Tokyo Guide: Mt. Takao
Mt. Takao (Takaosan) 高尾山
Mt. Takao (Takao-san) is a small, easily accessible mountain west of Tokyo that was once a retreat for ascetics and is now a one-day escape into nature for Tokyoites.
Mt. Takao is on the western edge of the Kanto plain and is the start of the vast Chichibu mountainous region, that straddles five prefectures. It is preserved as part of the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park, which retains the original plant and animal life that has mostly disappeared from neighboring mountains due to forest replanting.
Mt. Takao is visited mostly for its numerous hiking trails and is the start of the 1,700 km (over 1,000 mile) Tokai Nature Trail that goes all the way to Mino in the Kansai region. Mount Takao's hiking trails can be initially bypassed by way of a chairlift or cable car that takes visitors about halfway up the mountain. There is a museum-cum-visitors center at the foot of the mountain, another visitors center at the summit, a Buddhist temple, a monkey park and wild plant garden. Great views of other mountains, including Mt. Fuji, can be had at the summit. Mt. Takao is particularly beautiful in spring and fall, with notable cherry blossom and autumn leaf groves.
Mount Takao Attractions
Takao 599 Museum
Takao 599 Museum (the 599 referring to Mt. Takao's height in meters) is a smart, spacious "museum" (more like a visitors center) just 6 minutes walk from Takaosanguchi Station. Entry is free, and a broad range of information can be gotten here before climbing the mountain. Hours: Apr-Nov, 8 am - 5 pm (last entry 4:30 pm); Dec-Mar. 8 am - 4 pm (last entry 3:30 pm)
Climbing Mt. Takao
Mt. Takao's 599 meters can be climbed in a little over an hour. Of the six trails, Trail No.1 is paved, and intersects partway with the top end of the cable car and chairlift, which take visitors halfway up the mountain in about 6 and 12 minutes respectively. The cable car and chairlift base stations are very near Takaosanguchi Station, and next to each other. Fare: 480 yen one way, 930 yen return, for adults. Hours: Cable car: 8 am - between 5:15 & 6:30 pm, depending on the season. Chairlift: May-Nov: 9 am - 4:30 pm, Dec-Apr: 9 am - 4 pm.
Takao Monkey Park & Wild Plant Garden
The Takao Monkey Park and the Wild Plant Garden are less than 3 minutes walk on up the mountain from where you get off the chairlift or cable car. There are 60 monkeys in a glass-walled enclosure that clamber along ropes and interact with each other for visitors' amusement/edification. The Wild Plant Garden preserves about 300 plants, mainly sub-alpine as well as some alpine, that have long characterized the mountain's flora. Both attractions are covered by the same ticket. 420 yen for adults. Hours: Dec-Feb, 9:30 am - 4 pm; Mar-Apr, 10 am - 4:30 pm; May-Nov, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm.
Yakuoin Temple, about 10 minutes walk further on, is integral to Mt. Takao's history as a retreat for religious ascetics. Founded in 744 A.D. by the priest Gyoki , Yakuoin came to be associated with Shugendo: the way of the mountain ascetics, which combined aspects of various eastern religions. For this reason, Yakuoin shares both Buddhist and Shinto traits in its design. The fearsome, red-faced tengu mountain god is the main focus here, although statues of the Buddha also abound.
Mt. Takao Summit
The Mt. Takao Visitors Center is at the top of Mt. Takao, and has maps of the various trails that go from the top of the mountain across to other mountains in nearby Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. There is a Momijidai (Fall Leaf Viewing Spot) about 10 minutes walk on from here, and the famous Itchodaira, or "Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees of Mt. Takao," area about 30 minutes on, which are at their flowering peak a couple of weeks later than cherry blossom in Tokyo (i.e., in mid-to-late April).
Around Mt. Takao
Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu is a hot-spring facility next to Takaosanguchi Station that, besides communal baths (separate for men and women), also has dining and massage facilities. Hours: 8 am - 11 pm (last entry 10 pm), entry fee: 1,000 yen for adults (bathing only), or 1,200 yen at peak seasons (end of April to early May, November and January 1-3).
Getting to Mt. Takao
Takao-san's ease of accessibility is one of its biggest attractions.
From Shinjuku Station, take the Keio Line Special Express ("Tokkyu") train to Kitano, then change at Kitano to the train bound for Takaosanguchi Station. The Keio Line offers a special Mt. Takao Round-trip Discount Ticket, available at any station on the Keio Line, for a one-way or round-trip ride to (and from) Mt. Takao, plus a ropeway or cable car ticket, by which you save 20%. From Shinjuku, the trip takes just under an hour.
From Tokyo Station, take the JR Chuo Line Rapid ("Kaisoku") train to Takao Station, then change to the Keio Takaosan Line and get off at Takaosanguchi. From Tokyo, the ride takes about 1 hr 20 minutes.
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