A Complete Guide to Mt. Takao, Tokyo’s Must-Visit Hiking Spot
Although Tokyo has the image of skyscrapers, you don't need to travel far to see verdant hills and nature. Here is a comprehensive look at Mt. Takao, a highly recommended destination for anyone visiting Tokyo.
Mt. Takao is a mountain where you can enjoy hiking all year round. It is located about 45 minutes by train from Shinjuku Station. It is the world's most popular hiking destination, with approximately 3 million people hiking on it every year. It was recently awarded three Michelin stars as a famous hiking/trekking place that both beginning and experienced hikers can easily enjoy. Despite being in the outskirts of a capital city, it possesses at least 1,300 different types of flora and fauna.
1. What is Mt. Takao?
Starting from routes 1 to 6, in total, there are 10 different hiking courses to the top of Mt. Takao. The most popular trail, Route 1, is paved all the way up to Yakuo-in, and is popular as a course that is easy for beginners to walk. It is also easily accessible by riding the cable car. There are teahouses and toilets along the way, helping beginners feel at ease. Route 6, which consists of mountain trails, is more challenging, but also allows you to enjoy hiking through trees, along streams, and on stepping stones. Mt. Takao has its seasonal charms and is a destination worth visiting over and over again.
If you’re not up to hiking, it is recommended to take the cable cars or chair lifts that go up to an altitude of 472m. You can experience a 6-minute (one-way) cable car ride on the sharpest slant out of any cable car in Japan or a 12-minute ride on a chair lift. The cable cars and chair lifts terminate at roughly the same point and the rates are the same (one-way 480 JPY; roundtrip 930 JPY). So why not purchase a roundtrip ticket and enjoy the ride in both directions? You can save some money by getting the Takao-san Kippu (Mt. Takao Discount Ticket), which gives you 20% off the roundtrip fare to Takaosanguchi Station from any Keio or Inokashira Line station, as well as a ticket (one-way or roundtrip) on the cable car or chair lift.
There are many tourist spots on Mt. Takao that let you take a casual hike while enjoying nature. Here are some particularly popular spots. We hope they come in handy!
This is an observatory deck about midway up Mt. Takao, with a view all the way to Shinjuku. The scenery during the day is beautiful, but it is even more stunning at night. It is particularly nice in the winter, when the air is clear. It is about two minutes on foot from where you get off the cable cars and chair lifts. The Mt. Takao Beer Mount, which we will introduce later, is open here during the summer time.
Takosugi is a huge Japanese cedar tree that is about 450 years old. It is along Route 1, about three minutes from where you get off the cable car or chair lift. The cedar tree has roots that are bent like octopus (tako) tentacles. Next to it is Hipparidako, a cute octopus sculpture that is said to bring good luck if you stroke it. This is one of Mt. Takao's popular "power spots".
Route 1 splits in two along the path to Yakuo-in. To the left is Otokozaka (man's hill), a path that goes up 108 steps, and to the right is Onnazaka (woman's hill), which has a gentle slope. The two paths merge in front of the teahouse, Gongen Chaya. Why not try one way up and the other down?
Yakuo-in is a temple midway up Mt. Takao with a history of over 1,260 years. The entire mountain is actually a dojo (training hall) for Shugendo (Japanese mountain asceticism incorporating Shinto and Buddhist concepts). There are two waterfalls – Jataki and Biwataki – that are used for cold-water ablutions. The training sites are now open to the public for a fee (reservations required). Shojin vegetarian Buddhist cuisine is served (reservations required) at the Daihonbo of Yakuo-in and there is much to see, such as the beautiful sculptures in Izuna Gongendo. There are also many places where you can get charms that are associated with the tengu (type of deity).
There are many teahouses along the trails where you can rest. The famous tengu-yaki is recommended at Kasumi; the gelato at Takao-san Fumotoya; and the freshly-made dango (sweet mochi balls) at Juicchome Chaya. The specialty tororo soba noodles at Takao-san Takahashiya is also outstanding. Many people visit Mt. Takao during the summer for the cold beer and fabulous views that can be enjoyed at the Beer Mount (open from June 15 to October 15 in 2017). Be sure to enjoy the food along with the hiking!
It takes about 20 minutes from Yakuo-in to get to the top of Mt. Takao. The view from the summit, which is at an altitude of 599m, is fantastic and hard to believe, as it is so close to the city center. You will be able to see Mt. Fuji, which has been designated as a World Heritage Site, as well as the mountains of Tanzawa. At the Takao Visitor Center on the summit, you can learn about the flora on Mt. Takao and enjoy a meal at the chaya (tea shop). The center is well-equipped, with enough toilets to service the large number of hikers that visit it.
Though it isn’t far from the city, the temperature in the mountain can be much cooler than in the city. Not all trails are paved either, so be sure to prepare thoroughly. You will definitely create great memories while hiking up Mt. Takao.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.