MT.TAKAO / HACHIOJI
Mount Takao is blessed with abundant nature. You can casually enjoy hiking and recently it has been becoming popular as a “spiritual spot.” Hachioji has several spas where you can relax for a couple of hours, and attractive restaurants and bars. Enjoy a one-day trip from Tokyo!
Mount Takao, 599 meters high, is located in western Tokyo, 50 km away from the center of Tokyo. A mere one-hour train ride from Shinjuku Station will take you to a splendid natural environment, where you will forget you are still within metropolitan Tokyo! This mountain is popular as a place where you can enjoy hiking in a casual manner, and also has long been familiar to ordinary people for mountain worship. The forests around the mountain retain varieties of woods such as deciduous trees like beech and evergreen trees like oak. Mount Takao was awarded three stars of the Michelin Green Guide in 2007 along with Mount Fuji.
When you go out of the exit of Keio Takaosan-guchi Station, you will find many shops and restaurants in front of the station. There are also cafes and restaurants in the middle and even on top of the mountain, so you won’t have any difficulty to drink or eat something on the mountain. If you want to eat a box lunch in the open air, buying some food at these shops is a good idea. Head for Cable Car Kiyotaki Station. The cable car and the lift is the easiest way to go to the summit area if you are not the hiking type.
If you are a good walker, hiking the mountain is very enjoyable. There are three trails from the side of Kiyotaki Station, and each trail will take you to the top in about 90 minutes. For very beginners, 1-goro (Trail 1) is recommended. You can enjoy walking along a mountain stream in 6-goro (Trail 6), and you can enjoy nice views via the Inariyama Trail. Although Mount Takao is low, it is a mountain, so please be careful. Prepare rain gear and something to drink, wear a hat and shoes that comfortably fit you. Even if only using the cable car, wearing high-heeled shoes is not recommended.
From the observation deck near Takao-san Cable Car Station, you can see a panoramic view of the Kanto Plain, centering on high-rise structures in downtown areas such as Tokyo Tower and Yokohama Landmark Tower.
Takao Beer Mount is open from July to the end of September every year. It is a very popular beer garden with a breathtaking view of Tokyo and Yokohama. This view is popularly called the “10 million dollar night view.”
Go through the Trail 1, and find Monkey Park and the Wild Plant Garden. Watching the doings of about 50 free-range monkeys is interesting. Passing a gigantic cedar called “Tako sugi” (octopus cedar), you will reach a fork in the trail. One way is Otoko-zaka (male slope) with 108 stone steps and the other way is Onna-zaka (female slope) with a more gentle slope. The two ways join together later. The cedar-lined trail continues and these cedars are said to be 450 years old. They are 6 meters in diameter and the tallest ones are about 37 meters in height.
Yakuo-in Temple is the head temple of the Chizan School of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. It is home to a tradition of ascetic training for yamabushi (mountain priests) and also numerous folk stories of long-nosed tengu goblins. In the precincts, a large tengu statue and a small tengu statue faces each other. Hiwatari Matsuri, or Fire-Walking Ritual, annually takes place at a square in front of the Kito-den Hall at the foot of Mount Takao on the second Sunday of March. Small pieces of wood are burned to pray for a perfect state of health in the year ahead. When the fires die down, yamabushi bravely walk barefoot over the hot coals, praying for perfect health and the well-being of the family, which is the climax of the ritual. Ordinary people can participate in the fire-walking if they so desire.
If you climb a little more from Yakuo-in, you will reach the top of the mountain. There is a visitor center and restaurants, and an observation deck is at the back. On clear days, Mount Fuji can be seen right in the front of your line of sight. Mount Takao has nature trails where you can observe and learn about nature in all seasons. Boards explaining animals, plants, insects and wild birds that are peculiar to Mount Takao are set up along the trails.
After enjoying the rich national environment, go back down the mountain through your favorite route. Blessed with abundant spring water, Mount Takao is also known for its delicious soba, or buckwheat noodle, shops since olden days. Other dishes such as tororo soba, or buckwheat noodle with grated yam, river fish dishes, and mugitoro, a boiled mixture of rice and barley topped with grated yam, are also available.
Pleasure after Hiking
Hachioji City, home of Mount Takao, prospered as a post-station town of Koshu-kaido Way during the Edo period (1603-1867). Now, with 550,000 residents and 21 universities and colleges, this academic city has many sightseeing spots.
Let’s go to Takao Station from Keio Takaosanguchi Station. Tama Shinrin Gakuen (Tama Forest Center), close to Takao Station, boasts beautiful scenery of seasonal flowers and trees. At Musashiryo Bochi (Musashi Hill Cemetery), which is also close to the station and has a solemn feel amid the surrounding grove of trees, there are the graves of Emperor Taisho and Emperor Showa. If you go further, you will reach the remains of Hachioji Castle, which was built in the 16th century and was one of the prominent mountain castles in the Kanto region.
There are many shopping and gourmet spots around JR Hachioji Station, such as a department store, fashion buildings and various specialty shops. There is a spa in a building near the station and there you can relax a while and soak away the fatigue of the hiking.
Mitsui Outlet Park Tama Minami Osawa is in front of Minami-Osawa Station on the Keio Sagamihara Line. You may find some items that catch your fancy at bargain prices at more than 100 shops in the outlet mall.
Away from Tokyo, enjoy a day-trip full of both splendid nature and urban amenities.