One of the closest natural recreation areas to central Tokyo is Mount Takao. This popular mountain offers beautiful landscape, an engaging temple and attractive hiking options. The mountain is still located in metropolitan Tokyo and takes only 50 minutes to reach from Shinjuku.
It leads up the slopes of Takaosan from a network of numbered hiking trails. Trail number 1 is what the majority of visitors use. As it winds its way to the top of the 599-meter high summit, the broad, mostly paved and route all of the major sites. There are also other trails but are narrower, unpaved and see significantly less traffic. From the base of the mountain, the hike to the top of Mount Takao along trail number 1 takes about 90 minutes but that time can be lessened in half by riding the cable car or chair lifts that head halfway up the mountain.
There is an observation deck from where you can look out over Tokyo near the cable car’s top station, and on clear days, the summit offers views of Mount Fuji. Beyond the summit of Takaosan which joins to the many peaks of the nearby Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, an even larger network of hiking trails exist.
Takaosan is considered a sacred mountain and has been the base of mountain worship for more than 1000 years. An attractive temple called Yakuoin can be seen along the trail near the mountain’s summit, and many visitors take time there to pray to Shinto-Buddhist mountain gods (tengu) for good fortune. One with a long nose and one with a crow beak are called as Statues of the gods, can be seen at the temple.
Takaosan can get very crowded on weekends due to its accessibility to central Tokyo. The second half of November is the busiest. The mountain’s dispersed autumn colors make Tokyo’s most sought-after koyo or autumn foliage spots by this time of the year. If you are longing for a break not only from the concrete but also the crowds of Tokyo, you are suggested to visit Takaosan during the weekdays.
It is also a good place to see cherry blossoms at Mount Takao a couple of weeks after those in central Tokyo. The best spot for cherry blossoms is the Itchodaira area, which lies an additional 30 minutes hike beyond the summit aside from a few trees around the trails, summit and mountain’s base.