Sunday 7 October 2012

Taking a break from Tokyo

Few people would associate Tokyo with mountains. However, after just an hour’s train ride heading west out of Tokyo and you will find yourself in a lusciously green mountainous area. Welcome to Mount Takao. Visited by over 2.5 million people a year, this is not much of a secret to Tokyoites, many of whom take day trips to the area.

At 599 metres the mountain is relatively petite for Japan but it has nevertheless been seen as sacred for more than a millennium. In the autumn the whole area breaks out in a cacophony of spectacularly gorgeous red and yellow leaves that bring so many people here. But it is worth taking the train trip if you just want to go to a slightly higher ground to escape Tokyo’s blistering summer heat.

Alighting from Takao station, you have different options for reaching the mountain’s summit. Either take the cable car and then walk for about half an hour, or hike up the several different hiking trails that exist. Each trail has it own points of interest but perhaps one of the most enjoyable is trail number 6 that takes you to the Biwa Waterfall where on the first Saturday of each month you can see hard-core Buddhists pray while sitting under the waterfall as part of their ascetic training. But beware for this happens to be one of the most inclined trains to the peak.

Japanese temple lovers will be delighted to learn that nearby exists the Yakuo-in temple. Consisting of a series of smaller temples, this 8th-century complex is dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of medicine and healing. You will see many people coming here to pray for their good health.

To get to Mount Takao, take the JR Chuo line from Shinjuku to Takao Station and then change to the Keio line one more stop to Takao-san Guchi station. On the express, the trip is less than an hour.  From Takao-san Guchi, it’s only about a 5-minute walk to the cable car, the chair lift and the trails.

Unique Japan Tours is happy to help you find accommodation if you want to stay overnight in the area.


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