Mount Miune – Standing 1,893 meters (6,211 feet), it’s Shikoku’s third highest peak. In the midst of rainy season, we were gifted a rare sunny day and decided to take the opportunity to hike our first mountain in Japan. We set off from the house around 7am and headed toward the town of Nagoro (The Scarecrow Village), deep in the heart of Higashiiya where the hike starts. Pass through Nagoro and as you are leaving the town, the trail head will be clearly signposted. Follow the sign, turning right off the main road, crossing a small bridge, and you’ll find the parking area. It’s as easy as that.
With our lunch packed, plenty of water, and our camera ready, we made use of the toilet facilities, then headed for the trail. You have two trails to choose from at the beginning. One is longer, but less steep, and takes you along a logging road for the first 45 minutes or so. The other option is steeper, but shorter, around 20-30 minutes, and is an actual trail. Both eventually meet up and put you on the same path, but it’s up to you how you’d like to start your hike. We chose the shorter route.
Things get pretty steep almost immediately and we found ourselves struggling a bit. It was a quick reminder that we’re not as fit as we’d like to be. After 20 minutes of hard work we reached the point where the two paths become one and celebrated the milestone with a drink of water.
Continuing along through the cedar forest, we saved a group of Japanese women from wandering down the wrong path, which they were grateful for, and continued the ascent sheltered from the sun by the thick canopy of trees overhead. After its initial steepness the trails incline becomes mercifully more gradual.
For the first hour and a half or so there aren’t really any views to be had and so we found ourselves enjoying what amounted to a walk through the woods, albeit a taxing one. Up and up we ventured to the soundtrack of bugs humming and birds chirping, summer. Eventually the landscape began to change. From brown earthen forest floor, to carpets of vibrant green plant life all around us, and finally to rocky terrain.
We found a large boulder and decided to climb to the top to look for a view. Looking out we could see the majestic Mt Tsurugi towering above all the other peaks, the blue waters of the Iya River below, and behind us, our final destination, the peak of Miune. It wasn’t far to go, but the last bit was certainly going to be the steepest and most trying.
Not much further along we reached a split in the trail and a sign with some unfamiliar kanji (though to be fair almost all kanji is unfamiliar to us) pointing us to the left. Not knowing any better we climbed down a steep rock face aided by a rope thoughtfully left there by the national parks service or some other thoughtful soul. Crossing a small stream we continued up the closest thing to a path we could find and eventually wound up in thick green grass. This is where and semblance of a trail ended.
Looking up we could definitely see a path, but it was some 50 meters away and would be a scramble to reach it. Turning back to find the correct path seemed like too much effort so we pushed on, eventually finding our way back on the trail once again. It turns out the sign we followed simply said ‘water’.
As we reached the top we were greeted by the infamous lake you see in all the photos and the hikers cabin. A little further and we made it to the view point. At 1,893 meters you can see out over the whole of the Iya valley. Tsurugi stands proud in the foreground as green mountains flirt with blue skies and clouds in the distance. It’s breathtaking.
We spent a little over an hour at the top eating lunch, taking photos, and enjoying the views. The hikers cabin is surprisingly nice and Amy and I decided we must return for an overnight stay. I can only imagine how incredible sunrise and sunset must be from up there.
The way back down is much easier and quicker, especially if you stay on the proper path. When we reached the split near the bottom we opted to take the logging road as we were in no particular hurry. It’s not particularly well marked and when the road split all we could do was guess, and luckily we guessed right, as to the direction we must continue. Eventually we reached the parking area and the hike was complete.
We hopped into Roxy, and with a feeling of accomplishment drove off. A quick stop in Nagoro to snag a few pictures of the scarecrows, and another to grab a cold drink from a roadside vending machine (we love you Japan), and we were headed for home. Sayonara Miune and matane (see you later).