May is already gone. It is exactly one month I am living in Japan with Husband. The weather is getting hotter but there is still fresh air blowing in the evening and I find it very pleasant.
Last Sunday one of Husband coworkers invited us to a trip to Mt. Takao with him and his wife. They are newlyweds too and a funny easygoing couple.
How to get to Mt. Takao
Mt. Takao is one of the most famous day trips from Tokyo and every year it is visited by more than 2 million and a half people. Mt. Takao is very popular because it offers different options to spend a day immersed in rich nature and it is also easy to reach.
We met with our friends in Shinjuku Station at 10 o’clock in the morning and took the train to the station closest to Mt. Takao called Takaosanguchi. We took the Keio Line direction Keio Hachioji and changed trains in Kitano where we took another Keio train to Takaosanguchi, the ride takes about one hour and costs 390 円. The station before Takaosanguchi is called Takao, don’t get off here! Get off at Takaosanguchi which is the last stop.
As you exit Takaosanguchi station on your left you will find a stamp boot, you can take a free map of the area and start collecting stamps along your way to the top. There are 12 stamps to collect as also the side tracks are included but if you take the main track only you should collect 5 stamps in total. Once you arrive at the top of Mt. Takao and obtain the fifth stamp you will notice that the five stamps form the word “tengusama” written in Japanese hiragana alphabet [てんぐさま].
Tengu is a demon-like creature popular in Japanese folklore. There are two types of tengu protecting Mt. Takao karasu-tengu [烏天狗] raven tengu and hanadaka-tengu [天狗] long-nose tengu. They both have wings to fly, the raven tengu is blue and has a beak-like nose, the long nose tengu is red and, as the name suggests, has a long nose. Maybe you are familiar with red tengu because it is also one of the emoji you can find on your smartphone 👺.
Tengu are usually considered devil creatures, known in Japanese as yokai but the tengu leaving in Mt. Takao are bad only with the people who do not respect the mountains and are not nice with nature. Beware if you are not respectful, tengu might let your nose grow or blow you away with their father fan!
Climbing Mt. Takao
When we arrived at the station it was just before lunchtime so we decided to have lunch before getting to the top. In the area there are many restaurants serving soba, it is a refreshing dish during summer if you choose cold soba and you can choose to add some tempura to it if you like. We went to the restaurant below and we were satisfied, soba was good, prices reasonable, service fast and they also have English menu available.
While eating our soba we decided which track to use to get to the top. There are 6 different tracks to choose from. The most popular one is the first one, it takes longer, almost 2 hours but it is the easiest one. Also, as the majority of visitors do, you can cheat a bit and take a cable car or chair lift to get to half the way and then there are only 50 minutes of hiking left to reach the top. We decided to take the chair lift which I found quite scary because the chairs have no seat belt, I would not suggest taking it with particularly lively kids. The price is 480 円 one way and it is the same for chair lift and cable car.
Once arrived half way there are still 50 minutes or so of hiking, it is not difficult and there are lots of interesting spots along the way like small shrines, stunning views of the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama in the distance and 400 years old trees which have become deities and are adorned with ropes and paper streamers. The main attraction along the way is the Yakuoin Temple where you can find the tengu and pray them for good fortune.
Mt. Takao is 599 meters high as written in the plate you will find at the top. We were not lucky enough but on clear days it is possible to see Mt. Fuji from the top. There are many places to sit down and relax a bit maybe with a snack or even for a picnic if you didn’t have lunch before. After the meal remember to bring home your trash and keep the space clean as suggested by the cute jizo statue with the broom.
We had some tasty snacks along the way and I highly suggest you to try them.
1. Grape flavored ice cream
It is called rikisofto [力ソフト] translated literally it would be “soft power” and you can purchase it in a small shop 20 minutes from the top, it just gives the perfect booster to continue your hiking and it is fresh and bitter-sweet.
2. Tengu cheesecakes
Probably one of the best cheesecakes you will have, small treats you can find near the arrival station of the cable car.
3. Sanpuku Dango [三福だんご]
Dango are rice flour dumplings usually covered with sweet miso or soy sauce. Around Mt. Takao there are lots of shops selling sanpuku dango, dango covered with miso and slowly cooked on charcoal. San means “three” and puku means “good fortune”, we purchased our snack in a shop near the station before going back to Tokyo, if you return the skewer they will give you 10 円 back, it is not big money but I thought it was nice and dango were delicious!
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