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tengu statue on takaosan in Tokyo

Long nose, check, wings, check, stern face, check...gotta love those tengu

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I bet you didn’t know you could hike in Tokyo! I bet you didn’t know you could hike with mountain gods (well ok they are minor mountain kami)! Most people only see the hip (or crazy) fashion of Harajuku, the stately Emperor’s Palace and the blinding neon signs of Shinjuku at night when they think about Tokyo. Packed trains ferrying 10 million people in and out the city each day, name brand department stores, and tourist swamped temples either excite a visitor or make them run screaming away from Tokyo. But there are more things to do in Tokyo than meets the eye and the visitor or resident can have both the packed cultural experience of the world’s largest city and a nice day of hiking out in the mountains.

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winding path up takaosan in Tokyo Japan

This is the Biwa path that runs up a stream to the summit

Just 2 days before the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan I was enjoying views of Mount Fuji from the top of the heavily wooded Mount Takao, one of the closest nature escapes to Tokyo. Located in the “city” of Hachijoji it is still within the metropolitan borders of Tokyo and lies a mere 50 km from the center of the city. That’s nothing when you take into account Japan’s fantastic train system. Fifty minutes and just 370 yen later and you can get from Shinjuku to the foot of the hiking trail.

Mount Takao has a network of well marked hiking trails, a beautiful old Buddhist temple, the top is one of the 100 famous views of Mt Fuji, and if you want to hike further the trails go deeper into the Meji Memorial National Park. Commonly referred to as Takao-san, the area is considered sacred and has been the focus of mountain ascetic worship for over 1,000 years.

Temple gate leading to Yakuoin Temple on Mt Takaosan

Come in the evening and the lanterns are lit up

Half way up the mountain sits the Buddhist Temple Takaosan Yakuōin Yūkiji one of the most beautiful in the area with its multiple levels and bright painting reminiscent of Chinese temples and those of Nikko further to the north. Visitors pray to the Shinto-Buddhist mountain gods, the tengu, who are former men who transformed themselves through ascetic practice which embodies the yamabushi (mountain ascetics). Statues of Buddhist arhats, and long nosed tengu with crow beaks, dot the mountain paths and add to the feeling of sacredness of the area.

buddhist statues in Japan on Takaosan

88 statues line the temple. Leave 1 yen at each to make you prayer come true

There are six different main tails leading to the top of the mountain, as well as a cable car for those who just can’t manage to pull themselves up the 600 meter hike. Yes, that is not a lot! I recommend taking the paved routed number 1 up the mountain to make sure you don’t miss Takuoin and then take either the Biwa path (hike 6) down along a small river or the ridge line Inariyama Trail along beautiful narrow dirt and rocky paths. Round trip the hike won’t take longer than 3 hours.

tengu statues on mt takaosan in tokyo Japan

Come to Takao...Come to Takao...

Don’t forget to pack a small lunch to eat at the top. Like most hikes in Japan there are vending machines at the top so treat yourself to the view with nice local beer and admire the views out to Mt. Fuji. And no, you don’t get a picture of Mt. Fuji! I have to leave something for you to discover on your own.

Blog for Japan help Japan recover from the tsunamiThis post is part of the continuing Blog4Japan campaign to raise awareness for the need for donations to local organizations helping the survivors. If you would like to help please consider donating to this list of local Japanese organizations that are on the ground working right now.

Do you have  good day hike inside of Tokyo? Let us know below. Who am I kidding, if you have ANYTHING to say leave it below :)

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25 Responses to “Hiking in Tokyo- Mount Takao”

  1. kenjiSAITONo Gravatar says:

    Aloha,

    Nice little write up of this hike. I am going to try and do it today and then have to fly back home to Hawaii today.

    Mahalo

  2. jadeNo Gravatar says:

    Fantastic photos. I wish I had known about this hike when we were in Tokyo- good to put on the list for when we go back!

  3. HunterNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for this descriptive piece. I will be moving to Japan in just over a year, for a 2 year military tour. I will definitely look for this location. Thanks Todd.
    Hunter´s recent [type] ..Mil-Spouse Graduate School Cost

  4. Yeah its truly said that there are very few persons who have the knowledge that one can also enjoy hiking in Tokyo too….This post is an eye-opener for those guys..frankly saying including me too…

  5. SophieNo Gravatar says:

    Hiking in Tokyo… would never have thought…

  6. ArtiNo Gravatar says:

    Serene and tranquil,this is one trip i want to embark right NOW!!!
    Arti´s recent [type] ..Harsil Beauty Untouched

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Arti, yes, it is a nice hike. Just be careful not to do it on a weekend or festival day if you are looking for quiet. It is Tokyo after all :)

  7. It’s a strange thing, Todd, but Japan has never beckoned me. However I could have said the same thing about Asia; never had any desire to travel there and look at me now – addicted to the place. Reading all your posts about Japan is changing my mind, slowly. I suspect I’ll have to go there one day soon, but wonder when you think the country will be ready for tourism again.
    Barbara Weibel´s recent [type] ..A New Way of Thinking About Trash

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      I’m glad that I am slowly convincing you Barbara! Personally, I think Japan is fine to travel to now. There are of course areas you should not visit due to the sensitivity of the struggles people are going through, but the rest of the country is fine and could use the business!

  8. Cathy MNo Gravatar says:

    You’re 100% right. If someone told me they went hiking in Tokyo, I’d probably ask for proof–I’ve never thought that hiking was something you could do there!
    Does the train take you right to the trails? Is it easy to find your way around the trails or is it easy to get lost? I know I should relax and enjoy getting lost, but sometimes that’s a little scary if you’re hiking in a forest on a mountain, so I’m just curious about it.
    Looks beautiful! As someone who isn’t so into the nightlife and other craziness of what you hear about Tokyo, thanks for sharing alternative things to do there!

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Cathy, yes the train will take you right to the base of the trails. Quite amazing actually! The trails are clearly marked so there is not issues with getting lost, and there are a lot of people that do this hike so you will always find company.

  9. The beanie Buddhas are adorable!
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  10. LeighNo Gravatar says:

    I have heard about the wonderful hiking in the Japanese Alps but had never appreciated how great the hiking is so close to Tokyo. Are the trails crazy busy??
    I love the accompanying photos too.

  11. Awesome, that looks like a lot of fun, and that’s incredibly convenient that you can just hop on the train and arrive base of the hike! I’m looking forward to that view someday!
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  12. Wai TsuiNo Gravatar says:

    Oh no. No pictures for Mount Fuji…
    Last time I went to Tokyo I just went to Mount Fuji and didn’t really have time to explore other hiking routes. The JR system is really fantastic and you can almost travel anywhere you want. Will definitely try this trail out in my next Tokyo trip.
    Wai Tsui´s recent [type] ..Travel Light Packing List for Two Weeks in Asia

  13. SerenaNo Gravatar says:

    that’s a nice tip, i want to try some hiking over there!

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Serena, I love hiking in Japan. There is just something about hiking through the mountains and then coming across and ancient temple or shrine.

  14. GPS For CarNo Gravatar says:

    I have watched many TV travel programs on hiking in Japan and felt very passionate about it.
    It is surprising even around Tokyo there are so many lovely places to hike and enjoy. Definitely an option to consider when we are in or near Tokyo. Thanks for sharing.
    GPS For Car´s recent [type] ..The Ultimate GPS for Car – Garmin nüvi 1390LMT GPS

  15. travelroachNo Gravatar says:

    Urban hiking in Tokyo is lovely! I’ll remember this one for next time. I once walked from Nakano to Shibuya and back for no reason.
    travelroach´s recent [type] ..Me- Delhi- and the Meaning of Fear – Part 1 of 4- The Unblinking Cabby

    • ToddNo Gravatar says:

      Yes, it is. I like to walk through Tokyo’s back streets as well. I have another post and video I need to put up of walking from Harajuku to Shinjuku.

  16. Ted NelsonNo Gravatar says:

    There is a lot of things I am learning about Japan lately. I had a friend that just returned from a cross-country ski race in Sapporo. If they cross-country ski in Japan than I am not surprised that there is hiking there too. Thanks for the tip on where to go.
    Ted Nelson´s recent [type] ..Bach Ma National Park near Hué- Vietnam

    • ToddNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Ted, well Sapporo is a whole other story than Tokyo :) But yes, it is amazing that you can get out of Tokyo and into a national park to hike in just 1 hour and $4. Luckily for me, my wife’s family lives even closer to the hiking :)

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