I bet you didn’t know you could hike in Tokyo! I bet you didn’t know you could hike with mountain gods (well ok they are minor mountain kami)! Most people only see the hip (or crazy) fashion of Harajuku, the stately Emperor’s Palace and the blinding neon signs of Shinjuku at night when they think about Tokyo. Packed trains ferrying 10 million people in and out the city each day, name brand department stores, and tourist swamped temples either excite a visitor or make them run screaming away from Tokyo. But there are more things to do in Tokyo than meets the eye and the visitor or resident can have both the packed cultural experience of the world’s largest city and a nice day of hiking out in the mountains.
Just 2 days before the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan I was enjoying views of Mount Fuji from the top of the heavily wooded Mount Takao, one of the closest nature escapes to Tokyo. Located in the “city” of Hachijoji it is still within the metropolitan borders of Tokyo and lies a mere 50 km from the center of the city. That’s nothing when you take into account Japan’s fantastic train system. Fifty minutes and just 370 yen later and you can get from Shinjuku to the foot of the hiking trail.
Mount Takao has a network of well marked hiking trails, a beautiful old Buddhist temple, the top is one of the 100 famous views of Mt Fuji, and if you want to hike further the trails go deeper into the Meji Memorial National Park. Commonly referred to as Takao-san, the area is considered sacred and has been the focus of mountain ascetic worship for over 1,000 years.
Half way up the mountain sits the Buddhist Temple Takaosan Yakuōin Yūkiji one of the most beautiful in the area with its multiple levels and bright painting reminiscent of Chinese temples and those of Nikko further to the north. Visitors pray to the Shinto-Buddhist mountain gods, the tengu, who are former men who transformed themselves through ascetic practice which embodies the yamabushi (mountain ascetics). Statues of Buddhist arhats, and long nosed tengu with crow beaks, dot the mountain paths and add to the feeling of sacredness of the area.
There are six different main tails leading to the top of the mountain, as well as a cable car for those who just can’t manage to pull themselves up the 600 meter hike. Yes, that is not a lot! I recommend taking the paved routed number 1 up the mountain to make sure you don’t miss Takuoin and then take either the Biwa path (hike 6) down along a small river or the ridge line Inariyama Trail along beautiful narrow dirt and rocky paths. Round trip the hike won’t take longer than 3 hours.
Don’t forget to pack a small lunch to eat at the top. Like most hikes in Japan there are vending machines at the top so treat yourself to the view with nice local beer and admire the views out to Mt. Fuji. And no, you don’t get a picture of Mt. Fuji! I have to leave something for you to discover on your own.
This post is part of the continuing Blog4Japan campaign to raise awareness for the need for donations to local organizations helping the survivors. If you would like to help please consider donating to this list of local Japanese organizations that are on the ground working right now.
Do you have good day hike inside of Tokyo? Let us know below. Who am I kidding, if you have ANYTHING to say leave it below