Trekking Through Tranquility: Mount Takao's Natural Splendor

by Nana Young
People trekking at Mount Takao (Takao San), Tokyo, Japan

Explore the sights and experiences of Mount Takao with our master guide. We’ll reveal all about the recreation area and natural landscape, including the best views, activities, hiking routes, and local delicacies.

Ascending to Serenity: Introducing the Majesty of Mount Takao

The mythical creature Tengu in front of a shrine on Mt. Takao.

Mount Takao is a mountain in Japan, located in Hachioji city on the western section of Tokyo Prefecture. With a height of only 599 meters, Mount Takao is not even close to being among the tallest mountains in Japan. However, it offers one of the most beautiful landscapes for hiking.

Also known as Takaosan, Mount Takao is surrounded by the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park. No other natural recreation landscape is closer to central Tokyo; hence, Mount Takao is easily accessible from the main city via a short train ride. Because of the abundance of energetic plant and animal life, along with its close association with supernatural creatures from Shinto lore called tengu, Mount Takao is known as the “mountain of spirits.”

The most popular attractions at Mount Takao and its surrounding area are the scenic hiking trails, vibrant wildlife, and observation deck at the summit. Our ultimate guide explores all of these attractions and more, providing you with all of the details you need before taking your first trip to Mount Takao.

Getting There: Navigating Your Journey to Mount Takao

Cable car station in Mount Takao

If you’re in central Tokyo, you can get to Mount Takao by following the following instructions on transportation options. There are two major train routes from Tokyo to Mount Takao. The first option is to use the Keio Railway, which is cheaper and faster than any other route. Start your journey at Keio Shinjuku Station, where every 20 minutes or so, a limited express train will pass through. Take one of the trains from the underground train station to Takaosanguchi Station, which is located at the foot of Mount Takao. 

The second train route uses the Japan Railway. Unlike the other route, this is covered by a JR Pass, which allows you unlimited access to most of the train service in Japan’s rail network. From Shinjuku Station in central Tokyo, take a train heading to Takao Station on the JR Chuo Line. Once there, transfer to another train on the Keio Line and stop at Takaosanguchi Station.

Both routes should get you to the foot of the mountain in less than an hour. When you get to your destination, you can take a cable car or chair lift halfway up Mount Takao. Many people use this mini-transport system to get to one of the observation decks or to speed up the journey on hiking trails.

Treading the Trails: Exploring the Hiking Routes of Mount Takao

People watching red maple leaf at Mount Takao

Mount Takao is most famous for its vast network of hiking trails that lead to the mountain slopes. There are 8 Takaosan hiking trails catering to different fitness levels and interests. About six of them are numbered as Trails 1-6 and the other two are the Inariyama and Takao-Jimba Trails.

Trail 1 (Omotesando Trail) is a favorite among the majority of hikers who come to the mountain. It follows a path to the Takaosan Yakuo-in (a 1,200-year-old shrine) and nearly all other major sites. Be sure to check out Monkey Park, the home of over 40 Japanese macaques. Overall, the 3.8-kilometer trail takes about 100 minutes to get to the mountain’s summit and 80 minutes to come back down. It’s broadness and paved paths make Trail 1 the best for beginners.

Trail 2 (Kasumidai Loop Trail) is another unique route. It’s a simple loop around Monkey Park that lasts for 40 minutes. Trail 3 (Katsura Forest Trail) is only 2.4 kilometers but it passes an abundance of green trees and bushes in the forests of Takao. It’s the perfect route for a serene walk through nature’s splendor. Trail 4 (Suspension Bridge Trail) extends to the summit of the mountain, starting from Monkey Park. It’s 1.5 kilometers long and takes approximately 50 minutes.

Trail 5 (Summit Loop Trail) takes you on a 0.9-kilometer and 30-minute journey around the Takao Visitor Center located at the summit of the mountain. Trail 6 (Biwa Waterfall Trail) is a 3.3-kilometer journey that takes you past the Biwa Waterfall, where you can enjoy the relaxing sound of natural water. Inariyama Trail is a difficult route that starts off at the foot of Mount Takao and ends at its summit. It’s about 3.1 kilometers and takes 100 minutes to complete. The Takao-Jimba Trail is the most difficult route in the area. This 15.3-kilometer journey takes over 5 hours to complete. Starting from the top of Mt. Takao, it runs through Mt. Shiroyama and Mt. Kagenobu before ending at the top of Mt. Jimba.

Embracing Nature's Symphony: Discovering the Flora and Fauna of Mount Takao

Takao monkey park in Hachioji-shi, Tokyo, Japan

When it comes to ecological significance, Mount Takao is one of the most relevant spots in Japan. A diverse range of plants and animals call Mount Takao home, thanks to its large natural forest spanning several kilometers. There are more than 30 different kinds of animals in the area. One of them, the Japanese macaques, is an indigenous snow monkey and a popular attraction in Monkey Park. Mount Takao is also home to both regular and flying squirrels. Other wild mammals in the region are badgers, mice, common pipistrelle bats, and shrew-moles.

If you love insects, you can find various species of swallowtails, spangles, bluebottles, and butterflies. Plants are also a big part of the environment. Besides the common forest plants like oak trees, cherry trees, and maple trees, the area is also home to 1,500 different kinds of plants, including seasonal flowers. From thistle to butterbur, there’s no shortage of unique plant life. About 60 of these plant species were first discovered on Mount Takao. They include Takao Sumire and Takao Higodai.

Peak Perspectives: Reveling in the Panoramic Views from Mount Takao

Mountains View from Mount Takao, with Red Leaves

Get your camera ready for the breathtaking vistas and photo-worthy spots atop Mount Takao. There are two main observation decks on the mountain. The first one is halfway up the Takaosan. You can access it by taking a ride on the steepest cable car in Japan, which lasts for 18 minutes. This will take you directly to the observation deck. Alternatively, you can use the two-person chair lift, which only takes 12 minutes. Feeling adventurous? Take a hike on Trail 1 and you’ll find the deck about halfway through the journey.

The lower observation deck offers great views of Tokyo. During the summer, the nearby Takaosan Beer Mount is open to visitors, allowing you to eat and drink as much as you like. From autumn to spring, Kitchen Musasabi is open and provides sumptuous local and foreign dishes.

The second observation deck is located at the mountain’s summit. The cable car and lift don’t go up to that point, but you can hike there. A few steps from the 599-meter marker is the observation deck. If the clouds permit, you can see Mount Fuji from this position.

Cultural Encounters: Unveiling the Temples and Shrines of Mount Takao

long-nosed goblin, braggart, Tengu, bronze statue at Mt.Takao, Tokyo

Mount Takao is a sacred mountain with religious sites dotted around it. For over 1,000 years, people have come here to pray, worship, and perform religious rites. The focal point of all that spiritual energy is the Yakuoin Temple, Takaosan’s most popular religious building. The Buddhist temple is located near the mountain’s summit, in the middle of Trail 1 and Trail 3. Believers stop by to worship the Shinto-Buddhist tengu spirits serving as guardians and gods of the mountain. You’ll find a long-nosed statue of one of these gods and another with the beak of a crow on the temple grounds. There are many other temples and shrines around the mountain that are dedicated to the Tengu, Buddha, and other Shinto-Buddhist figures.

One other spiritually charged landmark to note is the Biwa Waterfall, located along Trail 6. The running water is used to cleanse the body and mind. It’s also the location of Yakuoin’s water dojo, where students undergo spiritual waterfall training.

Taste of Takao: Sampling Local Delicacies and Refreshments

A dango shop at Mt. Takao in Tokyo.

There are dozens of eateries and food stalls on Mount Takao, each one featuring specialty dishes you would love. Seasonal establishments like Takaosan Beer Mount and Kitchen Musasabi are favorites for visitors in summer and spring, respectively. However, most of the other food places are open all year and you can eat delicious meals while enjoying the stunning views. Feel free to eat their indigenous tengu dishes, which are confectionaries with motifs of the mountain spirits. There are many kinds of tengu dishes, including tengu-yaki, a bun filled with sweet bean jam. Other common snacks include manju (a Japanese jam-filled bun) and senbei (Japanese rice crackers).

Tororo soba is another local delicacy that is a Mount Takao specialty. It’s made from grated yam on soba noodles. Other food options are the dango (Japanese dumplings) and tofu donuts sold in small shops.

Outdoor Adventures: Beyond Hiking on Mount Takao

Colorful chairlifts through the Mt. Takao of Japan in summer.

Even though hiking is Takaosan's main tourist activity, there are several other interesting things to do on and around the mountain. We’ve curated a list of outdoor activities that extend beyond hiking.

  1. Watch monkeys: Go to the famous Takao Monkey Park and see the antics of the Japanese macaques. The park includes a wild plant garden and a shop where you can buy food to feed the animals.

  2. Ride in the cable car: Enjoy a relaxing ride up Mount Takao in the cable car with the steepest incline in the country. 

  3. Take a chair lift: If you took the cable car up, we recommend that you take the chair lift down, for a more rounded experience. No matter which direction you choose, the lift offers an exhilarating ride to and from the top cable car station.

  4. Visit the museum: The Takao 599 Museum is located at the mountain’s base. Visit to learn about the ecology surrounding Mount Takao.

  5. Hunt for souvenirs: Find tengu-themed souvenirs by exploring the shops at the base of the mountain.

Wellness Retreat: Finding Peace and Relaxation on Mount Takao

Scenery of mountain path of Mt. Takao in autumn. Many climbers are walking.

Mount Takao is the perfect place to retreat from the hustle and bustle of major Japanese cities like Tokyo. Walking and hiking around the lush landscapes can be highly therapeutic for those who need it. Mount Takao is also one of the best places to practice forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, in Japan. This is the act of taking deep breaths while you enjoy a relaxing time in a natural environment, especially in a forest. The less popular trail number 3 offers one of the most tranquil routes here. Most times, the only thing you can see or hear is the quiet rustling of the katsura trees in the forest, making it an ideal spot for forest bathing and meditation. You can also visit the Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu to unwind by taking a relaxing bath in the natural hot spring.

Cultural Immersion: Connecting with Tradition at Mount Takao's Festivals and Events

Mt. Takao Fire-Walking Festival (Hiwatari-sai)

To get a glimpse into local traditions, attend cultural events and festivals celebrated on Mount Takao throughout the year. The annual fire-walking festival takes place on the second Sunday of March each year, featuring a prayer session among believers and a display of yamabushi monks walking barefoot on lumps of hot coal. From late October to early December, you can expect to see the autumn leaves festival, which is a celebration of nature and its leaves with live performances, drumming, and dancing.

Yakuo-in Temple is host to the annual spring festival on the mountain. There, you can enjoy a number of religious and cultural practices, such as Buddha displays, parades, and lots more.

Traveler's Tips: Essential Advice for a Memorable Mount Takao Experience

People relaxing after trekking to the top of Mount Takao

We want you to have an optimal experience throughout your stay on and around Mount Takao. Hence, we’ve got some practical tips for all visitors. Check them out!

  1. The best time to visit Mount Takao is on a weekday because it will be less crowded by tourists. You should also avoid going there during holidays or festive periods such as New Year or Golden Week (April 29 to May 5).

  2. You’ll need hiking shoes to hike on any other trail but Trail 1, which has a paved path. During the summer, you might need to wear a cap and apply sunscreen.

  3. Don’t forget to take a bottle of water with you on hikes. You need to stay hydrated!

  4. You might get hungry for some street food along the way, so take some cash with you.

  5. Check for cherry blossoms in the spring and autumn foliage in the fall.

Reflecting on Memories Made Amidst Nature's Majesty 

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A visit to Mount Takao takes you into a hiker’s paradise, connecting you to nature and its elements. From scenic views to serene landmarks, you don’t have to worry about modern-day distractions ruining the experience for you. The area also offers its fair share of culinary delights, thanks to local dishes and treats. It’s a truly incredible experience that everyone should try when visiting Japan.

However, you don’t have to wait too long to begin the gourmet snacking experience. Get authentic treats straight from Japan once a month via our mystery box of carefully curated snacks and sweets. Get a Bokksu Subscription and we’ll deliver this box to you every month!

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