Evening on Sengen Ridge
We all need a reason to leave our warm, comfortable homes and go for a long run on a cold winter’s day. One reason for me is the incredible views that Hayama offers – views so spectacular that the Emperor had a villa built by Isshiki beach back in 1894. The same views lured the nobility, as well as many early foreign residents, to Hayama’s hills and beaches to have beautiful villas built in the latest fusion of traditional Japanese and western styles. Every year, during the Hayama Arts & Music Festival which is around Golden Week, a few of these old “besso” are opened to the public. Walking around these elegant houses it is impossible not to feel greatly saddened by the demise of most of these historical buildings, most of which have been demolished to make way for the latest fashion for concrete or plastic.
Dawn from our street
However, the views are still here. It is hard to pick a favourite, but the trail behind our house along the Sengen Ridge offers two of the finest. At the highest point of the ridge, a few of the trees were recently cleared to reveal a grand panoramic view of Isshiki to the south-west, right round to the deep bay of Zushi to the north. You can see why the Meiji nobility wanted to move here. It is a view like nothing else on Earth. To the south west, the curving sweep of Chojagaski island and sand spit protects Ohama Bay where we swim most Sundays. The palace is nestled among black pines behind Isshiki Beach, which CNN Travel ranked 65th in its “100 best beaches around the world”. Fifty kilometres to the south, the active volcanic island of Oshima stands alone in the Pacific. Moving northwards, the view from the hilltop is obscured by another ridge, Ominesan, which falls straight down into the Ocean at Shibasaki, a marine sanctuary where we snorkel all summer. From there the views become quite extraordinary. Sagami Bay sweeps round in a gentle crescent for 50 kilometres to the rugged Izu coast, with Amagi-san the highest point at 1406 metres. As the winter sun sets behind the Amagi range, it illuminates the iconic view of the white beacon off Shibasaki, the torii gate on Najima island, the lighthouse atop Enoshima island, and behind them all, snow-covered Mt. Fuji bathed in orange light. There is a famous list of 100 views of Mt. Fuji, which now seems to have 128 locations. Location 84 is Hayama, which confusingly has 4 different viewpoints listed, none of them Sengen. Clearly the authors of this list have not visited this spot on the ridge.
At the end of the ridge, the view from Sengen-yama itself is equally stunning. Unlike elsewhere, there are no trees to obscure the view (There used to be a large grove of cherry trees on the slope, but they all died, perhaps from the salt spray which is carried up during typhoons.) As a result, you get the same view as the black kites which circle overhead every evening hoping to be fed by the Episcopalian church further down the ridge. It is a place to sit for a while, eat a mikan, and soak up the perfect scene below.
Looking across Najima from Morito Shrine
Storm approaching Shinnase Harbour, Morito
The Episcopalian Church, Sengen Ridge
Shibasaki Marine Reserve
The torii on Najima island
Kayaking in front of Morito Shrine
Hayama Motomachi and Fuji-san
Lenticular clouds over Mt. Fuji