The Tsurugi – Miune Traverse | Hiking the Mountains of Miyoshi’s Iya Valley – Part 2
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.
From the Upper Chairlift Station at Nishijima there are three main routes to the summit of Mt Tsurugi and there are signboard maps (in English) at several places on the mountain showing the routes.
The shortest/fastest route is the “Ridge Trail” which goes out directly from the chairlift exit point. If hiking up to Nishijima, you need to go around behind the chairlift station to access this. This route takes about 40 minutes to the top of Mt Tsurugi.
The “Tsurugi Trail” is less steep and goes out from the front of the chairlift station. The trail starts from the wooden Tori Gate here, and takes about 60 minutes to reach the top. About halfway along this route is the Otsurugi Shrine.
The third option is the “Promenade Trail” and it starts just to the right of the Tori Gate for the Tsurugi Trail. Since the weather on the day I hiked was so beautiful, I opted with taking this route. It’s longer than the other two trails, taking about 80 minutes to reach the top, but the views along this route are spectacular.
The Promenade Trail to Mt Tsurugi Summit
From the start of the trail it is fairly level for the first sections of this route, with only a few parts going gently up and down. At first the trail goes through some forest, but soon enough the trees open up and some great views can be had looking down into the Iya Valley.
About 20-25 minutes from the start, the trail has a split with a side trail that goes steeply up and to the left. A short two minutes up this leads to the “O-shiki-mizu” water spring (the “Spring of the Gods”) and another couple minutes beyond this it connects to the Otsurugi Shrine (which is along the “Tsurugi Trail”).
The O-shiki-mizu water spring has a small shrine next to it and some water scoops, and it is considered one of the “100 Best Tasting Water Springs in Japan”. However, it wasn’t flowing that much when I stopped by, but back down on the main Promenade Trail about 30 meters after the turn off there is another spring easily seen right on the trail, and it was flowing nicely, so I filled my water here instead.
From the water spring, the Promenade Trail continues with some gentle inclines as it rounds the side of the mountain, with lots of great views. After another 20-25 minutes you will come to another split in the trail to the left. Go up this just a few meters to the Nidomi Viewpoint, which has a fantastic view of the valley, as well as Mt Jirogyu to the left and the towering stones behind the Otsurugi Shrine back down to the right.
The final part of the trail goes directly up from Nidomi Viewpoint, and it is a fairly steep 20 minute climb. At the top you come out to the wooden walking paths on top of Mt Tsurugi, and going to the right here for about 50 meters will lead to the 1955m summit point of the mountain.
After taking in the views, I headed back across to the other side of the broad mountain top along the wooded walking paths in order to reach the Tsurugisan Chojo Hutte.
Enjoying Tsurugi Chojo Hutte
Tucked into the side of the mountain and located just next to the small Hozoseki Shrine, the views from the hut look far out to the east, with Tokushima City clearly visible off in the distance.
The Tsurugi Chojo Hutte is full service and operates annually from April 28 to November 23. There are both private rooms and dorms available, and if you do not have a sleeping bag, then you can use their bedding instead.
The woodsy hut was established in 1955 (fitting since the summit of Mt Tsurugi is 1955m high) and it was founded and continuously operated by the Nii family. Currently the 4th generation of the Nii family is starting to take the helm, but while here I was able to speak with Tomotsugu Nii, who is the patriarch of the 3rd generation.
He welcomingly explained some of the hut’s rich history, and along the walls were some lovely old photographs showing what things were like in the past when the hut was first being built.
Mr. Nii was also quite proud of his small but dedicated staff who all add their own bits of influence to the hut, from arranging the interior decor to developing new items for the menu. And for sure, the meals were pretty amazing.
Usually for the mountain huts in Japan, meals are pretty simple since everything needs to be carried up, and basic curry and rice is often the standard if not only option. But that is certainly not the case here!
Dinner was a full set meal, featuring river fish, local somen noodles, and a range of seasonal vegetables and side dishes. They also had an extensive al a carte menu for lunch, and the staff was particularly helpful with explaining how they make everything by hand.
Sunset this evening was spectacular, and best seen back over on the summit which looks out to the west. And before settling in for a tranquil night’s sleep in my room, I spent a good half hour outside in the utter blackness of the night to see the vast expanse of stars up above, which are particularly fantastic here since this part of Shikoku is considered to be one of the darkest parts of Japan due to its lack of light pollution.
In Part 3 of this 6 part article I set off on the beginning of the traverse towards Mt Miune.
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.
For information about the Tsurugisan Chojo Hut, their website is here:
(Text & Photos by: Shaun Lamzy)
Exploring Oboke Gorge – Part 2 | A Place for Food, Fun… and Monsters?!
The thrilling cliffs of Oboke Gorge are formed by the mighty Yoshino River as it cuts its way throug
Exploring Oboke Gorge – Part 1 | A Natural Wonder of Miyoshi City
The mighty Yoshino River flows across much of Shikoku, and as it cuts its way through the rugged mou
Iya Kanko Ryokan – Part 3 | Inheriting the Tastes of the Iya Valley
Just a few minute walk from the famed Kazurabashi Vine Bridge, the Iya Kanko Ryokan has been welcomi
Iya Kanko Ryokan – Part 2 | A Family-Run Business Where Life is a Juggle
The Kazurabashi Vine Bridge is one of the most renowned sights of the Iya Valley, and just a couple
Iya Kanko Ryokan – Part 1 | A Traditional Inn near the Kazurabashi Vine Bridge
Acclaimed as one of Japan’s Three Unusual Bridges, the Kazurabashi Vine Bridge is one of the most fa
The Shikoku “Yukigassen” Snowball Fight – Part 2 | The Heat of the Battle in Icy Conditions
The 19th annual “Yukigassen” Snowball Fight Tournament was held recently in the deep mountains of Mi