The Ōyama Kaidō: From Futagotamagawa to Nagatsuta

My scheme to walk the whole length of the ÅŒyama Kaidō, from Akasaka in central Tokyo to ÅŒyama, in Kanagawa, was last covered on this blog about a year ago. It was, in fact, suspended for quite a long time, first because we were moving house, then because we had one of the hottest summers for a long time, and then because people were coming for Mayuki’s Shichi-go-san. However, I finally managed to restart it last December, but I wasn’t able to write about it here because of the need to write about Mayuki’s Shichi-go-san, Nara, and the Representative Assembly. I’ve actually done two more stages now, the second two days ago, but I’ll write about the stage I completed in December first.

An ordinary Japanese urban streetscape

The Ōyama Kaidō behind Mizonokuchi Station

That stage took me past Mizonokuchi station, the one we normally use to go into Tokyo, so I passed a lot of very familiar places on the first half. However, it also took me along roads that I don’t normally use. For example, the ÅŒyama Kaidō crosses the road I use to get to Mizonokuchi just by the station, so although I’d been through the junction many times, I’d not been through it that way before.

The walking was very urban for the whole length of this stage, but there was still a lot of evidence that I was following the course of an old road. Some of it was in the prevalence of shrines, temples, and religious statues along the route. In many cases, these were established along the road, but in other cases the road may have diverted a little to go close to them. Another bit of evidence came when the current roads deviated slightly from the route of the old road: some of the older houses along the road were still aligned to face the Ōyama Kaidō, and so were at an angle to the current line.

A mountain visible on the horizon beyond an urban road

ÅŒyama

Another piece of evidence didn’t really come into view until a bit later in the walk, and in December it wasn’t consistently visible. That evidence was ÅŒyama itself, visible on the horizon, straight ahead, at the end of the road.

Because the ÅŒyama Kaidō was a major road in the Edo period (1603–1867), the route was largely followed by major roads after that as well, but because it wasn’t designed for cars (obviously), the major roads don’t follow it exactly. That means that walking along the ÅŒyama Kaidō takes you on and off major roads, so that you walk along a six lane dual carriageway for a while, then disappear up what looks like someone’s drive to go over a ridge and back down to the main road on the other side. As a result, I got a very varied view of this area, and it’s interesting.

For example, I visited all the Shinto shrines that I passed, and got the goshuin from the ones that were staffed (which was only two of them). Mizonokuchi Shrine was busier than I had expected, despite it being an ordinary Sunday, and I also visited a shrine where the tutelary kami of two villages shared one set of precincts, straddling the border, and another where the shrine had replaced a Buddhist temple in the Meiji period (1868–1912), and inherited its graveyard.

The precincts of a shrine, with the sanctuary visible in the background

Shitodomaekawa Shrine

The nicest shrine, however, was Shitodomaekawa Shrine, in Yokohama. The first part of the shrine’s name (“Shitodo”) is written with characters that would normally be read “Kamitori” or “Shincho”, so how they came to be pronounced “Shitodo” is a bit of a mystery to me. Although Yokohama is a big city, the shrine is in the northern part, where there are still a lot of fields, so the hill on which the shrine sits is surrounded by small houses and agricultural land, rather than being utterly hemmed in by tall blocks of flats. The precincts were also very clean, with a nice shelter for sitting in, and with many old trees around the edge. Over all, it just had a good atmosphere.

The whole stage was over twenty kilometres, so I was a bit tired when I got home, and had a nice warm bath to relax. However, my legs weren’t sore the next day, so obviously my habit of walking to the railway station rather than getting the bus is doing me good. That should help me to finish walking the ÅŒyama Kaidō this year.

Posted in Ōyama Kaidō.

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