This is a comprehensive guide for people who would like to climb Mount Ishizuchi, the tallest mountain in Western Japan. The guide covers the two main transportation routes to the trailheads from Matsuyama and JR Iyo-Saijo Station respectively. Both routes have a day-hiking, overnight camping, and ryokan lodging options. All Shikoku Pass or JR Pass users can consider taking the train to Iyo-Saijo to make this a day activity. This guide also includes hiking route time estimates, some activities or highlights of notes, and lodging options.
Information Overview of Mount Ishizuchi
Mount Ishizuchi is the tallest mountain in Western Japan, with its peak Tengudake sitting at 1982 metres. The mountain is both a cultural landmark as a holy site for Shinto and Shugendo, as well as a popular hiking route for recreational and overnight hikers. The mountain has a signature sheer peak and is famous for its three sets of gigantic chains that climbers can use to get to the top (optional use). In the Fall, Mount Ishizuchi is famous for koyo, autumn foliage, where it attracts many visitors. In the Winter, it has a new years mountain festival, but I would not advise on hiking, as the mountain has snow and is a ski ground. Officially, the mountain hiking route is open between July and October, though you could probably hike it in late Spring and Fall as well.
Ishizuchi’s Hiking Season & Trail Recommendations
However, visitors should note that the mountain is high enough to have snow, so you can consider that the mountain is “closed” for hiking in winter.
Mount Ishizuchi’s paths are well-kept and natural. This means that the routes are dirt paths that are kept clear of weeds and fallen leaves. As the paths are natural, heavy rains can create extremely muddy troughs.
I highly recommend giving yourself at least one overnight stay to enjoy the highland air and natural scenes. If you are adhering to the bus schedule, you will have to walk fairly quickly and there won’t be much time to sit and just take in the view. For trekkers coming from Matsuyama, you can either stay at Kuma Kogen where the bus transfer is, or on top of Mount Ishizuchi.
Other hiking routes around Mount Ishizuchi
Mount Ishizuchi is connected by a series of hiking trails that can go to other peaks such as Mount Iwaguro 岩畔, Mount Otoko 男山, Mount Kamegamori 瓶ヶ森山, Mount Daigamori 代ヶ森, Mount Komochi-gongen 子持権現山, and Mount Ibuki 伊吹山. There are some rest huts and cabins up in the mountains that are like shacks without any amenities. Please also refer to this to this Ishizuchi Map.
From JR Iyo-Saijo Station, day-hikers can take a bus and cable car up to the mountain to complete the Omotesando Route and catch public transportation back. Transportation to Ishizuchi from Matsuyama takes a bit longer to get to and requires hikers to climb the full height of the mountain.
Below is a general breakdown to help you figure out what route might be suitable for your trip itinerary and the transportation needed to get to Mount Ishizuchi’s trail heads.
|From Matsuyama||Bus to Ishizuchi Tsuchigoya||Bus to Omogo|
|From JR Iyo-Saijo||Bus to Ishizuchi Ropeway + Cable Car||Bus to Ishizuchi Ropeway only|
|From Yokomine-ji||Walk from Yokomine-ji|
The guide below is formatted by where you are coming from. In each of the main sections, you will find additional information on transit times, basic hiking route information, and notes on accommodation. Below are three main places travellers start from to get to Mount Ishizuchi:
- Matsuyama to Ishizuchi-Tsuchigoya
- Matsuyama to Omogo
- Matsuyama to Kuma Kogen (and day hikes in the area)
- JR Iyo Saijo Station to Ishizuchi Ropeway
- JR Iyo Saijo Station to the Omotesando Route
- Yokomine-ji, Temple #60 in the Shikoku Pilgrimage
From Matsuyama to Ishizuchi-Tsuchigoya (Direct)
The closest main city to Mount Ishizuchi is Matsuyama, which is the capital of Ehime Prefecture and also has an airport. There is public transportation directly to 2 trailheads for Mount Ishizuchi. The further trailhead (Omogo) runs year round, but the closer trailhead (Tsuchigoya) is only during the season when the mountain is open.
Hikers going directly from JR Matsuyama Station will need to do a bus transfer at the town of Kuma Kogen. The first bus is takes you from JR Matsuyama Station to Kuma Kogen and is run by JR Shikoku Bus. The second bus is run by Iyotetsu Buses and takes you from the Kuma Kogen Business Office to Omogo. Note that buses to Ishizuchi-Tsuchigoya only operate on weekends and holidays.
Please refer to the bus service time tables below for the two daily bus routes to Tsuchigoya. For hikers who would like to hike from the further trailhead at Omogo, please proceed further down for additional bus times.
Iyotetsu Nanyo Bus Summer Service Times:
- Operates April 1 – November 30
- Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays
- 2 buses a day only
- There are more daily buses to Omogo
Buses from Matsuyama JR Station to Ishizuchi-Tsuchigoya (via Kuma Kogen)
|JR Shikoku Bus||Iyotetsu Nanyo Bus（Summer Service) Weekends Only|
|JR Matsuyama Station||Kuma Kogen||Kuma Business Centre||Omogo||Ishizuchi Tsuchigoya|
Buses Ishizuchi-Tsuchigoya (Via Kuma Kogen) to Matsuyama JR Station
|Iyotetsu Nanyo Bus（Summer Service）
|JR Shikoku Bus|
|Ishizuchi Tsuchigoya||Omogo||Kuma Business Centre
||Kuma Chugaku Mae||JR Matsuyama Station|
Note that this information is provided for simplicity. There are more regular buses to Kuma Kogen, and also to Omogo, which you can find in the sections below.
Hiking Route from Ishizuchi-Tsuchigoya to Mount Ishizuchi
Time from Bus Stop (One-Way): 2.5 – 3 hours
The 2nd page of this English guide has a general route map for the route from the entrance of Mount Ishizuchi and the Tsuchigoya bus stop. It also has 2 hostel listings.
Note that bus service to this route is only available between April 1 and November 30. From the bus stop, there is a public toilet before you ascend the mountain. In addition, you can stop by Ishizuchi Shrine, with the sacred grounds marked by a red torii gate before your ascent. Note that there are 2 routes up the mountain.
Route 1 (approx 2.5 hours one-way): The most direct route, via Mount Tsuru-no-ko-no-Kashira 鶴の子の頭. Note that this route comes up behind the mountain, which means you will not be climbing the three famous chains.
Route 2 (approx 4.5 hours one-way): This route is multisectional, so look for the signs that point you to Mount Ishizuchi 石鎚山. If you would like further information on activities and accommodation, please get in touch.
From Matsuyama to Omogo
This is section is additional information for people who want to head into the highlands in general, or who may want to stay overnight for a day or two. JR Shikoku buses run daily between Matsuyama Station and Kuma Kogen town as public transportation. Below are some of the main stops between Matsuyama and Kuma Kogen town.
Below, I have compiled the public bus time schedules. However, I believe the transfer bus stop between the JR Shikoku Bus and the Iyotetsu Bus are not not the terminus stops. To ensure you get off at the right place, please say to, or show, the bus driver:
“Ishizuchi-yama ni ikmasu. Norikae no basu-tei ni tomattekudasai.”
Please note that some buses only run on weekdays and others only on weekends.
From Matsuyama JR Station to Omogo
|JR Shikoku Bus||Iyotetsu Nanyo Bus (Summer Service）|
|JR Matsuyama Station||Kuma Chugaku Mae||Kuma Kogen
From Omogo to Matsuyama JR Station
|Iyotetsu Nanyo Bus (Summer Service）||JR Shikoku Bus|
|Omogo||Kuma Kogen||Kuma Chugaku Mae||JR Matsuyama Station|
Hiking Route from Omogo to Mount Ishizuchi
Time from Kamebara Cliff (One-Way): 3 – 4 hours
If you get off at Omogo Stop, you will have to walk about 1 kilometre to various sight seeing spots, and about 3 kilometres to the trailhead 登山口.
When you get off, you will be walking along a stream and you can follow signs to the Maple Leaf Rock, also called the Momiji Rock. That area has a few famous sights, such as the Yoroi Rock, Nunobiki Waterfall, and the Kamebara Cliff. After you pass the camping sites, you will get to a final washroom at the trail head 登山口. There is only one main hiking route, but you can look for signs that say Mount Omogo 面河山 and Mount Ishizuchi 石鎚山. This part of the route takes about 2.5 hours one-way.
From Matsuyama to Kuma Kogen Only
Finally, for people who want to go to the highlands, here are the buses that go to the town of Kuma Kogen. I have also included some additional stops in the city of Matsuyama in case you would like to get on from other central areas.
Buses from Matsuyama to Kuma Kogen Town
|Daily||Daily||Weekdays||Daily||Daily||Daily||Weekdays Only||Sat, Sun, Holidays||Weekdays|
Transfer to Omogo Bus
|Source: JR Bus Time Table for the Matsuyama – Kuma Kogen route (Japanese)|
Buses from Kuma Kogen Town to Matsuyama
|Daily||Weekdays Only||Weekends & Holidays Only||Weekdays Only||Daily||Daily||Daily||Daily||Weekdays Only|
Transfer from Omogo Bus
|Source: JR Bus Time Table for the Matsuyama – Kuma Kogen route (Japanese)|
Hiking and Activities in Kuma Kogen
Kuma Kogen actually means the “Kuma Highlands” and the bus stops in the town of Kuma. The town itself has cultural and hiking options as well. In fact, if you want a quicker, but highly interesting cultural hiking route, you can walk the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The route from Daihou Temple to Iwaya Temple is actually a historical mountain path. You can read more about the two temples and see photos from my diary entry for the Shikoku Pilgrimage. If you would like further information on activities and accommodation, please get in touch.
From JR Iyo-Saijo to Mount Ishizuchi
Getting to JR Iyo-Saijo Station
JR Iyo-Saijo Station is in between the main cities of Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, and Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. The station is serviced by both local trains and express trains. Note that not all express trains will stop at this station.
Note that if you would like to make this a comfortable day-trip, I suggest that you take the earliest train possible that allows you to catch the earliest bus (departing from JR Iyo-Saijo Station at 7:47am). This will give you more time on the mountain. If you plan to stay overnight on Mount Ishizuchi, you have much more flexibility.
The three main cities with express trains going to Iyo-Saijo Station are:
- Takamatsu: Ishizuchi express trains
- Okayama: Shiokaze express trains
- Matsuyama: Shiokaze express train
In addition to this, there are local trains. For this reason, the best thing to do is to do a direct search to Iyo Saijo Station on Google Maps to get a sense of your options. To search for a suitable train time, click “Directions”, input your trip starting point, and also click the “Leave Now” dropdown button and select “Arrive by” and you can input your exact date of travel, and the time you want to arrive by. The safe times to arrive by are 7:30, 10:15, 13:30, 16:15 so that you can catch one of the 4 daily buses to Mount Ishizuchi.
Express trains are comfortable, scenic, the best choice for travellers with an All-Shikoku Pass or JR Pass for all of Japan. If you do not have these passes, then make sure you check the price of the ticket so as not to be surprised. Express trains usually have two, combined ticket prices: one for the route, and the second for a “seat” on the express train itself, even if it is free seating 自由席. You can check the prices of the express trains on Hyperdia.
From JR Iyo-Saijo Station to Ishizuchi’s base
After you arrive at JR Iyo-Saijo Station, you will need to take the bus to Mount Ishizuchi. The bus costs ¥1000 one-way and you can pay in cash when you get in.
The bus stop is right outside the JR Iyo-Saijo Station. Look for a bus that says: JR伊予西条駅 → 石鎚ロープウェイ前. There was no English when I did the trip. You take the bus to the last stop, called Nishinokawa.
If you are standing at the main bus stop and have arrived before the departure time, you can be sure you do not miss your bus. Buses in the countryside may arrive late, but they will almost never depart early. If they are running early, they will usually wait until their scheduled departure time. If you are unsure, you can follow the people who look like they are going hiking. Usually, they will have gear such as walking sticks.
From Iyo-Saijo Station to Ishizuchi’s base (Nishinokawa)
|JR Iyo-Saijo Station||Nishinokawa (Last Stop)|
|Source: Setouchi Bus (Japanese Only)|
From Nishinokawa and Ishizuchi Ropeway to Iyo-Saijo Station
|Nishinokawa (First Stop)||JR Iyo-Saijo Station|
|Source: Setouchi Bus (Japanese Only)|
Hiking Route from the base of Mount Ishizuchi at Nishinokawa
The trailhead to Mount Ishizuchi should have a marker. If you need to use the toilet first, you should get off at the “Ropeway” stop before Nishinokawa and go to the toilet at the cable car station first. After that, it is about a 15 minute walk to Nishinokawa.
Please note that the description of this route covers only from the bus stop and base of the mountain. For hikers who follow Route 1, please also refer to the Omotesando route below that starts from above the cable car station. The time estimate in this section should be added to the additional time needed near the top of the mountain.
Route 1 (Approx 3 hours to join main route): To Ishizuchi Shrine and Omotesando Route
The main route should be clearly marked and basically follows along the slopes that the cable car goes up. This route joins the “Omotesando” day hike route in the section below. This means that the 3 hours you hike up this route is in addition to the hike to the peak of Mount Ishizuchi.
Route 2: Advanced Route(s)
At the first major trail fork, there will be a left route. This route is advanced and has further splits up the mountain. The various options will include joining part of the Omotesando main route, joining only in the last section with the climbing chains, or hugging Mount Omori and skipping Mount Ishizuchi altogether. That route eventually takes you down to the main Ishizuchi Shrine and the bus stop “Ishizuchi Tsuchigoya”, which is only serviced on weekends and goes to Kuma Kogen. If you take the most advanced route that still goes to Tengudake (Mount Ishizuchi’s peak), you should expect the whole route to take around 6 hours of continuous walking. You can look at this PDF map to get a sense of options from Nishinokawa bus stop.
From JR Iyo-Saijo Station to the Ishizuchi Omotesando Route (Day Hike)
Omotesando hiking route from the Ishizuchi Cable Car (1400 metres) and Joju Shrine to the peak of Mount Ishizuchi (1982 metres), the tallest mountain in Western Japan, in Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku. This guide tells you how to get to Mount Ishizuchi from Matsuyama JR Station via Kuma Kogen and Iyo Saijo Station, via Yokomine-ji. This post will also give you rough estimates of route length and time expected, as most of the routes will require at least one overnight.
From Iyo-Saijo Station to Ishizuchi
Please refer to the time tables in the section above for bus times.
The Mount Ishizuchi Cable Car
The Ishizuchi cable car car runs every 20 minutes during regular days an every 10 minutes during peak season. This means that it departs on the hour, as well as every 0:20, and 0:40.
From December until March, the Ishizuchi area has a running ski ground. For winter visitors, you can check the ski ground hours (Japanese).
|Jan 2 – April||8:40 ～ 17:00
※ Dec – Mar the Ski grounds are open
|May & June Weekdays
Sat, Sun, Holidays
|8:40 ～ 17:00
7:40 ～ 18:00
|Ishizuchi Festival (July 1 ～10)
Sat & Sun
|4:20 ～ 18:20
3:00 ～ 18:20
|July 11～ August Weekdays
Sat, Sun, Holidays, Obon
|8:00 ～ 18:00
7:20 ～ 18:20
Satu, Sun, Holidays
|8:40 ～ 17:00
7:40 ～ 18:00
|October ～ November 3 Weekdays
Sat, Sun, Holidays
|8:20 ～ 17:00
7:40 ～ 18:00
|November 4 ～ December Daily||8:40 ～ 17:00
※ Late Dec ～Early March the Ski ground hours
|New Year’s Day (Jan 1)||4:00 ～ 17:00|
|NO SERVICE||April 6 – 12|
The Omotesando Hiking Route from the Ropeway and Joju Shrine
Time from Joju Shrine Trail Head (One-Way): 3 hours
This is a useful 2-page English guide for the Omotesando hiking route, which includes information on accommodation.
The Omotesando route officially starts at the Ishizuchi Jōju Shrine (about 1400m), where there is a wooden gate with spirit guardians. Note that the last section has a series of 3 famous climbing chains, which are 33 metres, 65 metres and 68 metres respectively. You can refer to my climbing time log with the Strava App below:
Note on the return
If you are returning on the same route via the cable car, then look for the signs that say Joju 成就. Note that the last bus leaving Mount Ishizuchi Ropeway is around 5:20pm, so you should catch the 4:40 cable car at the latest.
It is also possible to go down the mountain through other paths, such as to Tsuchigoya (look for signs where the second chain is). Tsuchinoya has 2 buses on weekends only that take you out to Kuma Kogen, where you can transfer to Matsuyama. Please refer to the bus time tables in the section above on transportation from Matsuyama. You can also take a longer route down to Omogo as well, which has daily buses to Kuma Kogen, but do note when the last bus departs.
From Yokomine-ji for Shikoku Pilgrimage Henro
If you are an Ohenro-san, you have probably heard of Mount Ishizuchi in the guide. I think Mount Ishizuchi is absolutely worth the climb from Spring to Fall (not winter). Note that climbing Mount Ishizuchi will definitely take one or two extra days.
This route requires no transportation, as the assumption is that you will be hiking directly from Yokomine-ji through the mountains. If you are taking the bus, please refer to the sections above on transit to and from JR Iyo-Saijo Station.
The Imamiya Route
Time from Yokomine-ji: 5-8 hours
From Yokomine-ji, you should be following a narrow concrete car road down the mountain that eventually begins to follow the Kamo River. You will need to follow the river until you reach the bus stop called Koguchi 河口. This route takes about 2 hours.
From Koguchi, which means mouth of the river, you will begin the climb the Imamiya Route. The Imamiya Route is a mountain path and takes between 3-5 hours. You will know you are at the end of the route when you arrive at the Ishizuchi Joju Shrine and the mountain town with ryokans.
For the route information from the town please go up to the section titled “The Omotesando Hiking Route from the Ropeway and Joju Shrine” for a more detailed description. For more information on accommodation, please continue down below to the Accommodation section.
For Shikoku Pilgrims Walking the Whole Route
If you are a pilgrim who is walking the whole way, then you will probably need to retrace your step after ascending Mount Ishizuchi. The most direct route down the mountain will be to follow the Omotesando Route to the Joju Shrine and cable car station. From there, you can retrace the Imamiya Route out to Koguchi. Koguchi is the name of the bus stop that takes you out to Iyo-Saijo Station, but you will also recognise it when you see the road. If you don’t take the bus, you can continue to follow the Kamo River down the mountain, and back out to Temples #61 and #62.
For Taking Transit back to Temples #61 or #64
If you are open to taking the bus back out of the mountains to resume your walk, please refer to the section above on cable car and bus times to JR Iyo-Saijo. If you walked directly from Yokomine-ji, Temple #60, you will have to take the train back to Temple #61 to continue walking.
If you are more flexible with your route, then a better way would be to walk Temples #61 – #64 first as they are close together. Then do Yokomine-ji (Temple #60), and hike up to Mount Ishizuchi from there. As you have already walked to the other temples, you can continue walking immediately towards Temple #65 after the bus drops you off at JR Iyo-Saijo.
Accommodations Around Ishizuchi
Climbing Etiquette in Japan
Japan is a safe place to climb mountains and many routes are cared for by local communities. For this reason, this is a gentle reminder to go by the principle of taking everything off the mountain with you, so that you leave it in the same beautiful state you found it. Below are a few additional cultural notes to help you on your hike on Ishizuchi, as well as other mountains on Shikoku.
- Keep your garbage and take it down the mountain
- Say ‘konichiwa’ as a friendly ‘hello’, which the hiking community frequently does
- Say ‘sumimasen‘, which means ‘excuse me’ to pass people, or step in to use something (such as a water fountain)
- Keep conversation voices low as noise travels far
- Follow instructions in washrooms because the waste gets flushed right onto the mountain
Thanks for reading! If you found this helpful and want to learn more about Shikoku, please drop your e-mail for future post updates! Happy hiking!