Almost three years ago, I decided to climb Mount Fuji
. Watching the sunrise from the top of the mountain had been on my bucket list ever since I moved to Japan in 2011. When Mount Fuji became a World Heritage site in 2013, I thought it was the perfect time to tackle the giant. I was really out of shape at the time and had no hiking experience whatsoever. I decided to start training for the hike by climbing as many mountains as possible. To my surprise, I ended up loving it. The following hike, at Mount Takao
, is one of my favorites in the Kanto area.
Chairlift at Mount Takao
-- Photo from Flickr cc by Guilhem Vellut
Less than an hour away from Shinjuku by train, the ever popular Mount Takao
is one of the most readily accessible mountains in Tokyo. Takao's height (599 meters), various trails, cable car, and chairlift allow people of all ages and energy levels to enjoy the mountain. Mount Takao
can get crowded, especially in fall, when leaves are at their peak color. The mountain's beer garden
is very popular in summer, too.
From Takaosanguchi Station, make a right turn and follow the crowds for about five minutes. You will soon arrive at the cable car
and chairlift terminal. For those short on time or stamina, the ride can give you a good head start and take you halfway up the mountain in less than 15 minutes. A one-way trip costs ¥480 for adults and ¥240 for children. Round-trip tickets are available for ¥930 and ¥460.
Walking Up to Mount Takao
-- Photo from Flickr cc by sakaki0214
Three hiking trails also start from the terminal: Trail no.1, Trail no.6, and my personal favorite, the Inariyama Trail. The climb to the top takes about 90 minutes. Most popular with unprepared hikers and ladies wearing heels, Trail no.1 is actually a steep paved road. After passing through the cable car terminal and a charming temple, the trail becomes a standard mountain path. Trail no.6 and the Inariyama Trail provide a more pleasant hiking experience without being too challenging. Trail no.6 follows a river for most of the climb while the Inariyama Trail is a bit more rugged. Whether you choose Trail no.6 or the Inariyama Trail, expect a long flight of stairs before reaching the summit.
View of the Kanto Plain from Mount Takao
-- Photo from Flickr cc by Yoshikazu TAKADA
At the top of Mount Takao
, hikers are rewarded with a view of the Kanto plain and on clear days, Mount Fuji in the distance. What many people don’t know is that the trails don’t end at the summit. Mount Takao
is connected to Mount Jinba, an 857-meter high mountain offering a stunning view of the Okutama range and Mount Fuji.
The Journey to Mount Jinba
Mount Jinba Hiking Trail -- Photo Courtesy of JNTO
From Mount Takao
, allow yourself 5 to 6 hours to complete the 18.5-kilometer trek. The walk is long and tiring. Climbers must go through two summits and four passes before reaching the top of Mount Jinba. Yet the hike is not technical and long sections are almost flat.
From the observatory at the top of Mount Takao
, take the trail to your right. You will pass a few restaurants and picnic spots before walking down a flight of stairs. The trail will take you to your first stop, Mount Shiro, where you can enjoy an outstanding view of Mount Fuji and Sagami Lake. Less crowded than Mount Takao
, Mount Shiro is a good spot for a lunch break.
Refresh and Replenish at Shiroyamachaya
-- Photo from Flickr cc by sakaki0214
Stop by Shiroyamachaya
, a mountain hut, for refreshments or a light meal. Shiroyamachaya
serves standard mountain food such as curry and noodles at an affordable price. To my delight, Shiroyamachaya
also offers kakigori
, shaved ice with syrup, ever so popular with kids and grown-ups in the summer months. After replenishing your energy levels, keep walking until you reach Mount Kagenobu. For the more adventurous, try wild vegetable tempura at Kagenobugoya, another mountain hut. From there, you will need to go through three passes before reaching Mount Jinba.
Make one last stop at Myoo Pass to replenish your water supplies, and sugar levels before the last push to the summit. To distract you from the ever growing pain in your legs, strike up a conversation with a fellow climber. Japanese people are notoriously friendly when hiking, greeting each other when they cross paths. I often hike alone, but always end up talking to people and making new friends. Hiking to Mount Jinba for me was no exception, and about 30 minutes before reaching the top, I started talking with an Australian couple living in Kanagawa. I was so grateful for the company, I forgot how tired and sweaty I was. I think they also welcomed the distraction.
(In)famous Phallic Horse Statue at the Mount Jinba Summit -- Photo from Flickr cc by Guilhem Vellut
After one last flight of stairs, we could finally enjoy the breathtaking 360° view from the top of Mount Jinba. Although the sky was clear in the morning, Mt Fuji was now almost completely hidden. Instead, we took pictures with Mount Jinba's (in)famous and strangely phallic horse statue. I had to get moving quickly as it was getting late, but if you have time, reward yourself with a well-deserved cold beer and a bowl of soba noodles at Jinbasanchoshimizuchaya, the last hut of the hike. Take a trail all the way down to a paved road. After a 20-minute walk, you will reach the Jinbakogenshita bus stop. Board a bus bound for Takao Station. One service runs per hour and the last bus leaves at 20:25.
On a Clear
Day You Can See Mount Fuji from Mount Jinba -- Photo from Flickr cc by Guilhem Vellut
Even though the paths are well marked, always bring a map. Maps
are available at Takaosanguchi Station and at the Takao Visitor Center, at the top of Mount Takao
. Even though food and water are readily available, don’t rely only on the huts. They can sometimes be closed, especially on rainy days and in winter. Proper hiking boots are not required for this hike, but make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
A 5-minute walk from Takaosanguchi Station on the Keio Line
All-year round, but caution in winter is advised due to potential snow and ice. Only experienced climbers should attempt the hike in winter.
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