The Tsurugi – Miune Traverse | Hiking the Mountains of Miyoshi’s Iya Valley – Part 1
With continuous breathtaking views as it weaves along the ridge-line trail, the Tsurugi – Miune Traverse is one of the most majestic hiking routes in not just Miyoshi City, but in all of Shikoku. This 3 day (2 night) hike covers a total of about 25km and utilizes the mountaintop huts, with access to/from the trailheads by local bus.
Enclosed by towering mountains, the Iya Valley in Tokushima Prefecture’s Miyoshi City is famed for being a hidden place, and one of the best ways to understand this natural isolation would be to hike into the surrounding wilderness.
There are plenty of trails and mountains to choose from in Iya that all vary in length and skill level, but if looking for a challenging hike featuring some of the most sublime scenery on offer, then the Tsurugi – Miune Traverse would be it.
I describe this 3 day hike with starting at the Tsurugi Trailhead at Minokoshi Village and ending at the Miune Trailhead at Nagoro Village. But this hike can be done in either direction, and doing it in reverse may be necessary since the local bus to Mt Tsurugi Trailhead does not go every day of the week (explained below).
Accessing the Trailheads by Bus
*Please note, though effort has been made to explain how to use the buses, it is a bit confusing. Also, the schedules may change in the future, so please check with the bus companies again before you go.
Most people enter Miyoshi City via Ikeda Town, and the Shikoku Kotsu Bus into the Iya Valley departs from the Awa-Ikeda Bus Terminal four times a day, everyday all year. But to reach the trailhead of Mt Tsurugi, only two buses per day offer connections, and these depart from the Awa-Ikeda Bus Terminal at 8:15AM and 11:25AM.
If coming in by train, both buses then stop at JR Awa-Ikeda Station a minute later at 8:16 / 11:26.
Alternatively, if coming in via JR Oboke Station, the buses stop here at 8:56 / 12:02.
You will need to take the bus from Ikeda (or Oboke) all the way to its final stop of “Kubo” in Higashi-Iya, and this will be written on the front of the bus. The buses arrive at Kubo at 10:06 / 13:16.
At Kubo, you will need to transfer to the local Miyoshi Municipal Bus, and though the buses from Kubo go everyday of the week, the two buses which go all the way to Tsurugi Trailhead at Minokoshi (for the “Tsurugisan Bus Stop”) only go on certain days of the year, so you will need to schedule yourself correctly.
The Tsurugi Trailhead buses operate from mid-April to the end of November on every Saturday, Sunday, and National Holiday. The buses also operate every day of the week during three seasonal periods, which are in the spring during Golden Week (the final week of April and first week of May), in summer from mid-July to the end of August, and in autumn during every day of October.
If going during one of the three seasonal periods, then you can plan to start the hike on any day, but at other times of the year, you would need to start on a weekend or holiday for bus access.
However, by doing the hiking course in reverse, you can depart on a Thursday or Friday instead since the bus to the Miune Trailhead at Nagoro Village (for the “Nagoro Bus Stop”) goes every day of the week from Kubo, and then you can arrive 3 days later at the end of the hike (on Saturday or Sunday) at the Tsurugi Trailhead and take the bus back out from here.
(More info about the Nagoro Bus Stop at the end of the hike is given in Part 6 of this article).
So from Kubo Bus Stop, the local Miyoshi Municipal Bus departs a couple minutes after the bus from Ikeda arrives, either at 10:08 or 13:18. The final regular stop for this bus is “Nagoro” (for the Miune Trailhead, which is the end of the hike), but as explained, on certain days the buses continue further out to a final stop of “Tsurugisan” at Minokoshi for the Tsurugi Trailhead.
The bus from Kubo arrives at Nagoro at 10:33 / 13:43 (if doing the course in reverse), and it arrives at Tsurugisan (Minokoshi) at 10:58 / 14:08.
Tsurugi Trailhead to Nishijima Upper Chairlift Station
At Minokoshi, there are a couple options for starting the hike. You can either hike up Mt Tsurugi the whole way, or take the chairlift up about halfway and then start hiking from there. Taking the chairlift saves about an hour of hiking time, which may be preferable if arriving on the later bus.
If hiking the whole way, the Tsurugi Trailhead starts from the Tsurugi Shrine, which is located about 100 meters back down the road in Minokshi at the top of the stone steps.
After hiking about 15 minutes the trail splits, but both routes lead to the same point, which is the upper chairlift station at Nishijima. The left route is steeper and takes about 40 minutes to Nishijima, and the right route is more gradual and takes about 55 minutes to Nishijima.
If taking the chairlift instead, go across the parking area at Minokoshi to the far end, and the lift goes up from here.
It costs 1050yen per person (one-way) and takes about 15 minutes to reach the upper chairlift station at Nishijima. The chairlift operates daily from 9am to 4:30pm (from 8am on some seasonal days) from late April to late November.
At Nishijma there is a campground just below the lift station with some flat grassy tent spots if you are looking to do so (camping is not allowed on top of the mountain). Camping here is free, there is no staff or reservations, and you need to bring your own gear and tent.
In Part 2 of this 6 part article I will explain the hike up Mt Tsurugi from Nishijima and detail what it’s like to stay at the Tsurugisan Chojo Hutte on top of the mountain.
For more information about access and hiking in the Iya Valley in English, including detailed trail maps, check the Hiking Portal page on the IyaTime website. Complete bus schedules in English can be found here as well.
For the Shikoku Kotsu Bus, their webpage (Japanese only) is here:
For the local Miyoshi Municipal Bus, info on this (Japanese only) is here:
And the website for the Tsurugi Chairlift (Japanese only) is here:
(Text & Photos by: Shaun Lamzy)
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