Bizan is one of Japan’s smaller mountains; the summit rises only 280 meters (920 feet) above sea level. The mountain’s name means “eyebrow,” because Mt. Bizan apparently looks like an eyebrow at a distance from any direction. (I didn’t test this, but it did resemble an arching eyebrow from the two directions I viewed the mountain from.)
Mount Bizan lies in the province and city of Tokushima, on the Japanese island of Shikoku (the third of Japan’s four major islands, counting from north to south).
During my visit to Tokushima for the Japan Writers’ Conference last October, I had the chance to visit Mount Bizan and to ride the famous Bizan Ropeway to the summit. Hiking trails also offer visitors the chance to ascend or descend the mountain on foot, but since it rained the day of my visit (and because I had only a single free afternoon in Tokushima City) I opted for the ropeway instead.
The ropeway station is located inside the Awa Odori Kaikan, a museum and hall dedicated to Tokushima’s famous Awa Odori (more on this traditional dance in another post).
In the kaikan lobby, visitors use a vending machine to purchase a one-way or round-trip ropeway ticket. The round-trip ticket costs 1020 yen (approximately $10), and like many Japanese entry tickets, it’s a work of art:
The ropeway runs on the quarter hour. Visitors board one of two circular cars for the five-minute trip to the summit:
As expected, the views were lovely:
The day I visited, rain kept many visitors away. I had an entire ropeway car to myself, both going up and coming down again. On sunny days, the ropeway is far more popular – each car holds up to 20 adults (with seats around the perimeter for those who need to sit instead of standing).
The summit of Mount Bizan is relatively flat and larger than I expected. In addition to the ropeway station, the summit offers a large observation platform (with binocular stations) where visitors can look out over Tokushima City and the islands beyond:
The mountain at the center of the photo above is the former site of Tokushima Castle, which I visited the following morning (and will “tour” here on the blog in another post).
The summit is also home to several monuments:
Including a “peace pagoda” built to honor the dead of World War II – both Japanese and foreigners:
Numerous radio and TV towers also rise from the summit of Bizan – as the highest point in the area, it’s an ideal broadcast spot, though the towers make it difficult to photograph several of Bizan’s other points of interest, including Kenzan Shrine, a Shintō shrine that also occupies the mountain’s summit.
Curiously, the summit of Bizan also contains a map detailing several “walking tours of interest” for visitors interested in seeing the sights of Tokushima City. One led through the temples that cluster around the base of Bizan, while another included a walking tour of Tokushima Castle Park, and a third led visitors through the city’s shopping “sights.”
I found this curious, because I didn’t see any similar signs elsewhere in Tokushima (not even at the train station or the visitor center). Apparently, only those tenacious enough to summit Bizan – and alert enough to notice – get access to the suggested walks.
I photographed the maps and used the photos on my phone as guides for the rest of the afternoon.
Bizan is a small mountain, neither as famous nor as visually impressive as many larger peaks, but it is important to the people of Tokushima, and features in many local songs. It’s also a peaceful place to spend an afternoon, with lovely views, and well-worth a visit if you find yourself in Tokushima City. Remember the sign board, too – and visit the mountain early, so you can photograph the walks and use them to guide the rest of your time in Tokushima.
Do you like visiting mountains and outdoor sites of interest when you travel? Or do you prefer indoor attractions?