Mt. Iino (飯野山)
Mt. Iino, known to the locals as Sannuki-Fuji, is a dormant conical volcano with commanding panoramic views. The ease of access and variety of paths make it a popular outing for both locals and tourists alike.
The hike: From the bus stop, cross under the overhead expressway and turn left, following the highway for a few minutes. Turn right on a road that climbs through a neighborhood of houses until reaching the start of the path at the Yagaikatsudou Center (野外活動センター). Although I personally haven’t done the hike from the bus stop to the center, the Japanese guidebooks tell me that it is well signposted. Just follow the signs that point towards 飯野山. From the center, the path climbs through a grass-lined park with an obstacle course set up for children. After about 10 minutes of climbing, you’ll reach a junction at the 3rd stagepoint (三合目). Turn right here and follow the wide, gentle path as it circumnavigates the full circumference of the volcano. It’s virtually impossible to get lost, and the views will open up in gaps between the trees. There are plenty of signposts, and the stagepoints are clearly marked. Just past the 7th stagepoint (七合目), you’ll see a path that crosses on your right. This leads down quite steeply back into town and is an alternative way off the peak (though there’s no public transport if you descend via this option). If you turn left here, however, you’ll climb up a shortcut to the summit that only takes 5 minutes. Don’t worry, though as the main path and this shortcut both meet on the summit, so take your pick. Once on the top, you’ll be greeted with a large shrine, a decorative stone etched with a famous poem from the late emperor Showa, and several dozen other hikers, depending on when you chose to climb. There’s plenty of grass to lie down on and contemplate life. Although the view is somewhat obstructed by trees, if you take a short side path marked おじょもの足跡・展望所 30m, it’ll lead to a wooden platform with a 180-degree panoramic view of the valley below. After admiring the views, retrace your steps to the summit and take the unmarked path to the right of the large stone summit marker. A short time after descending, this route will cross the main trail and continue heading down into the forest. Stay on this trail for about 20 minutes or so, and you’ll be back at the 3rd stagepoint (三合目), where you can retrace your steps back to the bus stop. All in all it should take about 2 hours or so to complete the loop, depending on how many breaks you take.
When to go: This hike can easily be done all year round, but watch out for the heat and humidity of the summer. The autumn colors are brilliant, as is the lush greenery of early May.
Access: There are 3 different routes up the peak from 3 different sides, but if relying on public transport your only option is to climb the most popular route up the peak. If you have your own transport, then park at Maruyama City Yagaikatsudou Center (野外活動センター) and hike in from there. From Marugame (丸亀) station on the JR Nosan line (40 minutes by Shiokaze limited express train from Okayama station), take a Marugame community bus bound for Marugame Danchi (丸亀団地) and get off at Iinoyamatozanguchi (飯野山登山口). There are 7 buses a day for the 25 minute ride to the trailhead. Click here for the schedule.
Map: Click here and scroll down to the bottom for a basic map.
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~400m)
Distance: 4.5km (2 to 3 hours)