Monday, 1 June 2015
Caroline vs. Mount Takao
Back in March, Clem and I set out one morning to climb Mount Takao, a 599m tall mountain 50km from central Tokyo. Other than walking and some swimming, we did no exercise during our trip to Hong Kong and the Philippines, so we were eager to get our muscles moving and blood pumping. A train from central Tokyo takes about 45 minutes to an hour; I recommend going first thing in the morning, and on a weekday if possible, to avoid major crowds.
For the climb up we decided to take Trail 1, which is pretty much paved most of the way up, and the last little bit of the path winds through temples and shrines until you reach the peak. The footing is easy, but the road can get steep at some points, and the last part of the trail is made up mostly of stairs. There is also a funicular that runs partway up the mountain, and ends at a small plateau, where there are a couple small shops and restaurants, and even a monkey park! In the end, we decided against the visiting the monkeys but it might be a fun break on your way up the mountain.
The shrines and temples along the way are typical in terms of design, but they felt more serene due to the lack of large crowds and the surrounding noises of a bustling city. We did almost pass through a sacred gateway by accident, so be sure to pay attention to where you are walking!
The peak itself offers views of surrounding towns and part of Tokyo, and on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji peeking through the mountain range. There are another couple small shops and modest restaurants, plus a few stone benches and walls for resting. We stopped for a bowl of soba noodles and spent some time wandering around the peak, taking in the vista. We saw quite a few backpackers, presumably continuing on the Tōkai Nature Trail towards Osaka.
On the way back down, we took Trail 6 through the forest. It wasn't very challenging to go down (going up might be another story, since parts of it are quite steep), but appropriate footwear is a must. I had running shoes on, and though that was fine a part of me wished I'd had my approach shoes, which were unfortunately still in Canada. We saw a few other hikers on their way up, but for the most part we were completely by ourselves. There were signposts along the way describing some plants and animals that can be found there, which was a fun way to interact with the path and the mountain. Towards the bottom we passed some tiny shrines, including one at the Biwa Waterfall, and eventually the trail joined the road at the scientific research centre. We also spotted some plum trees just coming into bloom, showing off the gorgeous magenta blossoms.
Back at the bottom of the mountain we stopped for ice cream and walked back to the train station. There is a nice little square surrounded by restaurants, shops, and an information centre, and it's worth it to spend a few minutes poking around.
We were up and down Mount Takao within about three and a half hours, so it's a great way to spend half a day if you need to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city for a little bit.