After a few days of sight seeing, Julia and I were itching to go on a hike. Lucky for us, hiking is a huge part of Japanese culture. Even in the sprawling city of Tokyo, we only had to travel 50 minutes by train to the hiking trails of Mt. Takao. Mt. Takao is a popular outdoor recreation area for people living around Tokyo, as it offers hiking and access to temples.
Starting at Shinjuku Station, we caught a local train with one connection to Takaosanguchi Station. Takaosanguchi is a very nice station with a few choices for food and drink, as well as a visitor center with English speaking assistance. There is an onsen hot spring close by as well as the Takao 599 nature museum. The museum is free and offers an education on the area surrounding Mt. Takao.
After grabbing a trail map from the information center, Julia and I realized that we didn’t have enough time to hike the entire trail to the summit of Mt. Takao. To cut the time down, we decided to take the cable car half way up the mountain. Usually, this is not something I’m a fan of, but since this is the steepest cable car in Japan, I was excited to give it a try. There is also the option of taking the chair life up the mountain. Both modes of transport leave from the same building. The line on the left is for the cable car and the line on the right is for the chair lift. The road from the station to the cable car had numerous restaurants and many options for food choices.
At the end of our cable car ride, we stretched our legs and enjoyed the views from the the observation deck. There are a few table vendors up there hawking crafts and wares.
There are numerous trails that lead to the summit of Mt. Takao, but we opted for the most popular, Trail No. 1. This trail is broad, mostly paved, and gives hikers a chance to see all the major sites along the way. This is a far cry from my trail preferences back home, but I was feeling like a tourist and wanted to enjoy it. I hope to return to this area at some point in the future. As I looked at the trail map, I saw that this area is close to the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park full of an abundance of trails leading to peaks. On this day, I set my focus on reaching the 599 meter summit of Mt. Takao.
The first kilometer on this trail is on a brick road and passes by a monkey park. We opted to pass this attraction as neither of us can stomach the sight of captive wild animals.
The first major site on this hike comes at the halfway point with Yakuoin Temple. This area was very crowded as many come to pray to the mountain gods for good fortune in life. I’m usually not one for souvenirs, but I picked up a Buddhist bracelet at one of the temple stands.
After hiking for about an hour with a ton of breaks mixed in to enjoy the sites, we reached the 599 meter summit of Mt. Takao. The views back towards Tokyo were pretty incredible. It was also a real treat to see all of the beautiful park land to the east and northeast. I’m used to hiking on dirt and rock with very few people on the way. This hike was very different. The summit of Mt. Takao was the most crowded mountain summit I’ve ever stood on. I guess that’s to be expected when the path is paved, a cable car brings people half way, and the location is right outside of Tokyo. Nonetheless, I was really enjoying it.
Having taken the cable car on the way up, we decided to take the chair lift on the way down once we did our part by hiking back halfway. I have to say, this was probably the safest looking chairlift I’ve ever seen. There is scaffolding built up so that there is only a 5 foot drop between riders and the raised platform.
Our final moments in Takao were spend enjoying the cherry blossoms and street foods, before making our way back towards Tokyo.
Taking the JR Chuo line back in to Tokyo meant our station change for the Metro was at Shinjuku Station. Instead of hoping on the Metro right away, we decided to walk around Shinjuku a bit and enjoy the skyscrapers, bright signs, and back alley neighborhoods. Shinjuku Station is the wold’s busiest rail station with more than 2 million people a day. Shinjuku is also home to Kabukicho, Japan’s crazytown and redlight district once the sun goes down. Kabukicho also has the Golden Gai, a great nightlife district with numerous small bars and eateries. Many are so small they can only fit a handful of customers.
Julia and I only walked around Shinjuku for a short while before stopping to get dinner and returned back to our hotel. We had an early morning train ride back to Kyoto, and wanted to have our energy ready as we’d be visiting the famous city of Nara.