Mythical Dragon-Horse Mountain: RYUBA-SAN

りゅうばさん 

Hiking Guide to the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture

竜馬山

RYUBA-SAN

Mountain in Kaneyama Town with a distinctive precarious cliff face.

Ryuba-san AKA Komaga-take or Myojinga-take, is a peak on the western banks of the Kaneyama river. Located in the Miyachi area of Kaneyama Town, the mountain is renowned for its imposing cliff face. According to folklore, when Shugendo was banned on Kamuro-san, the Kami (deities) became angry and caused flooding all over the town. This was how Ryuba-san got its shape. However, more realistic is that the mountain formed from an undersea volcanic eruption. The eruption sent out lava that collapsed under its own weight, causing the unique mountain shape.

Legend has it Ryuba-san is home to a Ryuba, a mythical beast. Ryuba have a white dragon upper-half, and a horse lower-half (see the Maya-san article for more). Once every few decades, the Ryuba can be seen flying up into the sky. In addition, Fudomyo’o, (AKA Acala The Immovable) made his presence known inside the cliff face. In the past, locals dedicated a hall on the mountain called Fudomyo'o-do to the Buddhist god.

The History of Ryuba-san

Along with Kamuro-san, Ryuba-san was revered by samurai and commander Sakenobe Hidetsuna. Similarly, the clan lord of Shinjo domain, Tozawa, also loved the mountain. Tozawa claimed Ryuba-san as the number one mountain in Japan. Each year at the festival on June 28th there was a parade for the clan lord.

In the lower half of the mountain, there are many old shrines. This shows just how mysterious this location really is. Ryuba-san enshrines 12 Kami reincarnated as objects of nature. Even now, in conjunction with the Kaneyama Matsuri (festival), there is a ritual called the Oyamagake (venturing into the mountain). During the ritual, groups of worshippers first wake up very early. They don ceremonial white jackets, and climb to the summit of Ryuba-san visiting 12 locations of worship along the way. There is a shrine at the base of the mountain dating back to 1762. There is another location of worship on the other side of the river too.

Ryuba-san Trail (1 hour one-way)

Please note, the trail becomes heavily overgrown, and is difficult to climb up. It's best to go up when the bush isn't overgrown, or if there is no snow. The best time is around April or May, or October to November.

There are two car parks at the intersection to the Sakanashimizu hamlet. Head west. Then about 700 m along the sealed road you will see a gravel road. Turn right, and in about 900m to the north you will find the trailhead. From the trailhead you can see Chokai-zan. At the start the path is easy to hike on, but you will soon come across the deep bush. Either climb when the leaves have fallen off right before the snow falls, or with a machete and GPS.

After getting through the bush, you will come across a ridge from where you can more easily see the trail. First the trail takes you through a cedar forest, and soon enough a broad-leaf forest. To the left you will pass a narrow ridge with a sharp drop. Take all precautions here. Once past what seems like the summit, soon you will come across a marker which indicates the real summit. From here right in front you can see Taihei-zan and the Ariya area of Kaneyama Town. There is a path that heads south from the summit. However, it goes along a precarious cliff face and is extremely dangerous and best avoided.

References

Yamagatayama.com (Japanese)

RYUBA-SAN

竜馬山りゅうばさん 

Mt. Ryuba, Mt. Ryubasan

Ryuba-san (Mt. Ryuba, 竜馬山りゅうばさん) is a 521m (1709 ft.) peak in the Mogami region of Yamagata prefecture. Ryuba-san is best climbed from October to November. Ryuba-san is a level 1 in terms of physical demand, which means it is easy to hike, has a D technical grade, which means it requires a relative amount of expertise, and you want to allow at least 2 hours for a climb.

Mountain Range

Ryuba-san

Region

Mogami

Elevation

521m (1709 ft.)

Technical Demand

D (requires a relative amount of expertise)

Physical Demand

Level 1 (easiest to hike)

Trails

1) Ryuba-san Trail (1 hour one-way)

Best time to climb

October to November when there isn't as much bush to combat

Day trip possible?

Yes

Minimum Time Required

1 hour one-way

Google Map with trailheads and summit.

PDF Maps by TheHokkaidoCartographer and JapanWilds.org. See all here.

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