Takao San is a 599m high mountain, 50mins from Shinjuku, Tokyo by express train.
It’s height is humble in comparison to neighboring mountains like Fuji-san. But the draw to it is large.
On New Year’s Eve you’ll find many devoted, hiking the mountain to be at the summit for sunrise.
In summer, you’ll find hoards of friends, cheers'ing in the beer garden (which is nomihodai and tabehodai - all you can eat and drink).
And for those not interested in hiking, but still interested in a good view, the summit is easily accessible by lift or cable car.
In general, Takao, with it's crisp mountain air, is just a welcome respite from the concrete induced heat of Tokyo.
While weekdays are less crowded than weekends, you can still expect to have companions on the trails. Takao is a really popular spot for day trips from schools, for seniors to get in their exercise and for trail runners.
Tip: Take the Keio Special Express that runs from Shinjuku to Takaosanguchi. Since Shinjuku is the first stop, you may even be able to get a seat. The Special Express will have you at the trailhead in less than 50 minutes (leaves from platform 3).
There are many different trails to climb, all varying lengths and difficulties. Here is a site with a good breakdown of the different paths and lengths.
We took Trail 6 up the mountainside. It is the longest, but also a super gradual slope that follows the river bed - after strong rains part of the trail turns into a stream and you can hop from rock to rock, or hike straight up through the stream.
Tip: Wear waterproof shoes.
The water was crystal clear and there is actually a spring that you can drink water coming straight out of the mountain side. It was delicious!
At the summit there are food and drink stalls, but we brought our own picnic. And found a quiet spot to sit down and eat.
There is a great viewing platform on the summit - that on clear days you could see as far as Shinjuku - or even Mt Fuji! It was way too foggy to see anything for us, but we could imagine it’d be nice.
On the way down we took the Inariyama Trail. It’s the second longest. It was super slick after the rain - with lots of mud. This path is a bit steeper and full of stairs. The mud, stairs combo made the descent a little treacherous, may have been helpful to have some walking poles on the way down!
I’d be interested in trying some other trails to see if they are more scenic or enjoyable for the descent. Or I’d just go back down the same trail we came up (#6) because it was so beautiful.
After you get down from the mountainside, you could checkout the newly built onsen, or soak your feet in the ashinoyu - both by the station.
Definitely make sure to clean your boots before you board the train. They have the sweetest little station complete with bucket and scrub brushes right out front! #onlyinJapan
If you are a visitor, and have come to Japan after the Fuji climbing season is over - Takao is a great alternative. If you want to make it extra special, you could stay in accommodations close by and summit at sunrise. The mountain is open to hikers as long as they bring their own light.