One of the most popular attractions in Three Tama in Tokyo is undoubtedly Mount Takao. Takao is the most climbed mountain in Japan. This Michelin Guide’s three-star mountain beats Mt. Fuji the World Heritage site in the number of visitors, and this has a lot to do with the fact that Takao is only one hour away from Shinjuku by train and is super easy to climb.
You really have to be prepared for a Mt. Fuji climb, but you can casually pop on the train, with your regular snickers and usual T-shirts, and climb up to the top of Mt. Takao in less than three hours on foot. There are also cable cars and lifts that will take you close to the summit for 480 yen single and 930 yen return. Here are some tips from our staff, Kyoko and Peter, who recently visited Mount Takao, including main attractions and how to get there.
How to Get to Mount Takao
Keio Line’s Special Express takes you to Takaosanguchi Station in just about 50 mins. Make sure you check the official time table before you leave as Keio Line splits into some directions and not all Special Express directly go to Takaosanguchi station directly. Consider getting a Keio’s special ticket to Mount Takao including a return cable car or lift ticket for 1380 yen (the fee departing from Shinjuku). But if you are planning to climb up and down, there is no point.
Takao 599 Museum
Once you get off at Takaosanguchi Station, head to Takao 599 Museum. 599 is the height of the mountain. In addition to the exhibition of wildlife at the mountain, they also host various events and offer different kinds of services. When Kyoko and Peter visited the museum, they were having Mount Takao Summer Festival. One of the booths was the shoe maker Keen, who was renting out hiking shoes for free for visitors. Another booth offered samurai armors and our staff had the liberty of trying them out.
Takao 599 Museum has a cool website where you get to learn how to climb the mountain and other useful tips.
Takaozan Cablecar & Lift
If 599 meters scares you, buy a return ticket at the Takaozan station, which is only 300m away from Takao 599 Museum. Kyoko and Peter took the cable car up to the level where the Monkey Park is. If you are a good hiker, then, choose a path from six different trails and enjoy different sceneries the mountain offers you. Apparently most visitors go for trail number 1, which is broad, mostly paved and passes all of the major sites as it winds its way to the top of the 599 meter high summit.
At the cablecar’s top station, you get to look out over tokyo from an observation deck. On clear days, you can also see Mount Fuji!
Yakuoin – Sacred Temple
Hoping for a lot of luck this year? Then head to Yakuoin, a beautiful temple that stands on the way to Takao’s summit, and pray to the two mountain gods of tengu for good fortune. One of the tengu has a long nose and the other with a crow beak, and they can be found at various spots around the mountain.
The Monkey Park and the Wild Plant Garden
Love monkeys? Have a quick visit to the Monkey Park on the way to the summit. You can’t miss it if you are walking along Trail 1 towards the summit. Over 50 monkeys live there in harmony as the website says, and put on various shows during the day.
The Summit 599
When you get to the summit, enjoy the view of mountain ranges, but don’t expect nice and quiet. If you are visiting the mountain on the weekends, it’ll be more or less like a small festival as there are a number of shops offering ramen, soba, ice cream and local delicacies. Although some of the food there are actually quite nice, but slightly pricy. Pack lunch if you want to avoid queuing or paying premium price.
Comes April, Mount Takao attracts sakura cherry viewers from all around the country. Sakura blossoms on Mount Takao a few weeks after those in central Tokyo. The best place to see cherry blossoms is Ichinodaira, an area which is 30 minutes away from the summit. The area known as “Mount Takao Thousand Cherry Trees” is also hugely popular.
Kyoko and Peter took Trail 4 down the mountain. It’s much rougher than Trail 1, but it’s totally worth it. It will make you forget that you are in Tokyo for a good 30 minutes. They apparently walked past a few climbers with sandals, but these visitors seemed very much in pain…
Once you are down, try a noodle shop or local delicacies. According to Tabelog Japan, the Takahashiya tops the ranking in Takao’s restaurants. The Takahashiya began serving soba noodles and kaiseki tea ceremony dishes over 170 years ago during the Edo Period! They used to operate as an inn, but today, it’s become one of the must-visit restaurants in Mount Takao.
As soon as you walk in, you’ll be greeted by a 150-year-old persimmon tree. The century-old restaurant and it’s speciality soba makes your hike all worthwhile.
Keio Takaozan Onsen Gokurakuyu
Want to have a dip in onsen before you eat? Keio opened its onsen facility right at the Takaozanguchi station. Gokurakuyu is a day onsen public bath, offering various kinds of indoor and outdoor baths as well as sauna. For a fee of 1,000 yen (1,200 yen during peak season), you get to have an amazingly refreshing bath, looking at the mountain and stars if you visit at night. Off the record, some visitors hinted that there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of food, so it might be best to have a dip at Gokurakuyu and visit the Takahashiya or other local restaurants before heading back to your hotel.