Hiking on Mt. Bizan #2
Tokushima city’s own backyard trails
Mt. Bizan, it is THE symbol of Tokushima city.
Standing right behind downtown Tokushima, it takes only a ten minute walk from Tokushima station to get to the foot of the mountain. Though cars and ropeways can easily access the observation park on its top, would you care to walk up instead?
Only the locals know several good trails that are hidden all around this symbolic tabletop mountain. While finding some traces of Tokuhima’s history along the way, let’s enjoy a casual hike!
Read "Hiking on Mt. Bizan #1"
Mt. Bizan mini shikoku 88 pilgrimage route
Mt. Bizan is not a high mountain with an altitude of only 290m. But the wash basin shape extending east and west gives many more options to draw trail lines for local hikers.
One popular route is the Mt. Bizan mini Shikoku 88 pilgrimage route, starting from Kotohira jinja Shrine located on the Seimi-cho neighborhood side mountain foot.
The steep stairs leading through the shine stone gate is the trailhead of the route. Thankfully, the number of steps is less than 100.
The big stone lantern beside the gate is 10 meters tall and actually one of the biggest in Japan. Kotohira Jinja enshrines the god of the seas, ships, and fishing and is usually found standing at places overlooking the sea.
These days, the shrine is located in an inland area of Tokushima city but the coastline used to be much closer around here.
Take the narrow path to the right side of the shrine to go deeper into the woods, and walk up the sharp steep stairs towards the blue sky.
There, you’ll find another shrine of Inbe Jinja.
Through there is nothing flashy about this shrine, Inbe Jinja shrine has an ancient and honorable origin related to the clan who opened and cultivated the land where Tokushima now is and is classified very high of all Shinto shrines in Japan.
Proceeding to the paved narrow road going further behind the shrine, many small stone Buddha images are standing along the road.
Mini versions of the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage plus the Saikoku 33 pilgrimage are set around this side of mountain and the stone Buddhas are the main deities of each temple.
There are an uncountable number of such mini Shikoku 88 and Saikoku 33 pilgrimages all over Japan, even on Hokkaido island for the people in old days who could not easily travel all the way to Shikoku or Kansai to walk the real ones.
It funny to realize the fact that Tokushima IS in the middle of the real Shikoku 88 pilgrimage and 10 or more of the pilgrimage temples are located around or within a short distance from Mt. Bizan.
This is not the only mini-Shikoku 88 in Tokushima but surprisingly a huge number of them were set up and still exist in Shikoku along the real pilgrimage trails.
Nowadays, this mini pilgrimage course seems a very popular daily walking exercise place for local people, especially elders, living in nearby neighborhoods.
It also provides a nice lunchtime workout for the people working in the offices as it is possible for one to walk up and down this route within an hour if they are fit.
Eventually, the paved narrow path connects to a winding driveway and the trail to the top of the mountain soon branches out into woods.
It’s a truly lush green trail giving you the feeling of a much higher mountain trail if the stone Buddhas keep lining up along it.
Striding through the quiet green tunnel with only birds singing around, it is almost unbelievable that you are still right next to one of the busiest area in Tokushima.
The last ascent to the top becomes steeper to give you a final challenge to push through, but the amazing view from the observation deck is really worth the effort.
Going to the left of the observation deck, passing some big broadcasting towers, Trurugisan Jinja is a modest-sized shrine away from the joyful voices of tourists.
This shrine serves as the place for worshippers of Mt. Tsurugi who cannot visit the sacred mountain in person to give prayers from a distance.
In fact, if you go behind the big Burmese style white pagoda, the entire ridgelines and peaks of Tsurugi mountains are clearly visible on sunny days.
Mt. Bizan ridgeline trail
Last but not least, we cannot miss the trail that actually hits the summit of Mt. Bizan.
Though many would think the mountain observation deck area is the highest point of Mt. Bizan, the true peak is located much further west, around the mid point of Mt. Bizan’s long ridgeline.
To get the trail head, you have to walk through Bizan park stretching behind the observation deck area.
Along the way, you will pass a white gazebo which was presented by Tokushima’s American sister city, Saginaw, MI, as well as the grave of the founding father of the feudal lord of Awa (old name of Tokushima), Hachisuka family.
Until the sign of the ridgeline trail, called Bizan Jusoro (through hike trail,) walk along the road for a while.
The ridgeline trails mostly go through green tunnels and rarely have good viewpoints, which is not such a bad thing as you’d rather want to feel as if you are really deep in the mountains than seeing towns and electric poles.
The thick forest of native trees shields you from the noise of the town and saves only the sounds of the leaves under your feet and the birds in the trees.
The ridgeline trail is mostly flat and well-marked, no wonder local trail runners love to practice regularly here.
The last few hundred meters include sharp downward inclines, but the ropes stretched between trees help you not to slide down.
Then, the western edge of the ridgeline trail meets a stone Jizo buddha image sitting in the middle of another trail crossing the west lower part of Mt. Bizan north to south.
It’s an old Shikoku pilgrimage trail called Jizo-goe, which is popular route for the modern walking pilgrims to shortcut the busy part of Tokushima city to head to the southern temples.
These trails are some examples of what Mt. Bizan can offer.
With various intensity levels, Mt. Bizan hiking is all-age friendly activity and surely the most accessible mountain from downtown Tokushima.
Another great option to consider for the itinerary for your next Tokushima sightseeing trip was discovered!
● Download “HIKE! TOKUSHIMA” booklet