Mt. Takao is a great opportunity to get away from the hectic city life and crowds in Tokyo.
That’s why it’s a popular destination for all those who want to do some easy hiking and enjoy nature.
How to access Mt. Takao
Mount Takao can easily be done as a day trip from Tokyo. It is located west of Tokyo and at the eastern edge of the Kanto Mountains.
The latter two options will bring you up straight to an observation platform and a monkey park.
Around the observation platform you’ll have the opportunity to grab some food.
How about a “Tengu Dog”? ;)
Mount Takao is extremely popular during autumn foliage season in the second half of November.
I went in late October and as you can see the colors weren’t fully out yet, but at least it wasn’t so crowded.
Please note that it doesn’t only get crowded in autumn, but generally on weekends, so try to avoid them if you can.
After enjoying the view from the observation platform you can either visit the monkey park or proceed to the mountain temple.
As you can see most signs are in Japanese only, so make sure you get a map to help you figure out where to go. (At the very end of this post, you’ll find a pamphlet in English including a good map.)
Approaching “Yakuoin Temple” (薬王院) which was founded in 744.
Mount Takao has been a center of mountain worshipping for over 1000 years.
The whole mountain also served as a place of ascetic training.
You can actually experience some of it at Yakuoin Temple (including waterfall asceticism, sutra reading, Zen meditation).
In the background you see “Relic stupa” which looked a bit like a church from farther away.
It’s the first thing you’ll run into if you take the same route as I did.
Here’s a good map in English of all the temple facilities.
Entering through the “Shitenno-mon Gate”.
There are lots of things to do if you want to pray for good luck to the “Tengu”.
Not only can you enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage on the mountain, but also sakura.
The area around “Takaosan Senbonzakura” is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in spring.
You can enjoy sakura there from mid to late April when the blossoms have long disappeared down in Tokyo!
Proceeding to the Main Hall.
And of course there were a lot of “Tengu” statues everywhere.
Tengu (天狗) literally means “heavenly dog” and is a Shinto-Buddhist god originated from Japanese folklore.
It’s a deified image of a man who mastered “Shugendo” (ascetic disciplinary customs) associated with an ancient Japanese practice of mountain worship to obtain magical and spiritual powers.
The two guardians of Mt. Takao look like in the photo above.
One has a long nose, the other one a crow beak.
The Main Hall.
I’ve found some of the most beautiful temple / shrine seal books there. So, if you intend to purchase one, Mt. Takao is a good place to do so.
Around the main hall you’ll find impressive wooden carvings.
5-yen coins were attached via a red rope. I’m not entirely sure what for, but 5-yen coins are often used if one wants to pray for good luck.
If you proceed further you’ll run into the Daishi-do Hall.
You can easily recognize the little red building because it’s surrounded by many, many stone statues.
The Izuna Gongen-do Hall is very colorful and features impressive colorful carvings.
Once you’ve passed the temple, you’ll be at the top of the mountain where you can take a break.
From there you’ll also have a great view.
Oh yeah … do I even have to mention it? You’re supposed to see Mt. Fuji from there, but as always ….. nope!
After taking a break, you should decide which of the many trails you’ll take back down.
The one I wanted to take was closed because they found a suzumebachi (huge hornets that can kill you….) nest.
No problem, though! Not too far away from the resting area is a tiny information center where you can ask which trail suits you best.
Most trails also have lots of interesting information, so you can observe the nature around you even closer.
Almost back down, there was a tiny waterfall.
When I finally arrived back at the Cablecar Station there was an ambulance and firefighters. Apparently an older person fell down somewhere on the same trail I just had used. I admit that it was wet (and thus slippery) due to lots of rain the previous few days and you had to be careful!
If you need to get out of Tokyo and like mountains and not very difficult hiking trails, then I recommend Mt. Takao!
Have you been to Mt. Takao yet?
If you decide to go, definitely take this great pamphlet in English with you as it’s providing all the information you need: Mt. Takao pamphlet (English).pdf