Tenku no sato San san michi-no-eki.
Tenku no sato San san is a good michi-no-eki to spend the night. It is quiet, and the toilet is ok. There is a village loud speaker announcement at 6.30 am but we were up early anyway to set off for Ishizuchisan. We pick up onigiri for lunch at the Lawson across the road and follow Route 12 to the Ishizuchi skyline.
There are a few climbing routes to Mt.Ishizuchi. One of route (Omotesando) requires a Ropeway and Lift to reach the starting point at 1280m. Tsuchigoya route’s starting point is at 1492m and probably an hour shorter walk than the Omotesando route. So, we decide to start from Tsuchigoya.
After parking at Tsuchigoya where Ishizuchi Skyline ends, we begin our climb. Initially, the climb is very easy but soon becomes quite steep. It is not difficult underfoot but relentlessly steep, with few flattish patches where you can catch your breath. At first, one side of the ridge offers fine panoramas while the other is wreathed in cloud. The day began sunny but is clouding over fast and when we reached Tsuchigoya it was very cold.
Mt. Ishizuchi (Ishizuchisan) 石鎚山
As we get higher, the trees are feathered with ice where the mist has frozen during the night. This is beautiful but has a habit of dropping down your neck as if thaws off the overhead branches.
At last, we reach a Torii and think for moment that this is the summit only to discover that the structure beyond the torii is not the shrine on the summit, but a toilet. At this point on this route you can choose the “Ni no Kusari”. This is a 65m long chain to assist the ascent of a vertical wall.
Mt. Ishizuchi is an ascetic practice mountain for Yamabushi. There are four Kusari (chain) ascents. The Tsuchigoya route has two. one behind the toilet and another nearer the summit. The summit is still another 500 meters ahead.
Now this last 500 meters is very steep. Near the top, you again, have the choice of climbing a heavy-duty chain (Ni no Kusari) or taking a steel staircase. D. is definitely not up to chain shinning, so we opt for the steel stairs. After climbing steadily upwards for over 2 hours the last stretch is hard. The icy fronds of frozen mist over everything make everything mysteriously beautiful. This helps to ease the pain.
Once at the summit (Misen 1974m)) there is a Yama Goya, where serious hikers can stay, plus a shrine (Ishizuchi Shrine Okunomiya Chojosha) where Henro pilgrim can pray and a view that would be absolutely magnificent if it were visible. Unfortunately. we have been enveloped in thick cloud for the past hour and see nothing.
From this point you can go up to Tengudake (1982m) about another 25 min. This is a very narrow and steep cliff walk, we do not attempt it. There is no view anyway.
Once down, we take a bath at Kokumin Shukusha Furuiwaya-so. It is a bath – there is nothing more to be said.
Then to the supermarket in Kumakogen-machi. Here there is nothing to tempt our palates, so we make do with food from 7&I and return to Tenku no sato Sansan.
＊Furuiwaya-so onsen ; 400 yen /adult
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.