depart frequently from Shinjuku station, making the trip to Isehara in about 60 minutes.
This post will save you some yen and hassle by making it easy to purchase the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass, which is good for two-days and bundles the various forms of public transportation into one convenient, money-saving ticket. (The “free” means you can use it freely; there is a charge.) There are two types: Ticket A, which includes round-trip transportation on the cable car, and Ticket B, which is cheaper because it doesn’t. If you’re going up the mountain and don’t want to hike all the way, get Ticket A. If you’re coming just to see Noh and don’t have time for sightseeing, get Ticket B.
You have three options for getting your pass: the first is new — as of 2022, you can now the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass in digital form. This video in English explains how.
Option 2 is to buy the pass at an Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center, like the one in Shinjuku Station pictured below, or at any ticket window at any station along the Odakyu Odawara Line. You can do this in advance, if you want, but you will have to specify the station you’ll be departing from and returning to (Shinjuku, Yoyogi Uehara, Ebina, etc.) and the first day you want to use it.
Option 3 is to purchase the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass from a ticket machine. Here’s a step-by-step explanation, with photos, to help you do that. Note: the travel period for passes you buy from machines begin on the day of purchase, so you can’t buy a pass in advance from a machine.
To start, find a machine. You want one that includes the word フリーパス (free pass) along the top. Fortunately, that’s most of the machines.
Select English. You’ll get this screen next. Select ODAKYU Line (top left with blue stripe).
At the next screen, select FREE PASS (the icon with the trees at the top right).
More buttons to push! This time, select the green button that says “Tanzawa-Oyama.”
Now choose which type you want: with the cable-car or without. If you want to ride the cable-car, choose (A). If you don’t need the cable-car, choose (B). Note: I was buying in Odawara (yes, you can travel from that direction too) so my fare options will be different from what you’ll see. It’s pro-rated by distance so the closer you are to Isehara/Oyama, the cheaper the pass.
Then you’ll get the payment screen. So go ahead and insert your money. Remember, your total depends on where you’re buying and may be different from mine.
And voila — you’re done! Your ticket will look like this. It goes through the automatic ticket gates at the stations. On the buses, just show it to the driver as you exit. If you ride the cable car, the attendant will take it and clip it. Hang on to the ticket until you arrive back at your home station.
Getting from Isehara Station to Mt. Oyama
Upon arrival, hit the bathrooms at the top of the stairs as you come up from the platform. The bathrooms inside the gate are cleaner and nicer than what you’ll find after you exit the station. When you’re ready to exit the station, slip your pass into the gate and don’t forget to take it with you. Turn right out of the ticket gate (there’s only one) and follow the signs for the North Exit and the stairs to the bus stop. There is a tourist information office halfway down the stairs that provides free maps and brochures in English and other foreign languages. At the bottom of the stairs, walk straight ahead to the bus stops, which are just beyond the public toilet.
At bus stop #4, board any bus bound for the cable car station, marked 伊10, 11 or 12. You board from the back. No need to take the little paper slip from the automatic machine at the door — you’ve got the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass! Buses run about twice an hour on weekdays and more frequently on weekends. Check with your usual online routing service but as of this writing (Sept. 2021) the schedule looks like this:
If you’re coming to see outdoor Noh (Oct. 5-6, 2021) get off the bus at the Shamukyoku-iriguchi 社務局入口 bus stop (18 minutes from the station). After the bus pulls away, cross the street to the red bridge over the river and walk straight for 1-2 minutes to reach the shrine administration building (that’s the Shamukyoku) and the Noh stage. Follow instructions from the people offering direction and let them know you’re looking for the international sign-in desk (インバウンド受付).
If you’re going up Mt. Oyama, whether hiking or taking the cable car, ride the bus from the station for about 25-30 minutes to the last stop. From there, head up hill to the Koma Sando shopping street, stairs lined with restaurants, craft shops and pickle stands. At the top of the stairs you have a choice: start your hike on the trails that begin there, or ride the cable-car to Oyama Afuri Shrine. From there, you can access additional trails, including the path to the summit, or simply visit the shrine and enjoy the view. Don’t miss the passageway under the shrine, to the left of the counter where amulets are sold. Inside, you can fill your water bottle with sacred water from a dragon spout and view artifacts associated with the shrine. This level of the mountain also offers traditional refreshment stands and a stylish café with outdoor seating that serves beverages and light meals. (Teahouse Sekison, Tel (0463) 94-3628; closes at 4 pm).
Hint for those who seek extra comfort: Some of the super-express “Romance Car” trains now stop at Isehara, allowing you to travel in a reserved seat, without changes, in as little as 47 minutes. The schedule is convenient for hikers, with two or more trains in the morning, depending on the day of the week, and two in the afternoon for the return trip to Tokyo. (More on weekends and holidays.)