Six Days in Shikoku: Going up Tsurugi-san

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Tsurugi-san is one of the two hyakumeizan in Shikoku, and at 1955 meters, the highest mountain overlooking the Iya Valley. There is quite a network of trails through the mountains on the south side of the Iya Valley, and I am sure they are worth exploring, but due to my limited time I picked Tsurugi-san which, in spite of being the tallest, is also the quickest to summit and descend.

The blue shows the route I went by train; the green shows the route I took with the old Japanese man, and the red indicates the location of Tsurugi-san itself

The blue shows the route I went by train; the green shows the route I took with the old Japanese man, and the red indicates the location of Tsurugi-san itself

There was a problem. 1) I did not have a motor vehicle, nor could I rent one due to my lack of an international driver’s license 2) there is no public transit to Mi-no-koshi (where the trailhead is) outside of July/August 3) it was not July/August.

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What I did is I took a train from Tokushima City to JR Sadamitsu station, which just happens to be a few minutes’ walk away from a road which goes straight to Mi-no-koshi. And I stuck out my thumb.

Above is a blue sky with little white puffs of clouds.  Below is a valley, flanked by green mountains on both sides, heading straight into another green mountain in the distance.  Above the distant green mountain is a blanket of white clouds

Looking down at the Iya Valley, from near Mi-no-koshi

There were a couple of young guys who stopped. I asked if they were going to Mi-no-koshi. They said, nope, they were going to ‘Tsurugi-san’, and then left before I could explain that Mi-no-koshi was the trailhead for Tsurugi-san. I’m guessing that they were not locals. I waited for over 40 minutes, and aside from those two young guys, nobody else was going in the right direction.

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I was beginning to lose hope, and considering taking a train out of Sadamitsu, when an old man stopped, and agreed to take me to Mi-no-koshi.

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The road between Sadamitsu and Mi-no-koshi follows the Sadamitsu river. In my diary I wrote that it’s “a beautiful deep valley with a river and green hills soaring above”. It whetted my appetite for reaching the Iya Valley (the Iya Valley starts at Mi-no-koshi). We passed through the one significant village between Sadamitsu and Mi-no-koshi, called Ichiu, and the old man said that he lived there. When I realized he was going out of his way to drop me off at Mi-no-koshi, I said that he needed have done that for me, but he insisted that it was his pleasure.

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The old man is not originally from Shikoku. He grew up in Akita in the Tohoku region – i.e. the other side of Japan. I would have been interested in learning more about him, but alas, my Japanese was not that good.

By the way, none of the photos in this post show the route between Sadamitsu and Mi-no-koshi since I didn't take any photos in the car

By the way, none of the photos in this post show the route between Sadamitsu and Mi-no-koshi since I didn’t take any photos in the car

When we arrived at Mi-no-koshi, the man insisted on buying me something to drink. I tried to refuse, and I tried to buy something for him too, but he refused my gift and insisted that I accept his. And then he left. The storekeepers agreed to watch my luggage while I went hiking up Tsurugi-san (this is another reason why I couldn’t do more extensive hiking – I’d have to find a place to store and then pick up my luggage).

A grey-and-rust-colored bird with a cream colored neck and face, with black on its crown and like a scarf around its neck, is eating sunflower seeds

This little bird was snacking on sunflower seeds in Mi-no-koshi

Mi-no-koshi has a temple, a few stores (only one was open), and I think there’s a minshuku or two, and possibly one or two other buildings, and that’s it. Oh, and of course, there is the Tsurugi-san ropeway, but I’d read it was a waste of yen, so instead I started hiking up on foot.

We look up at a really, really, really tall cedar tree

The first part of the hike passed through some forest.

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However, it only took about 45 minutes to get to the top of the ropeway, and the views started to open up.

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It seems most people take the ropeway after all, because once I passed it there were a lot more hikers around (to be fair, some of them were young children).

This is much like the previous photo looking into the Iya Valey, but with some stunted pine trees in the foreground at the bottom of the picture

Looking down into the Iya Valley again, from a higher location

Of course, the views over the mountains bordering the Iya Valley weren’t the only thing worth looking at.

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But there were also plenty of lovely views.

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In the foreground, on the right, is the shadow of a dead tree, with a single truncated branch extending to the left.  In the background there is a blue sky which is about to be swarmed by white clouds, with a green mountain peak below.  The top of the peak is still in the sun, but it's clear that the shadows of the clouds will soon thrust the entire mountain into darkness.

There are three routes from the top of the ropeway to the summit of Tsurugi-san. I picked the route which passed by a small Shinto shrine, Otsurugi-jinja, shown in the photo below.

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The reason I picked this route is that it passes by a little mineral spring which is one of the 100 Famous Water Sources of Japan, so of course I had to fill up my water bottle here (I had previously drank the water from the Kanrosen spring, which is another of the 100 Famous Waters, as well as well water from Matsumoto, which I think is also one of the 100 Famous Waters).

The srping is that rectangular dark hole in the ground, and that dipper helps people get the water out.

The srping is that rectangular dark hole in the ground, and that dipper helps people get the water out.

I then passed by this place with some really interesting rocks as well as a … temple? shrine? I’m not sure whether it’s Buddhist or Shinto, though I’m guessing Shinto since this mountain is primarily considered a sacred Shinto area.

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In addition to being a place of worship, it also has very basic quarters where someone can spend the night, and it seemed there was a woman (who seemed to be affiliated with the religious order which maintains this structure) who was overnighting there.

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In the next post, I will describe the summit of Tsurugi-san itself.

In the foreground, we see two grey, jagged rocks rise up, one on the left, one on the right.  In the background, we see the green mountains of the Iya Valley right before they get smothered with clouds.

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2 thoughts on “Six Days in Shikoku: Going up Tsurugi-san

  1. Pingback: Six Days in Shikoku: Summiting Tsurugi-san | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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