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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
The first part of the hike passed through some forest.
However, it only took about 45 minutes to get to the top of the ropeway, and the views started to open up.
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).
Of course, the views over the mountains bordering the Iya Valley weren’t the only thing worth looking at.
But there were also plenty of lovely views.
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.
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).
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.
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.
In the next post, I will describe the summit of Tsurugi-san itself.