A clear, pink dawn as we set off for Tsurugisan (Mt.Tsurugi). We drive about 40 kilometres along R.438. and arrive at the chair lift station, ‘Minokoshi’, before 10 am. under a blue, blue sky in warm sunshine.
The chair lift ticket is 1860-yen return, but it whisks you up from 1,420 metres to 1,750 metres in 15 mins. The summit is 1,955 metres.
There are 4 courses to the top from the chair lift station ‘Nishijima’. We avoid the Ridge course – it being the shortest and most popular – and take the Yuhodo course. This is longer about 2km and, as we later discover, by far more pleasant and scenic. Eventually, we veered off this course to follow the route to the next peak, Jirokyu, just to check the view, expecting to retrace our steps. However, as we find another trail to the summit of Tsurugisan we follow it. This section is a steep but rewarding climb. The footing here is very uncertain, the track consisting of loose stones.
Once at the summit, there is large wooden platform where we eat lunch enjoying the panoramic view. It is clear and sunny but the distance too hazy to make out the Setonaikai and the Seto Ohashi.
To descend, we take the Ridge route, only 900 metres, to the Nishijima chair lift station. But, again, we branch off the route, this time to visit the shrine.
This is a pretty path though the shrine itself is not worth visiting. However, from the shrine we could take yet another trail back to the chair lift so complete a circular route without covering the same ground. From my limited experience, of one visit to Tsurugisan, I think this round-trip course, we stumbled on, a good way to hike the mountain for the less than hard core but more than casual tourist.
Back at the car, we descend on R. 438. This is a fun road to drive, but the narrow sections and blind corners demand maximum attention. At one point, actually on the way up, the warning of all those signs you see about falling rocks became a reality. From the “clonk” on the roof followed by the rattle as something rolled backwards before falling off, we knew we had been hit by a falling pebble. It must have been very small as I could see no mark on the roof of the van.
Takarada no Sato Saita michi no eki.
Once down, we move into Kagawa Prefecture along R. 12 and R. 32 and stop for the night at Takarada no Sato Saita. This michi no eki has an onsen but a little distant as in two minutes’ drive. Nice enough onsen, a big bubbly bath but I missed the outside bath as it was separate, and I didn’t notice it. The michi no eki toilet looks good from the outside but is fair to poor.
As I write the bosozoku are revving motorcycles around. It may be a problem in the night.
＊Takarada no sato ‘Tamaki no yu’ ; 510 yen / adult (monday close)
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.