Exploring Japan: Daytrip to scenic Mt. Takao

View from Mt. Takao (Photos by Ichiro Katayanagi)
View from Mt. Takao (Photos by Ichiro Katayanagi)

Exploring Japan: Daytrip to scenic Mt. Takao

by Ichiro Katayanagi
Stripes Japan

In the Kanto Plain, one of the go-to places for hiking is Mt. Takao in Hachioji City. Every year, this peak draws over three million climbers and is even in the Michelin Green Guide Japan.

If you’re stationed anywhere in the Kanto Plain, getting there is a piece of cake. A short train ride from Camp Zama and Yokota Air Base is all it takes to get you to the foot of the mountain in Hachioji City.

It’s close to many of the bases, but it’s also popular with locals because it’s a relatively easy hike. It stands only 599 meters, and cable cars and chairlifts are available from the foothill to the mid-slope of the mountain. People of all ages come to enjoy hiking in this beautiful area. I climbed it during a one-day trip when I was a child, and it remains a good memory.

One windy but sunny day in November, I returned to Mt. Takao as compensation for my recent lack of exercise.  I arrived at Takaosanguchi Station about two hours after I left my home in Chiba by train. The station at the foot of the mountain has a cedar roof overhang designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma in 2015, and it is artistic and impressive.

Takaosanguchi Station

I started on Trail No. 1 as suggested by one of the employees at the tourist information center inside Takaosanguchi Station. He said it was the most popular and suitable for enjoying the colorful autumn leaves.  The hiking trail was unexpectedly steep until halfway up the mountain and was paved with concrete, which seemed like it was not good for my knees.  Twenty minutes into my climb, I started to get sweaty and had to remove my jacket. The higher I climbed, however, the windier and cooler it got, so eventually my jacket and another shirt layer I brought came in handy.

As the tourist information employee suggested, Trail No. 1 was really climber friendly.  There were five restroom areas and restaurants and souvenir shops in several places along the way. The two causes of worry for climbers, empty stomach and restrooms, are solved.

Many of the shops sold the same type of toasted dumpling, so I decided to stop at Kissakobou Ichifuku, a booth near Yakuoin Temple, to one a try.  The dumpling was crisp on the outside thanks to the charcoal fire it was toasted over, but still soft and chewy on the inside. It was glazed with a flavorful walnut miso sauce, making it a great treat to give me a boost of energy and some warmth on the cool climb up.

It took me nearly 2 hours to reach the summit. For the most part, the summit was flat, and I noticed many of the climbers were drinking to commemorate making it to the top.  I saw some people in high heels and others had a stroller, which made me wonder how they were able to climb. The summit offered views of cities such as Hachioji and Sagamihara on one side, and Tanzawa Mountains and Mt. Fuji on the other.

Though it was a short hike, I was still tired. I decided that I’d had enough physical exertion and would instead take the cable car or chairlift down. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea and the platforms had long lines for the lifts down. I gave up and took the trail back down. The steep paved trail was difficult to walk down, so it was really more like a run down.

There were more than 20 restaurants and gift shops on the foothill near the beginning of the trail.  About half of the restaurants were for soba, or buckwheat noodles. I chose Mugitoro Tsutaya simply because the food samples outside the restaurant looked good. I ordered chicken nanban soba, or buckwheat noodles in broth with roasted chicken. This dish was made with local ingredients and the noodles were cooked al dente and to perfection. The chicken fat on the surface of the broth made it hard to cool, so it was enough to warm my cold body.

My second visit to Takao was a good one. It was easy to get to and easy to climb. Anybody can enjoy climbing without qualms, and the beautiful views and food await you. Next time, I want to a try a different trail for a different side of the mountain.


Takao Tozan Railway
URL: https://www.takaotozan.co.jp

Mugitoro Tsutaya
Location: 2466 Takaomachi, Hachioji City, Tokyo
Hours: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Monday closed. Closed at 4 p.m. on weekdays in winter)
TEL: 042-661-2427

Kissakobou Ichifuku
Location: 2177 Takaomachi, Hachioji City, Tokyo (in the precincts of Yakuoin Temple)
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. (may extend depending on seasons)
TEL: 042-661-1115

Yakuoin Temple
Location: 2177 Takaomachi, Hachioji City, Tokyo
TEL: 042-661-1115 (Reception hours: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
URL: https://www.takaosan.or.jp/english/

Mt. Takao Magazine
URL: https://en.mttakaomagazine.com
This website is run by Bondesign Inc., a web production company on the foothill of Mt. Takao.
Well-made website about Mt. Takao.

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