Tokyo can be a tricky one, especially as a solo foreigner, you’ll wanna avoid the peak hours for public transport. Then, you gotta take into consideration that the sun sets really early in autumn and winter, which leaves you with limited time for activity in between.
Now, I’ve never heard of Mount Takao before, but I had a day to myself in Tokyo and wanted to do something different from the usual shopping and temple-hopping. While researching for options via the awesome Japan-Guide, I came across Mount Takao, a mountain in Tokyo that’s 599m tall. 50min by express train from Shinjuku, this mountain is really popular with the locals, especially in autumn!
Solo Day Trip to Hike Mount Takao
Getting to Mt Takao
At Keio Shinjuku Station (which is actually Shinjuku Station but at Keio’s side), I purchased a package (Mt. Takao Discount Ticket) from Keio Railways, using the ticketing machine, right before entering. The package includes round-trip train tickets from Shinjuku to/from Takaosanguchi Station, as well as return tickets (up & down) for cable-car &/or chairlift. This package works out to be a good deal, costing 1,380yen instead of 1,710yen, letting me save 20%! You can also choose the package of round-trip train tickets + one-way cable car/chairlift ride, so you can hike down the whole way if you want.
Four cards/tickets will be dispensed if you buy return train tickets and round-trip cable-car/chairlift from the machine:
1) train ticket from Shinjuku to Takaosanguchi
2) train ticket from Takaosanguchi to Shinjuku
3) round-trip coupon for the chairlift/cable-car
4) a coupon that says you bought a “Mt. Takao Discount Ticket”
You can choose the English interface via the top right-hand corner on the machine screen. Look for the “Discount Ticket” on the left vertical bar.
Making my way to Mt Takao felt a little like déjà vu, reminiscent of the time I did another day trip to Kamakura, almost exactly a year ago, in the same season.
| Read Also: Stunning Autumn Blooms at Kamakura, Tokyo |
Exactly 50 minutes later, I arrived at Takaosanguchi Station in perfect weather! Cold temperature with the sun illuminating everything =)
Mt Takao – the mountain in Tokyo that lets you see Mount Fuji (during clear weather)
Once you leave the train station, follow the crowd, turn right, and head upwards to get to the foot of Mount Takao.
The good news about visiting Mount Takao is, you don’t have to hike all the way from the foot to the top of the mountain (599m).
You can take a cable-car (actually a tram) or chairlift to the middle of the mountain, and continue hiking up. There are 5 hiking trails from where the cable-car/chairlift drops you off at.
Autumn foliage in Japan always takes my breath away!
Taking the Cable-Car up Mt Takao
This photo above was the extremely long queue to take the cable-car. Since I already have my ticket from the machine at Keio Shinjuku station earlier, I didn’t need to buy them at this station. At the gantry in front, someone will validate your ticket to let you through. (Keep that round-trip coupon cos you need it for your ride down.)
If you wanna take the chairlift, stick to the right and walk past this crowd. It’ll lead you to a different, higher platform to take the chairlift. (Therefore, the queue begins there, not here.)
I’d expected a half-hour wait but this cable-car queue took 50min -.-”
When it was finally my turn, I promptly boarded the tram along with many other Japanese people, and stood along the aisle. Towards the top, the ride turned crazy because the inclination became really steep and I was struggling to hold myself upright while still taking video with my iPhone! Guess what, this is supposedly Japan’s steepest cable-car, with a 31-degrees inclination. It sure felt more than 31 degrees though!
12.15pm: Got off the tram and we’re halfway up Mount Takao by now. Check out this view of Tokyo!
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Initially, I thought I’ll skip lunch and make do with the snacks in my bag if I get hungry. But I walked past this udon restaurant and decided to check out its menu at the door. The prices were reasonable (less than 1000yen for udon), but it was something that was beyond the food that convinced me. The restaurant has some amazing views outside their windows on the other side! With outdoor seats! I Must Eat Here!
There were no vacant outdoor seats when it was my turn, but I told the waitress (who looked super busy but being Japanese, always polite and smiley) that I’ll wait.
Afterwards, when there was an available seat outdoors, she politely ushered me there. You’ll understand why I insisted on eating and sitting outdoors….
Lunch view of autumn foliage, window-less!
I was besotted… My udon arrived really quickly, but it took a long time to begin eating, simply because I have to take the photos!
The air was chilly, people were just chatting softly in Japanese around me, while I took in all the sounds and sights of nature ahead of me. I wished the serving was bigger, just so I could spend a longer time to enjoy my food. The udon was delicious by the way!
So glad I stopped for lunch here! Because the hike afterwards took me longer than I’d predicted. If I hadn’t eaten this udon, I would have been famished with limited energy.
Hiking Mount Takao
Starting my hike at Trail 3
1.10pm: After leaving the restaurant and walking on, the majority of people were strolling up Trail 1 – a well-paved, concrete road. Having done my research and deciding on Trail 3, I deviated to the side and began my hike. It’ll be 2.5km to the top of Mount Takao.
Was a little apprehensive because it looked kinda secluded, but how many people do I expect to be hiking with me anyway?! Trail 3 turned out relatively well-maintained, though there was uneven ground because this is nature, or the path can turn very narrow, etc. To the left of the path, it goes a deep way down. How deep I do not know, but I didn’t really wanna think about it, nor imagine having a heart-attack and collapsing the wrong way blah blah. Practise mindfulness, just stay in the moment.
Sometimes, a tree trunk will cut through your path. Of course that tree gets right of way!
I hiked at my own pace, pausing constantly for photos and to revel in the raw beauty and quietness of the forest. I was also slightly amazed that most of the time, I was alone and that I could actually do this on my own in a foreign country! #solotravelachievement
It’s actually not as secluded as my photos will have you think. Every now and then, fellow hikers will pass by from the opposite direction or overtake me from behind if I stop for photos. Sometimes, the path gets too narrow to accommodate more than 1 person, so someone will step/lean to the inner side and let the other party pass. It’s also a kind of ‘practice’ that hikers say hi while passing by, in this case, “Konnichiwa~”. There were also hikers asking me information in Japanese, so I had to indicate that I can’t speak Japanese.
Eventually, I put my camera and handphone away (my selfie stick broke after this photo because I was too rough lololl), in order to focus on the hike. And yes, I hiked in this winter jacket and more layers underneath without breaking much of a sweat! It was wonderful being able to connect with nature in this kind of temperature.
Towards the end of the trail, it was upslope with many, many steps, until the path emerged into this area! I love all the sun flares taken by my iPhone!
2.20pm: Reached the summit of Mt Takao!
It’s so bright, sunny, and chilly, with plenty of people around (not in an annoying way).
In clear weather, you’ll be able to see Mt Fuji from here.
Here’s a peak of Mt Fuji, when I hiked Mt Takao again in Nov 2017! Can you see it? It’s the one with a fluffy top, nearer the right side of this photo!
I sighed, it’s so lovely to be here.
At the summit of Mt Takao, you’ll find restaurants selling Japanese food, vending machines, and modern, clean washrooms. I wondered how the staff makes their way to work every day? And the delivery of food ingredients? Amazing.
3pm: It’s time to descend Mount Takao
This time, I chose to take Trail 4 as it comes with a suspension bridge somewhere along the trail. This trail had a “Slippery” warning sign because of leaves and so on.
This was my path, lol. Don’t underestimate those leaves – they really can make you slip if you’re not careful!
Couldn’t get a nice photo of the suspension bridge and there were significantly more people on this trail leaving Mt Takao. Hiking down was much faster though. In no time, I was back near the cable-car platform. Nearby, there’s this place selling a mochi-like snack (called dango), made of steamed and hulled rice flour, roasted over fire, then coated with sweet, sticky sauce.
I sat on a chair eating my mochi balls while facing this view. Life is awesome! Right? Until… A fruit-fly decided to fly to my snack and get itself stuck on the sticky sauce. -.-”
Taking the Chairlift down Mt Takao
Getting onto this chairlift involves walking onto a moving conveyor belt and then sitting your butt down courageously on the chair when it looms up behind you. This means you can’t carry your backpack behind, but in front. The staff are very professional and efficient. There’s no handle-bars to secure you to your seat, FYI. You can grasp the metal handles at the side of the chair! Don’t worry, the ride is pretty smooth. Just don’t rock your chair.
I risked dropping my stuff just to take these photos and video for you guys!
Soon enough, I was back at the foot of the mountain. Before I left Takaosanguchi, I decided to go to the onsen facility (Onsen Gokurakuyu, I don’t recommend it though) beside Takaosanguchi Station, and soaked inside all the pools before I left! There’s also a Takao 599 Museum (free entry) that you can visit.
| Read Also: Beginner’s Guide: How to Use Onsen in Japan! |
I can see why Mount Takao is so popular.
This day hike was much easier than I thought, coming from someone who’s not really into outdoor activities nor did much hiking before (I had a really tough time hiking Mt Batur in Bali). The different trails Mt Takao has meant you can choose according to your preferences and fitness levels. Each trail offers different experiences and sights, ranging from Biwa Waterfall (perhaps even a monk training under the waterfall if you’re lucky), to a monkey park, Yakuo-in Temple, etc. I enjoyed hiking through the quiet forests for Trail 3 – the silence through the forests was a welcome delight. That path also gently forced me to stay in the present moment and focus fully on my journey.
Glad I did this day trip!
What to know before visiting Mount Takao!
- To take the train, look for Keio Line at Shinjuku Station. If this helps, the direction where Keio Line is will be towards the right of Shinjuku Station’s South Exit (if you’re coming from inside Shinjuku train station); or, towards the left of mentioned exit (if you’re standing at the entrance in front of, before Shinjuku’s South Exit). That’s where you should head to to get the Keio discount tickets + take the train from.
- The train station to get off at is Takaosanguchi Station (KO 53), not Takao Station. You’ll see many people exiting the train with you. It’s also the last stop for that direction.
- Decide ahead which trail you’re keen on, before going Mt Takao. Trail 1 is mostly paved concrete road, is friendly for kids, even the elderly. However, it’s also a longer trail (3.8km), compared to the other five trails. Disclaimer: I cannot confirm the condition of Trail 1 as I didn’t use that. There are likely stairs to overcome.
- Buffer time for queuing for the chairlift/cable-car especially in autumn! You can easily queue for almost an hour.
- Note the last available timings you can take the chairlift/cable-car to leave the mountain.
- Eat something before hiking the trails after your chairlift/cable-car, because you won’t find food along the way till you reach the summit. There are eateries outside the cable-car station, then at the summit.
- Bring at least a small bottle of water. In summer weather, a face towel for wiping sweat will be useful.
- If you’re not taking Trail 1, it’s important you wear proper shoes (hiking shoes or non-slippery covered shoes (I wore leather boots)). The nature trails might be slippery from the soil/mud/leaves/streams.
- Take your trash with you, don’t leave it on the mountain.
- For the cable-car, it can climb to a very steep angle so if you’re standing along the aisle, be sure you hold on to a pole or bar, and that you don’t have unsecured things that will topple onto others. For the chairlift, carry your backpack at the front before stepping onto the conveyor belt.
- Note emergency numbers, just in case.
Ps: This entry is updated on 24 November 2017, because I went Mt Takao again on this day!
Any questions about Mt Takao?
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Month visited: Nov 2016 & Nov 2017
Further useful links:
Mount Takao’s website • Japan Guide • Keio Line’s discount package details • Japan-Magazine • Summary of the different trails by Goin Japanese
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• Tokyo’s cutest festival in November: Shichi Go San!
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• Checking in Kyoto: Yumotokan onsen ryokan hotel
• Seeing a geisha finally in Kyoto
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