Where to Hike in Tokyo

 

For hardcore outdoors enthusiasts, the 7+ hour overnight climb of Mt. Fuji may be a dream come true. If you prefer a more leisurely experience with nature, Mt. Takao might be the right fit for you. It certainly was for me.

Mount Takao is a popular sightseeing destination with a plethora of fun activities beyond those you might expect on a mountain.

The area is easily accessible from Tokyo, with a direct train from Shinjuku Station on the Keio Line taking about 50 minutes and costing ¥390—perfect for a daytrip. The train takes you to Takaosanguchi station (高尾山口駅), a few minutes’ walk from the foot of the mountain.

kotsuzake

kotsuzake

As for hiking the mountain, several options are available. There are six numbered trails up the mountain.

#1 takes about 90 minutes to traverse and is the most popular and easiest technically, being fully paved, and has the best access to the mountain’s non-hiking attractions. #2-#6 are unpaved and offer varying levels of steepness and difficulty.

Expect to meet many fellow hikers!

tako-sugi

tako-sugi

The “Beer Mount” is an all you can eat and all you can drink outdoor restaurant that runs during the summer months. It serves mostly Japanese cuisine from a buffet—dumplings, oden, and a variety of beers, sake, and teas and other soft drinks. Though very busy on the weekends and evenings, we had little trouble finding seats on a weekday afternoon. While a bit of a splurge (at ¥3800 for men and ¥3300 for women for two hours), I found both food and drink to be great and especially delicious after working up an appetite from hiking. After eating, we sauntered the rest of the way down trail #1 and took the train back to Shinjuku.

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A multitude of shops and restaurants line the road from the station to the trailheads, and it was here that my hiking buddy and I made our first stop for a treat: kotsuzake[1] (骨酒, literally “bone sake”), a uniquely Japanese beverage consisting of hot sake steeped with a whole grilled fish.

To my surprise, I enjoyed this despite my initial hesitance. The fish lended a wonderful roasty, salted, and mildly but not overbearingly fishy flavor to the sake, while the fish (eaten afterward) was infused with the sake’s sweetness, not unlike a marinade.

I would wholeheartedly recommend it!

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For maximum relaxation, both a chair lift or cable car can take you about halfway up the mountain. My friend and I opted for the chair lift, which offered excellent sightseeing on the way up, followed by trail #1 to the summit.

Along the trail we stopped at “tako-sugi,” a cedar tree with octopus-like roots commemorated by a very cute statue. We also saw Yakuoin Temple, a buddhist temple with beautiful architecture and more statues. Once you reach it, the summit offers wonderful views of Tokyo and, if you’re lucky with weather, Mt. Fuji.

Descending the mountain, we opted for trail #4, which was only slightly more difficult than the paved trail but brought us deeper into the forest and over a highly photogenic wooden suspension bridge. This trail rejoined trail #1 at the halfway point, near the chairlift and cable car stations as well as our final stop for the day: the Takao “Beer Mount.”

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With all the trail options and supplementary activities (including many I didn’t mention here), Mount Takao a trip easily tailored to individual tastes whether you’re a nature aficionado, relaxed foodie and sightseer, or anywhere in between. I hope you make a trip!

[1] Sometimes iwanazake (iwana being a type of fish) or iwana no kotsuzake.

By Colin MacGinnitie, university of chicago

 
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