Mt Ishizuchi 石鎚山
Scale a stunning sacred peak with breathtaking views and hidden shrines
Mt. Ishizuchi is one of Japan's seven sacred peaks. Named "the Stone Hammer" for its characteristic sharp and rocky summit, it is the highest peak on the island of Shikoku and is known not only for its beauty but also for the challenge it presents climbers. But after a tough hike up this rugged mountain, you have a chance to relax and enjoy a rare kind of peace and tranquility at its peak.
- Gorgeous fall colors from October to early November
- Hiking sacred paths that meander through ancient forests
- Climbing the unique iron chains up almost vertical slopes on parts of the route
How to Get There
It requires careful planning to reach Mt. Ishizuchi by public transportation.
Take a bus from outside Iyo-Saijo Station to the Ishizuchiyama stop, then take the nearby ropeway for the Omote Sando route. This route is also known as the Joju Route. There are only four buses daily and two that will allow you to make the hike to the peak.
It's only possible to access the Tsuchigoya Hut by car, except on weekends and holidays during the hiking season when there are buses between JR Matsuyama Station and the Tsuchigoya Hut. The hiking season begins on July 1 and lasts until October. From late December to early March, the area becomes a ski resort.
If you want to go directly from mainland Japan to Mt Ishizuchi, take the shinkansen from any major city to Okayama. From Okayama, take the Shiokaze Limited Express train, which takes 1 hour and 50 minutes to Iyo-Saijo station.
Mt. Ishizuchi is 1,982 meters tall, making it the highest mountain in western Japan
Women cannot climb the mountain on July 1 because of an ancient mountain opening ceremony
The mountain is believed to have been a volcano 15 million years ago
A challenging climb
There are two routes you can take to the peak of Mt. Ishizuchi. If you are a seasoned hiker, take the 3 1/2 hour Omote Sando (Joju) route to the summit. This route starts at the top of the ropeway. Here, you can find Joju Shrine, an observation tower and a cluster of ryokans and shops.
The Tsuchi-goya Hut course is an easier climb, taking about 2 1/2 hours. The trail from the hut starts at a higher elevation and is a comparatively easier trail.
Toward the top of the mountain, the trails become steep and you can climb up some near-vertical faces with giant chains bolted to the cliffs. These are for the adventurous, with stairs offering an easier alternative. On reaching the summit you can walk along the ridge from the hut to the jutting peak. Here, you'll find stunning views of the Ishizuchi mountain range, the Seto Inland Sea and, on a very clear day, Kyushu .
At the summit, you can choose to climb the razor's edge peak of the mountain, known as Tengudake. Leave around two hours for your descent or if you're more adventurous, spend the night in the mountain lodge. The view of stars at night and the sunrise are spectacular.
Flora and fauna for every season
Spot hawks as they soar through the sky and some alpine plants that can only be found on this particular mountain range. During the fall, the mountain comes alive with vibrant hues of red and gold. This is a very popular time for hikers, so routes can become busier.
Visit hidden sacred shrines
There are various shrines dedicated to the mountain gods as you walk up the mountain. The flow of tradition and history seem palpable. The mountain has been used for religious training from ancient times, and to this day ascetics train here. Joju Shrine at the start of the main route is a simple yet elegant building with a large collection of stone hammers on display.
Crystal clear waters and verdant forests
You can take a day trip from Matsuyama to Mt. Ishizuchi, or spend a few days exploring the area of Saijo City and around.
If you plan to stay a few days in the area, take a walk in a dense forest alongside a clear tranquil stream in the nearby Omogo Gorge. Take the Honryu Trail along the mainstream. For a more relaxing walk, go along the Teppo River route, which also has many unusual rock formations.
The area is great for viewing fall colors. You can visit the Omogo Mountain Museum to learn more about the geology and nature of the area, plus the history of the worship of Mt. Ishizuchi. This area is a challenge to reach by public transport, but you can take a JR Shikoku bus to Kumakogen from Matsuyama Station for about 2-3 hours and get off at Kuma Chugakko. Then, take an Iyo Tetsu bus for Omogo bus stop, the gorge is a 15-minute walk.
Relax and recharge
After hiking, you can head back to Saijo city to enjoy a well-earned rest. Eat dinner in the Asahi Beer Park Iyosaijo, taking advantage of its all-you-can-drink option. The factory uses water from the mountain to make Japan's best-loved beer. Also try kurocha, a black fermented tea produced at the base of the mountain.