More than its natural spots, Tokyo is famous for its vibrant nightlife and densely populated metropolitan area, where you rarely get to see some green areas but this is not actually entirely true. You would never imagine of finding small villages perched on a mountain surrounded by mist or autumnal colours. Of course, Tokyo is arguably the biggest city in the world but this does not mean that it just made up of concrete and high-rise buildings, it does have its natural side.
Tokyo metropolitan area is quite large, it stretches out to the north, creating a tip sandwiched between Yamanashi prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture and Saitama Prefecture. Almost located at its top, there is Mount Mitake, part of the Tama-Chichibu-Kai National park. Oh yeah, you have read well, there is a National Park just behind one of the most densely populated cities in the world!
Mitake San – 御岳山
Mount Mitake is only one of the various mounts present in the area, the other being Hinode and Otaku mounts, both reachable through Mitake. Mitake is located in Okutama region, the most westnorthern part of Tokyo, which can be easily reached in two hours by train from Shinjuku station.
At the top you can come across a very ancient temple, center of worship on the mountain already 2000 years ago. It is a big religious complex composed of a main shrine and many minor ones. From what I have read online and seen on the spot, it seems the religious building was founded by the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 2 centuries.
Mount Mitake also offers many different hiking trails, departing from the shrine, to choose from. One of the highlights is the so-called Rock Garden, which is basically a narrow valley with a very cute stream flowing downwards, beautified by many moss-covered stones on the sides. Besides the Rock Garden, you can also encounter two waterfalls if you decide to take this hiking trail.
If you are interested in canoeing then Mitake is really the perfect place for you. There are some rapids for you to shoot and they look rather spectacular. They go all the way down to the cute town located at the feet of the mount, near the train station.
Nanayo Waterfall and Ayahiro Waterfall
Nanayo waterfall is basically located at the end of a very steep hiking trail. I would not suggest this to people who are particularly afraid of the height because you will have to face your fear directly. The path is safe as we can tell from the steel stairs installed there in order to let us hike without danger. In addition the trees’ roots will help you as well, they are almost like stairs. Despite the hard hike, the waterfall will pay off the struggle. It is a rather small but very picturesque waterfall.
Ayahiro waterfall is easier and less tiring to reach. If you decide to go and see the Rock Garden, once you are at the end of the trail, do not stop and proceed. You won’t be disappointed! You can find a very cute waterfall, whose entrance is beautified with a dark-coloured Torii gate and on the side you can spot an inscribed rock. It seems a spirit resides in the waterfall.
Mitake San Village
On Mitake’s summit, you can also find a very small inhabited area, mainly made up of small hostels and pensions. But do not fret, there are also some very good and traditional restaurants up there. I do not know if it was due to my unbearable hunger and the tiring long hike or just because it was just good on its own, but that Niku Udon I ate there was the best I have ever tasted.
Unlike what you might think, due to its fame among Tokyo people, food is not overpriced but rather cheap, I would say. A very big and delicious Udon broth was just around 800 yen. The restaurants also have some souvenir shops just to increase their incomes, you know. You can find anything there from fake Samurai swords to typical food.
How To Reach:
Take the JR Chuo Line Holiday Kaisoku Okutama, which will bring you directly to Mitake Station. Once there, you can take the bus just outside the train station and in 10 minutes you will be at the feet of Mount Mitake. To reach the summit, you can either climb or take the Cable Cair. We did climb up and it takes, more or less, one hour. The journey with JR Chuo Line is fully covered by the JR Rail Pass.
Mount Takao – 高尾山
Mount Takao is another perfect escape from Tokyo’s hustle bustle yet very close to it. It is just outside of Hachioji, a city on the outskirts of Tokyo. It is said to be one of the best places where to see the autumn foliage, or Momiji in Japanese, in the entire city but unfortunately, I could not witness to it since I went in October.
Nevertheless I really enjoyed the place and the nature. You can also come countless times to Mount Takao because there are many hiking trails to try out and all different from each others.
Biwa Waterfall – 琵琶滝
If I have to be honest, I do not remember the number of the trail we decided to proceed on but I clearly remember we chose it because we would have got to see a waterfall on the way. The trail was not too hard, just very steep at its later stage and it was pretty enjoyable because we got to see many locals and happy families hiking up and down.
Everyone is so friendly, greeting us as we went up. The waterfall is not that much of special, it is very very tiny; the actual highlight is the small temple located in front of it, where it is said monks used to go in order to train. Indeed, we were lucky enough to see some of them and hear buddhist chants when we got there.
No matter how hard and long the hiking trail is, once you reach the top, you rage will be appeased. The view up there is amazing! There is not better spot to look at Tokyo from such a height. You can see how the city is huge but unlike any other places in Tokyo, here you can see that Tokyo’s urbanization actually ends at a certain point; everything has an end, even Tokyo’s area ahaha
At the top you can find a cute restaurant selling ramen, tsukemen and other Japanese delicacies where you can sit down, refill yourself and start the hike again because the view is not the only thing awaiting you up there. Follow the signs and you will end up in front of the Yakuoin Temple.
Yakuoin Temple is a beautifully carved wooden temple where you can pray to the mountain-gods such as Tengu, which is a crow-like god. You will find his statues spread throughout Mount Takao. This is not the only religious building up there, just wander around a bit and you will come across other minor temples or shrines.
How To Reach:
From Shinjuku you can use Keio Railway that will bring you directly to the closest station called Takao San-guchi. The journey takes roughly 50 minutes and costs less than 400 yen, even though it is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass since the Keio line is a private company and is not owned by the JR.
Do you like hiking? Did you know any of these places or do you know others to suggest me? Let me know in the comment below 🙂