On my second weekend in Tokyo, I searched for a bit of nature to enjoy the non-rainy day (well, it did rain a little much later in the day). It wasn’t as bright and sunny as my day in Yoyogi Park, but at least my shoes stayed dry for the day. I found a fairly easy train ride to Mt. Takao to the west of Tokyo (but still technically part of the metropolitan area), but not much further than my suburban area.
Mt. Takao has been a sacred mountain in Japan for over 1000 years. At an elevation of 1965 ft, it’s far from the highest mountain I’ve hiked, but still worth the trek. It provides great views of Tokyo, the surrounding forests, and even Mt. Fuji on a clear. I’m almost certain it was somewhere out there through the clouds. Or maybe it was on the other side.
The main path to the summit is fairly wide and paved for the throngs of visitors. There are some other trails around, but I decided to follow the crowd up in the hopes that it offered the best views.
Along the walk there were plenty of places to stop for photos — some more crowded than others. There are also numerous markers in Japanese and statues throughout the area, some Shinto and some Buddhist.
What is Tengu?
Upon reaching Yakuoin Temple at Mt. Takao, I encountered images of Tengu, a long-nosed sort of Puck-ish goblin. I was a little confused because I recognized the kanji characters of his name and translated them literally as Sky Dog.
There is also a bird-like deity at the mountain. When I first heard about this deity, I pictured Garuda, but I was wrong — there’s no relation between the two deities.
The temple was supposedly first built in 744, but was damaged or destroyed four times by fires and typhoons.
As I wandered around the temple, I found that there was a prayer service in progress and joined in. At the end of the service everyone lined up to walk up to the monks and receive a blessing. I’ve now been blessed by Tibetan, Thai, Burmese, and Japanese monks.
Meeting fellow hikers
About a third of the way up, I met four Chinese expats, which made the day more interesting. I guessed they were either Taiwanese, university students, or expats because they weren’t on an official tour following a guide with a little flag. They were fun to talk with and knew enough English for when I couldn’t think of how to say some things in Chinese. They also explained a bit about Tengu and some of the food (like the Devil’s Tongue I tried) and drinks along the trail to the summit.
This group was also very helpful when it came to figuring out why my bank card didn’t work at any of the ATMs in the area. If I hadn’t met them, I might’ve ended up a beggar at the base of Mt. Takao. Fortunately, the end result was much more fun — we ended up in Shinjuku for dinner at a Chinese restaurant that serves Lazhou la mian (兰州拉面), which I haven’t had since I lived in China.
For those who want to go to Mt. Takao, it takes about an hour to hike up to the summit from the train station, assuming you don’t stop too often for things like photos, sake, or snacks and don’t take alternate trails. There is a cable car and a chairlift that go from the base to about halfway up the mountain for 470 yen each way. The chairlift does not offer better views though. There is no entrance fee for hiking or to go to the temple. I also skipped out on the Monkey Park on the way to the summit.