If you are staying in Tokyo for few days, you might want to get out of the concrete buildings, crowded city, and want some fresh air, be surrounded by nature. Well, I’d say Mount Takao, which is located within an hour from downtown Tokyo, is the best destination for a day trip. It’s the most popular hiking spot for residents in Tokyo, with eight hiking courses and more than 2.5 million annual visitors. Mount Takao is also a spiritual spot closely associated with tengu, a kami from Japanese folklore, with a Buddhist temple called Yakuo-in on the mountain.
In this article, I will share my experience of a day trip to Mount Takao from Shinjuku.
How to get to Mount Takao
Mount Takao is the easiest mountain to access from downtown Tokyo. From Shinjuku, you will take Keio Railways line and it takes you straight to Takaosanguchi station. Follow the sign and head to platform 1, 2, or 3.
It’s just about 1 hour from Shinjuku station by a Special Express. I departed Shinjuku station around 10:00 a.m. so I got there at about 11:00 a.m. Takaosanguchi is the final stop of this train.
Takaosanguchi station recently renewed, designed by a famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, looks like this.
Lunch at Soba restaurant, the local food of Mount Takao
By the time I arrived at Takaosanguchi station, it was right time for an early lunch. Around Mount Takao, “soba”, buckwheat noodle, is local speciality, and there are lots of soba restaurants.
At this day, I visited a soba restaurant called “Toto (杜々)”, about 15 minutes walk from Takaosanguchi station. You have to go to the other way from the trailhead, but this soba is worth a try.
Not only the soba but also their plates and bowls are very neat. They are handmade by artists in Takao, so pay some attention to the beauty of the entire dish. I tried Tempura soba set, the soba was very chewy and vegetable tempura were so fresh.
How to climb the mountain
After lunch, I went back to Takaosanguchi station. In front of the exit, there are this huge huge trail map.
For climbing up the mountain, you can either take cable car or ski lift, or hike to the halfway up the mountain. I would recommend to hike unless you are with small children or unable to walk for some reason. It’s about 40 min walk till the halfway up the mountain.
If you are taking cable car or ski lift, you will have to buy the ticket first, and get in the line.
One-way ticket is 480 yen for adult and 240 yen for children 6-12 years old. The prices of cable car and ski lift are the same. You can also purchase round trip ticket.
To the halfway up of Mount Takao
The most popular trail is trail number 1. The most part of the trail in number 1 is very well organized and not difficult to walk, but there are some steep parts which needs some exercise.
You will find signs look like this once in a while. Follow the sign says “Top of Mt. Takao (高尾山頂)”.
I went at the end of November, I still could see beautiful red and golden leaves. It is said that autumn is the most crowded season throughout the year, people gather to see this colored leaves of the mountain.
In about 40 minutes you will reach to the cable car station, which is halfway up of the mountain. Across the station, you’ll see this amazing view of Tokyo city.
There are some restaurants and stands that sell food and drinks. A perfect place to take a rest. More restaurants are here than the top, so if you want to grab some snack, better to stop by.
This dango called “Sanpuku Dango (三福だんご) is a famous snack.
There are lots of souvenir shops selling goods and food to take home.
Keep walking then you’ll reach to Yakuoin Temple.
A quiet break at Yakuo-in Temple
Yakuo-in is a Buddhist temple established in 744. The temple is closely associated with tengu and mountain asceticism. Yakuo-in is a complex of several buildings.
Before you reach to the main temple, you have to cleanse yourself with chozu-ya (手水舎)
Top of the mountain with amazing view of Tokyo city and Mount Fuji
After you pass the temple, you are really close to the summit. With few minutes walk, you will reach to this amazing view. You can see the whole city of Tokyo from here.
There is a large open space with places to have seats, so many people are eating their bento box and having break. On the other side there is a viewpoint of Mount Fuji. I could see the beautiful top of Mount Fuji on the day I climbed.
Going back to the foot of Mount Takao
Now going back. To the cable car station, I would recommend to walk trail number 4. The trail is more nature like than trail number 1, and you will pass a suspension bridge.
I took a ski lift on the way back to the foot. I could see this amazing view of the sunset.
Dip your toes into public bath to ease your muscles
Now you must be really tired and your muscles became stiff. Well, there is this public bath called “Gokurakuyu (極楽湯)” just right next to Takaosanguchi station.
There are about 6 kinds of bath like bubble bath and beauty bath. Also restaurants and sleeping space too! It was packed with people who came back from the mountain, but it felt really nice to take bath after the exercise.
So this is how the day went like. If you are staying in Tokyo for a bit of long time, how about adding an excursion to Takaosan to your plan?