The name means Stone Hammer, a suitably awe-inspiring name for one of Japan's 7 Holy Mountains. Most pilgrims only make it to the shrine at the foot of the mountain, but if pulling yourself up a mountainside on iron chains sounds like a good time, the climb to the summit is for you.
When to go
The official climbing season is from July 1st until October; note that the day the mountain opens is reserved for men only! It is, however, entirely possible to climb the mountain as early as May or as late as November, although facilities en route will be limited.
In the autumn (around mid-October), the hike up the mountain is a great way to view fall colors. However, on weekends during this time, the trail towards the summit becomes crowded and a bit congested with hikers (some with dogs too).
In the winter, a ski and snowboarding resort operates on the same grounds. The Joju shrine is open around the year and is a popular place to visit on New Year's Day.
From Okayama on Honshu, the Shiokaze Limited Express train makes hourly runs to Iyo-Saijō station (1 hour 50 minutes; ¥4940). The ride from Takamatsu on Shikoku is 90 minutes using the Ishizuchi limited express (¥4520).
From Iyo-Saijō, there are connecting buses to the start of the ropeway (1 hour, ¥970), but there are only 4 buses daily. As of October 2008, the 10:23 bus is the last that will get you there in time to make the climb and catch the last bus back (17:22). A detailed schedule can be found here (Japanese).
The Ishizuchi # 7, departing Takamatsu at 8:44, and the Shiokaze # 3, departing Okayama at 8:30, will allow you to meet the 10:23 bus departure. From Matsuyama, the Shiokaze # 12 leaving at 9:12 will also allow you to catch this bus. (Shiokaze and Ishizuchi trains generally split and combine at Utazu station.)
Nearly everybody takes the Ishizuchi Tōzan Ropeway (石鎚登山ロープウェイ) halfway up, although it's fairly steeply priced at ¥1000/1900 one-way/return. But if you don't, it's quite a hike up from 450 meters to 1300... If you do choose to walk instead of taking the ropeway be aware the "path" is poorly marked at best and quite dangerous in parts. It will take over two hours.
- For many visitors the final destination is Jōju (成就), the site of the main shrine grounds, a classically elegant and austere complex of buildings notably mostly for the variety of stone hammers on display here and there. The shrine is a leisurely 20-minute walk up from the ropeway station at an altitude of 1450 meters.
The thing to do in these parts is, naturally, to climb up to the summit. Figure on 3 hours for the ascent and at least 2 hours for the descent. There are lockers at the ropeway station if you want to leave excess weight behind, although they are too small for most rucksacks; ask nicely and maybe the staff can stow your gear for you.
- The actual trail starts at Jōju, through a torii gate marked with the characters 登山口 (tōzanguchi). The initial section of the trail in fact descends for the first kilometer, back down to 1300m.
- From the saddle point Hatchōzaka (八丁坂) starts an endless series of tiring wooden steps built into the mountainside to prevent erosion and landslides.
- After an hour of slogging through the forest, you'll reach reach the Yoakashi Pass (夜明かし峠 Yoakashi-tōge, c. 1600m) and see the last bit of Ishizuchi-san in front of you. Remaining distance to the peak is one kilometer, and remaining elevation to climb is 300 meters. There is a barebones camp site not far from here, with no facilities other than a patch of grass, and you probably don't want to lug a tent and sleeping bag up here.
- This is where the fun starts. You can, and many do, take a circuitous (if still steep) ordinary path (迂回路) to the top, but the pilgrim thing to do is to climb up the near-vertical kusari (鎖), giant iron chains, bolted onto the cliffs. There are three sets of chains, measuring 33m, 65m and 68m. The chains have footholds, very useful for resting your feet, but a good pair of boots will still come in handy. The final 68m ascent is the most hair-raising. Three points of contact at all times. . .
- Your reward is the peak of Misen (弥山, 1974m), with great views of Shikoku all around. There is also a small shrine and lodge here.
- The actual summit, needle-sharp Tengudake (天狗岳, 1982m), is right in front of you from here. Only a quick 15-minute hike away, the peak is sometimes off limits due to landslides that take the path with them, but (as of 2008) is accessible.
There is a small group of souvenir shops outside the Joju shrines.
There is a small group of restaurants outside the Joju shrines, and on the main road at the bottom of the ropeway.
Bring plenty of water if you intend to walk up to the ropeway station. Or you can drink from the pristine mountain streams.
- Chōjō-sansō (頂上山荘), tel. 0897-55-4168, ). The name is Japanese for "summit mountain lodge", an apt description of this mountain hut run by the temple. A night in fairly spartan accommodations with two meals will cost you ¥8500. Note that you will be expected to take all your garbage down with you.
- Ishizuchi Fureai-no-Sato (石鎚ふれあいの里), tel. 0897-59-0203, . 10 minutes down the road with a bus stop nearby, an excellent place to stay with comfortable and well-equipped cabins from ¥2,920 for 2, basic rooms starting at ¥1170 per head and riverside camping space at ¥200/person. There is a little restaurant on grounds, bathing facilities and barbeque pits. Note that this is really geared for larger groups, so call ahead to reserve and make sure the place is open (and not filled with grade schoolers).
This page was last edited at 00:15, on 30 November 2008 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Jenny Ta, Evan Prodromou, Jani Patokallio, Jose Ramos and Ian Kirk and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.