Mt. Iwaki (岩木山), the highest mountain in Aomori Prefecture is known as Tsugaru Region’s Mt. Fuji. While it is certainly a favorite to hiking enthusiasts, you can get to the summit of the mountain with as little as a 30-minute hike!
Your journey to the top of Mt. Iwaki CAN start from the symbol of the mountain – Iwakiyama Shrine (岩木山神社). We say “can” because, during the warmer seasons, Kōnan Bus provides direct bus services to the gondola lift station, which stops at the shrine. In this case, you might want to visit this beautiful shrine that has earned the name of “Oku no Nikko”!
You can, of course, climb your way up from Iwakiyama Shrine. This hiking course is known as Hyakuzawa Route (百沢登山道). This 5-hour hiking course is suitable for those with at least some level of hiking experience.
So How to Get to Iwakiyama Shrine?
The only way to get to Mt. Iwaki by public transport is to get a bus from bus stop no. 6 in front of JR Hirosaki Station (弘前駅) or bus stop no. 3 at Hirosaki Bus Terminal (弘前バスタミナール). You will need to catch the bus bound for Karekitai (枯木平) operated by Kōnan Bus (弘南バス) and get off at Iwakiyama Jinja-mae (岩木山神社前).
This trip should take you around 40 minutes if the traffic is clear. You can find the timetable on the right on Kōnan Bus’s website HERE. Note that only the main bus stops are listed. We have included the relevant bus stops’ names, so it is easier for you to refer back to when checking the bus’s timetable in Japanese as there is no English version. If you need assistance in reading the website, please contact us HERE, and we will get back to you.
How to Enjoy Iwakiyama Shrine?
Iwakiyama Shrine, first established back in the late 8th century, is located at the southeast foot of Mt. Iwaki. The Shrine and Mt. Iwaki itself are places of worship for the guardian deity of agriculture and fisheries.
Throughout its 1,200 years of history, the Shrine has endured all-weather and been rebuilt. But even so, some of the buildings that we see today are over 400 years old!
This red worship hall (社殿) is also known as Oku no Nikkō (奥の日光). How the building was designed and the intricate details especially resemble the Nikkō Tōshō-gū (日光東照宮) in Tochigi prefecture. It is no surprise that the worship hall and a couple of gates are designated National Important Cultural Artifacts.
Ancient cedar groves line the pass leading to the worship hall. The solemn but relaxing atmosphere surrounding the shrine will ease the stress of the day-to-day hustle.
Just in front of the worship hall, remember to look down as you walk up the staircases.
You should find these two stone statues called Tamagaki Komainu (玉垣狛犬) holding on to a stone fence. One is facing up, and one is facing down. Taking pictures with them will boost your luck with money (with the one facing up) and relationships (with the one facing down)!
So what does Komainu (狛犬) mean? Komainu is often referred to as lion dogs in English. It is the name for the lion-like statue guarding the entrance of the main gate in Shinto Shrines (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Iwakiyama Sakurabayashi Park (岩木山桜林公園)
From the back of the shrine, if you walk straight for 20 minutes or so, you will find Iwakiyama Sakurabayashi Park.
It is a gorgeous park in spring when the cherry blossoms bloom from late April to early May.
Except for winter, it is also a free campsite that anyone can use. But please note no tents are available for rent, so it is probably not a campsite for tourists.
Mountain Pilgrimage – Oyama Sankei
Oyama Sankei (お山参詣) is a 3-day pilgrimage event at Iwakiyama Shrine. If you are interested in joining the entire event, make sure you are at the Shrine 2 days before the 1st of August on the LUNAR calendar (meaning some time in September each year).
It is an event for the participants to pray for family safety and agricultural prosperity. The first two days of the pilgrimage are taking place at the Iwakiyama Main Shrine.
On the 1st of August, worshippers get up at 2:30 in the morning and head for the inner shrine of Iwakiyama Shrine (岩木山神社の奥宮) at the summit of Mt. Iwaki.
As the sun begins to break through the horizon, the worshippers join their hands towards it and make their prayers.
On the 1st of January, there is another pilgrimage event at Iwakiyama Shrine. Winter’s Oyama Sankei (冬のお山参詣) is the same ritual that is performed on the 1st day of the Oyama Sankei in August in the lunar calendar.
Proceeding Further to the Summit of Mt. Iwaki for a Spetectular View
After you visit Iwakiyama Shrine, the next stop should be Mt. Iwaki at the back of the shrine. Although it is 1,625-meter tall, getting to the summit isn’t a hard thing to do!
For more information on how to get to the top of Mt. Iwaki without too much effort, refer to our article on Mt. Iwaki (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Discover the Hirosaki’s City Center
To get to Mt. Iwaki, you will surely arrive at Hirosaki’s city center first. It might also be where you will spend a night before departing for Mt. Iwaki.
So refer to our Hirosaki City article for all the attractions we recommend!