Tokyo’s Mountain of Tranquility

Mount Takao

The world’s biggest city. Vast suburbs and an honor-bound population of 35 million, equal to all of California. Where they eat all manner of Oceanic goop. But wilderness in Tokyo is not as slippery and elusive as you might think.

In the time it takes to blow off an afternoon meeting, you can hike wooded trails on autumn-colored sub-ranges with the snowy cone of Fuji in the distance.

Tokyo Japan

Here’s the plan: From the jam-packed-street kabuki of Tokyo’s downtown Shinjuku area, walk to Shinjuku train station. From the west side of the world’s busiest railway vault (3.5 million shiny-black-shoe passengers daily; heroin hollow looks and death-row dispositions), board the Keio Line bound for Takaosan-guchi. A train leaves every 20 minutes from Platform 3.

The tracks unspool into the past and in less than an hour you’ll be riding a funicular tram up Mt. Takao. You’re still in metropolitan Tokyo, but it feels more like a wooded national park, which it is. A scrawl of the geese in the sky and everywhere, bright red acuba berries.

Mt. Takao Tram Tokyo

Mount Takao (1,959 ft.) is Tokyo’s most prominent mountain and one of the closest natural recreation areas to central Tokyo. Locals whiplash between city and country. You won’t be alone, which is kind of nice, too. In Japan, it seems more properly alone by being together.

There’s a seemingly endless conga line of passengers trudging off the tram in a zigzag line to the trails ahead, where hell is a stylish shoe. The place also is rich in anthropological fruit.

To many, Takaosan is a scared mountain, a place of worship for more than 1,000 years. Everywhere in Japan you’ll find some form of Buddhism as well as the all-dominant and more ancient faith of Shinto. They are as eternal as the mountains. Compulsions are hard to explain, but you’ll find them on Takao.

Near the summit, kicking Buddha’s gong is the temple Yakuo-in, a triumph of spirit over nature that dates from 744 as a base for Buddhism in eastern Japan.

Tokyo, Japan

A maze of well-marked hiking trails pockmarks the slopes and valleys of Takaosan. The views are enough to lift the stock of Nikon, except for the fact that most of these pilgrims perched like catbirds on the pinnacle of Tokyo, are aiming smartphones.

Tokyo Takaosan

When the sugar is out of the gum and you get hungry, there’s an authentic soba-noodle culture happening down near the rail station. Remember to make noise when you slurp the noodles, there’s decorum to maintain.

During the Edo period (1603–1867), Yakuo-in expanded under the patronage of the ruling Tokugawa family. And if you’d like to relive the Edo period, we found a full-tilt ryokan (traditional inn) in the heart of Tokyo offering traditional dinner and breakfast as well as Edo entertainment: Ryokan Sukeroku-no-Yado “Sadachiyo. Address: 2-20-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0032.

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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • Sarfa33 at 9:34pm October 15, 2013

    Great article. Truly one of the hidden gems of Tokyo.
    But, you forgot to mention to make sure to get decked out head-to-toe in North Face/Mont Blanc/Marmot/Patagonia gear before heading to the mountain, otherwise you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. If there’s one thing Japanese people like, it’s gear. $1000 worth of gear for a half-day hike through the hills, not to be worn again until next year? Sure! Why not? 🙂

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