Mt. Takaosan Hike (高尾山)
Duration: Half day (~4 hrs round trip without too many stops)
Date: 30th Oct 2015
Distance: 4.5 miles (~7.5kms) roundtrip
Route: Trail 6 (Nature trail) from Takaosanguchi stn. -> Mt. Takao -> Trail 1 (roadway-paved trail) -> Yakuoin Temple (薬王院) -> Takaosanguchi
Elevation: Peak at 599m (1965ft)
Getting there: From Shinjuku (40min by train) - 550 Yen
Other info: There’s a cable car and ski lift right from Takaosanguchi to Mt. Takao if you don’t intend to hike or want to do it one way. You get to see Mt. Fiji if you are lucky (I didn’t)
Having one day in Tokyo after attending the Openstack conference I was inclined to see the Shinto temples which were less “touristy” and also being a nature lover, wanted to see if Japan and especially Tokyo offered some getaway hikes. Tokyo being a metropolitan city is mostly a concrete jungle with sparsely protected gardens and parks. Upon searching online for a bit, I decided to take a train to Mt. Takaosan and give this place a try.
Wanting to cover more places I start from Tokyo (Tamachi station) towards Takaosan at around 9:15am. Pushkar my colleague accompanied me on this hike (well, i guess he didn’t have much of a choice). We reached the Takao station at around 10:30am, grabbed a few chocolate bars since we didn’t how how long/difficult it was and took the trail (paved path) running parallel to the road towards the Takaosanguchi cable car station (right after exiting the station). After about a couple of minutes of walk and trying to decipher where we were going, we got to the cable car station. There is a paved path that goes all the way up to Mt. Takao and then to another mountain (~10kms+ between the summits). We wanted to take the 3.6kms trail 6 (nature trail) to the top of Mt. Takao. After spending a whole lot of time reading the map and trying to communicate with the locals in English and a word or two of Japanese we figured out the lay of the land. On the right of cable car station the’s the trail 1 that goes all the way to the top of Mt. Takao but splits at the Monkey park into trail 2 and 3. Walking along the paved road on the left of the cable car, on the left we first get the inariyama Trail head. Walking along the road further up for about 5 mins or so takes you to the Trail 6 trailhead that we actually wanted to take. (If you are walking along the stream then that’s trail6)
Finally having gotten to the trailhead we started our Japanese nature trail hike. The trail itself was well defined but wasn’t as easy or plain as the most common ones you find here in the US. It reminded me of trails in the western ghats region in India. The forests were very green with tropical vegetation. The surroundings also showed ample water availability. The beautiful stream our right providing us with the pleasant music of flowing water. The temperature was just about right for the hike with complete tree canopy cover from sunlight. Further up we got to a cave shrine. There were idols kept inside a cave and we saw a person pray. This trail was more a spiritual trail up to the summit. Half way up the trail there’s a waterfall. This waterfall is within the vicinity of a small shrine and the temple supposedly has cleansing rituals where they teach you the traditional way of taking a shower under the waterfall. I read online that this needed prior reservations.
Soon we came across a small bridge and quite a few fellow hiking groups. There was a school that had all its higher grade students come on this hiking trail. So the trail started to become quite crammed. The last part of the trail involves climbing quite a few stairs made of wooden planks. We were at the top and it had taken us only about 1hr 15mins with all the stops for pictures. The top of Mt. Takao was however very different from what I had envisioned. It was a village/town sprawled up there. There were multiple hotels, stores, novelties and gift shops. It was indeed very commercial. The view from the top wasn’t bad at all. We could see far away at the horizon with only mountains filling up the view. After a lot of pictures we decided to take the ski lift down.
On the way down to the ski lift we passed through the Yakuoin temple and then followed the paved path quite a bit (about 20mins) to get to the ski lift station. The ski lift took us down super fast and we were back the cable car station by 2:30pm. For a first time in Japan, this hike was really fun although I’d have liked to go up Mt. Fiji. Mt. Fiji is now for the next time around.