At the end of the road in front of Ehime University is a large stone torii gate that leads to Gokokujinja or Gokoku Shrine, and rising up immediately behind the shrine is a mountain peak that wears a different face in every season. This is Miyukiji-san. It’s easy to climb and offers spectacular views over Matsuyama.
There are two paths up the front of the mountain, but the one near Gokoku Shrine is easiest to find. If you stand on the bridge over the stream in front of the shrine with the shrine to your back and look to your right, you can see little bridges going off into the distance. The second bridge is the one you want. This leads past the Isso-an hermitage, covered in another article. Isso-an is on your left as you carry on up into the graveyard of Miyuki Temple. The path to the mountain goes up to the right. You’ll know it by its steps reinforced with wood.
The route is very steep but short, and you can get to the top in about fifteen minutes. As you go up, you pass a little shrine or temple thing on the left, and further up there’s a picturesque cliff with a decaying shrine and a Buddha statue beneath it. Eventually you come to a T-junction. The left branch takes you to a different peak while the right branch goes to Miyukiji-san. On the final stretch, the path is rocky.
At the top is a cairn of rocks chained together and topped with a concrete pagoda. There’s various other junk standing around that would best be taken away. But it seems churlish to talk about these things when there’s an amazing view across to the castle. There it stands, looking small and precious on its huge hill, with the Seto Inland Sea glinting behind it. On a clear day, you can see the long peninsular that juts out from the west of Ehime prefecture and the snow-capped mountains to the south. In the opposite direction, if you look carefully, you can pick out the green roof of Dogo Onsen Honkan amidst its high rise neighbors. To the north is a little valley of bamboo and mikan orange groves.
You can go back down the way you came, or follow the path that passes under the stone torii gate. This path takes you into the part of Matsuyama called Iwaidani, which lies in the direction of Dogo Onsen.
This is an easy walk and the view is very rewarding. If you’re visiting Isso-an and Gokoku Shrine, I recommend you take the time to climb Miyukiji-san. There are some significant cliffs, so keep to the paths. And if you have them, take binoculars and a telephoto lens.