Are you looking for a trip out into the countryside? Do you want to do a little easy hiking, see the leaves turn, and just breathe? Mt. Takao is an easy day trip out of Tokyo and well worth a trip!
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Every weekend when we were working in Japan, we wanted to go somewhere new and fun, and yet, for some reason, it took us quite some time before heading to Mt. Takao. We love visiting the snow monkeys, visiting onsen towns, and exploring castles, along with just getting out into the countryside for some hikes. So you’d think we would have gone to Takao sooner.
Once we got there and found out how much fun it is and how close it was to Tokyo, we went back a couple of times. I wish we’d learned it a little earlier, though, I think we would have gone during every season of the year.
As it was, we only went during the fall. Fall is huge in Japan because their gorgeous maple trees are changing colors. Walking through them is just magical, and being from the northeastern state of Connecticut, I love autumn.
In this article:
- How to Get There
- Best Time to Visit
- Things to do on Mt. Takao
- Weather and What to Bring
- Where to Eat
How to Get There
For us, since we owned a car, we drove. Surprisingly it was one of the few places we went that didn’t have high tolls. There are always some tolls, but I think we paid around 800 yen total, which trust me, is not bad.
I do think most people will go to Takaosan by train, and it’s a pretty easy train ride. You can take the Keio line from Shinjuku to the Takaosanguchi station. It’s a short walk to the stores and restaurants at the base of the mountain as well as the ticket station.
At the ticket station, you can choose to take either the ropeway (chairlift) or cable car (funicular) to the top. If you want to do a round trip, you can take the chairlift up and the funicular down or vice versa. Alternatively, if you hike to the summit from there, it will take you about two hours.
Best Time to Visit
Hands down, the best time to visit Mt. Takao is in the autumn. The leaves all around the park are various shades of orange to brown, the air is crisp and cool, and there are plenty of street food stalls with hot choices if you get a little chilled.
However, it’s a mountain. Nature has this way of making itself beautiful during each season. Spring and summer boast plenty of blooming plants along the path, and in winter you will probably find some snow. It’s really up to you and the time of year you are visiting Japan.
Hikes Available on Takaosan
Hiking is the number one thing to do on Mt. Takao. With my bad knee, I’m not as fond of hiking as I used to be, especially if there is a lot of going up and down. It’s killer, but even though, of course, there are some climbs, I found the trails on Takaosan pretty easy-going.
There are eight trails you can choose from when hiking Mt. Takao, ranging from about one kilometer to over 15 kilometers in length. The difficulty levels of the trails provide a range that is sure to fit the skill level of just about any hiker.
Most people take the cable car or chairlift up to the halfway point and catch up with the Omesando trail. This is a relatively straight shot to the top. It’s almost four kilometers long in total, but the cable car gets you to almost the halfway point.
Most of the trails are going to take you through stunning forests and pristine nature, but a couple of the trails have special items to see. One is the Biwa trail, which will take you to a stunning waterfall, and the other is the Suspension Bridge trail. If you have time, pick at least one of these to add to your main path.
Click here for a map and explanation of the trails.
Things to Do on Takao Mountain
There are a few things to do on the mountain along with hiking, breathing the fresh air, and being in nature for a day.
As part of the main path, Omesando, you’ll pass by the Octopus cedar tree, a monkey park where you can view the Japanese macaques, and attached is a wild plant garden as well.
The monkey park is a huge enclosure with about 70 monkeys. We visited, and the monkeys seemed healthy. They were very active. If you don’t think you will be able to see the snow monkeys in their natural habitat, this might be an easy alternative.
Finally, there is a huge, beautiful shrine on Mt. Takao, the Yakou-in Temple which is well worth the stop. We thoroughly enjoyed the many “good luck” games you can play around the temple, and if your Japanese is better, there were a lot of ways to read your fortune.
At the bottom, there is a huge onsen (public bath) complex, where you can bathe, get massages, and relax. This is very popular for the after-Takaosan, sort of like an aprés-ski treat to relax those muscles you just gave a workout. It’s called the Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu. While there you can also have a great meal of soba noodles…mmm my favorite.
If you aren’t into the entire bath scene, there is also a foot onsen below the mountain as well. We did this and we sipped some coffee, really warming up and enjoying the foot soak after our hike.
Weather and What to Bring
Takaosan is 599 meters or 1965 feet high, and it’s a forest, so depending on when you are hiking you will be in and out of the shade. This makes for a day that will go from warm to cool and back to warm again, or cool to cold even.
Average temperatures are pretty mild throughout the year. Summer temps range from 64-88 °F and winter temps range from 40-50 °F. These aren’t too bad, but the rest of the year, between March and May, and then again between September and November, the temps are great for hiking (range of 49-80 °F).
We suggest you wear good hiking shoes and dress in layers. Our day pack always has a light fleece and a rain poncho inside for days like this, because you really don’t know what to expect throughout the day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be either hot or cold.
Where to Eat
We’ve eaten at a couple of places while visiting Mt. Takao. Once you get to the observation deck, there is an all-you-can-eat beer garden, called Beer Mount where you can grill the meat right at your table. It’s got a 2-hour limit on your stay, but that’s plenty of time for a few beers and a great lunch with an awesome view.
Also, at the bottom, there is a great little Italian restaurant called Fumitoya Italian right near the foot onsen. We had a pizza, then ordered a cappuccino to have while soaking our tired feet. Heaven!
Sometimes we all need a break from pounding the pavement in big cities, like Tokyo, so getting out for a day and hiking around Mt. Takao will rejuvenate you. You won’t want to wait as long as we did to check out this natural beauty.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.