Mt. Takao: Tokyo's Mountain Wonder
Mt. Takao, just outside of Tokyo, is by some estimates the most popular mountain in the world. Around 2.5 million people a year climb to its 599 meter (1965 feet) summit. While this isn’t a wilderness hike by any stretch, it is a wonderful change of pace from city life, injecting a good bit of mountainous greenery into your visit.
Its popularity isn’t by accident. The path is beautiful; winding through scenic forests and climbing past atmospheric temples, interspersed with food stalls and views of the surrounding hills, with Tokyo far in the distance. The hike, while involving a good deal of stairs, is manageable for a variety of fitness levels and ages. There’s also plenty of variety since there are also a number of route options to choose from. And this being Japan, food is never far, with lots of fun snacks to try along the way.
Here are my best tips for a visit to Tokyo's Mt. Takao:
Takao is very east to get to, just take the Chuo Main Line that passes through Shinkuju station and head west until it ends. Make one transfer and in another 10 minutes, you’re there.
Don’t do what I did. I followed Google Map’s directions which put me on another line (which according to Google was a few minutes faster). However, the train ended in some random station and I had to re-connect to the Chuo Line anyway, costing me an extra 45 minutes.
The Chuo Main Line is the way to go since it’s a straight shot and has express options. It also has the added bonus of passing through some of my favorite neighborhoods, like Kichijoji and Nakano, so on your way home you could stop off and see a new part of the city!
Here’s my big tip for Mt. Takao:
Instead of climbing the whole way, take the tram from the base up to the beginning of the main walking path. It costs around $5 and will save you quite a difficult climb.
Generally speaking, I’ve got nothing against a good climb, but to walk this first section means following a narrow road (closed to motorized traffic) that is not well graded for walking. It’s a steep, fairly unrelenting climb, that was a bit more than I bargained for on a warm afternoon. If you’re looking for a workout, this is it, but otherwise skip it on the way up.
Once you make it up to where the tram drops off, the road turns into a very nicely maintained walking path. From here it’s about 45 minutes to the top of Mt. Takao.
Next time, I’ll take the tram, walk the rest of the way to the summit, and the walk all the way back down to the bottom skipping the tram and it’s long lines to the bottom.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of food and drink all along the way. You’ll find vending machines and little stands selling snacks, drinks, water, beer, and street food. All for pretty reasonable prices. There’s also plenty of bathrooms and at least one drinking fountain where you can refill your water.
I ate at a fun udon noodle spot at the bottom, just before the tram station. It was reasonably priced and my plate of cold udon with dipping sauce and tempura was very tasty! I also saw some good looking mugs of cold beer that would make this a great post-hike spot.
Lastly, consider going on a clear day. The experience is great on any day, but on a clear day Mt. Fuji is visible from the top!