In keeping with last month’s post on places I must have passed a hundred times but never went to take a closer look at, this time I decided to have a poke around Mount Omuro, down on the east coast of Izu near the town of Ito.
I’ve been past here a lot because it’s just off the R134 coast road – a road I used to ride quite frequently. It’s also not far from the southern exit of the Izu Skyline, another road I’ve been on quite a few times. Mount Omuro is a volcanic cone of sorts, whose caldera, which has been turned into an archery field.
As you ride up to the cone – it’s quite easy to find – the roads are a bit battered but that’s because there’s a lot of things here – the whole area is something of a tourist attraction with lots of things to do, golf courses, restaurants, camping and so on, and of course Mount Omuro.
I pulled in to one of the many, many carparks, and since there’s not a lot of travelling going on at the moment, I was able to park right next to the chair lift station, punctuated with a large red torii, and this close up you realise this cone is quite tall – I don’t know high it is from the car park, but the top of the caldera is about 580 metres above sea level.
The lower station is somewhat generic – a small cafe, souvenir shop and a little bit of local history and adverts for some other points of interest nearby. It’s all perfectly serviceable and tidy, but after you’ve seen quite a few of these places, you’re left hoping for something a little more original.
As I said then, the only way from here at the bottom up to the caldera is via a chairlift. I had a quick look around but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of steps, so you’re looking at 700yen per person for a ride up. That’s no bad thing since even the chairlift takes a few minutes, but you could likely argue the price is a bit steep (pun intended). I have to say, as a snowsports fan, it’s odd going on a chairlift over grass – to be honest it was weird to get on a chairlift without a board on my feet, and getting off at the top was somewhat surreal given I usually just slide away from the lift chair. This time I had to walk.
From the top then, you realise the whole thing is covered in this long, mostly green grass, right down into the caldera and down all the sides. I’ve never seen a volcanic structure like this and I should probably do a bit of research into it as to whether it’s natural or was seeded at some point. I was also a bit early since once a year they apparently burn away the dead grass later in February as part of a festival – have to remember for next year.
At the top of the chairlift, once I’d recovered from having to walk away from it, and then had to realise that I couldn’t snowboard down, I had to think that if someone hasn’t tried some kind of sledging down from the top, then there’s something wrong.
The view is stunning. You kind of get used to great vistas in Japan, thanks to the sheer number of mountains, volcanos and coastlines, but this was quite impressive given how accessible it is. As you walk around the rim of the caldera, you get a great view in all directions, and I should say it’s now it’s not a flat rim – there’s quite an amount of vertical still to go if you want to walk all the way around, and since you’re up there, there’s no reason not to.
As you do that walk, there are several collections of jizou there. A jisou is a small statue usually of a Buddhist monk or Bosatsu and it’s easy to mistake older, more weathered ones as children or babies. They’re sometimes adorned with red bibs, which can enhance that effect, and are often associated with the protection of children, especially those who died early, but also of travellers. Usually there’s a collection bowl or box nearby.
It was a solid walk around, and I was glad I had chosen my biking books not just for their riding comfort and safety, but also because they were decent on a hike too. If you like landscapes, it’s fantastic, giving a view of other peaks, rice field pocked valleys, and the ocean all the way to the horizon. And golf courses.
The only other thing to do at the top is really the archery. It wasn’t open when I was there, but it’s fascinating to look down into the bowl and the manicured and flattened section at the bottom playing host to multiple archery target ranges. Intriguing, as it’s an activity on my to-try list for sure. Maybe next time.
The only other buildings on the rim are a small waiting area / cafe, the chairlift station, and a set of fairly new toilets which was quite welcome also.
The day I came as you can see in the photos, it was quite a clear, brisk February morning; if it were windy or a little more inclement, it might be less of a fun walk around, though the chairlift hugs the ground quite closely, so that shouldn’t be too concerning.
Definitely worth a trip out for sure. Perhaps during normal times you can make a day of it with some of the other attractions, many of which weren’t open the day I went. For the bikers in the crowd, it marks a nice destination or mid point in a day it given its location on so many wonderful roads, so it’s a bit of a win/win all around!