Finally, its time for us to hike. I dream of doing hardcore hikes, I bought all my non-camera gears with the great outdoors in mind. And thus, it’s up the mountain we go!
We woke up early, or at least we tried… and got out around 8.30am. A little late for a day trip out of town I’d say.. Well anyways, we took the Yamanote to Shinjuku and went searching for the Keio Line to Takaosanguchi Station where we will find the cable car and chairlift stations.
Thing is, there are so many signage in a Japanese railway/subway station, sometimes you get lost because of the signage that were supposed to prevent that from happening. So even though its very complicated and I can’t write exactly how we find the Keio Railway and/or other lines, you can probably find your own way there. And fast, if you’re careful.
So I’m gonna skip the boring train ride till we arrive at Takaosanguchi station, I love train stations in the suburbs because they are usually more open in terms of space and devoid of humans.
A little history about Mt Takao, or Takaosan:
Considered a sacred mountain, Takaosan has been a center of mountain worship for more than 1000 years. Yakuoin, an attractive temple, stands along the trail near the mountain’s summit, and many visitors stop there to pray to Shinto–Buddhist mountain gods (tengu) for good fortune. Statues of the gods, one with a long nose and one with a crow beak, can be found at the temple and also other spots around the mountain.
– excerpt from Japan Guide
There are trails #1 – #6 and the Inariyama Trail, I wanted to take the #4 trail and when we’re at the summit I wanted to take #5 trail around the summit. But time is not on our side, we bought the round trip tickets for the chairlift and it closes at 4.00pm. Or 4.30pm?
There are also other attractions besides Yakunoin, like the Monkey and Wild Plant Garden, a few waterfalls, a suspension bridge etc. But that will take a full day of hiking to visit every one of them. So we’re probably going to power through the main path Trail 1, we started late.
Taking the Chair Lift up
So we arrived around 11am, then took a long time at the local convenience stall choosing our lunch, then go to the chairlift and spent 10mins to the half-way point of trail #1. Then spent 30mins taking photos and taking a leisurely slow walk up to the summit via trail #1, like an hour and a half… By the time we arrived at the summit, its past 1.30pm… 2 and a half hours sans an hour of mad rush to the chairlift before it closes. So there’s only a short time to eat our lunch and enjoy the scenery before we need to half run-walk back to the chairlift station or throw our tickets at the chairlift attendant and walk down the mountain.
So yeah, enjoy the photos:
Mid-station at the Top of the Chairlift
We arrived at the mid-point of the mountain, this is like easy mode. Most of the attractions were max 1 hour away from us. Usually I won’t opt for easy mode, but the chairlift experience made it worthwhile. The way down is so much scarier..
In order to go to the summit via trail 1, we will walk pass the cable car station which has a rooftop cafeteria. I bet the view from there must be really great, but you will need to spend a certain amount of money before they let you go up there. It stinks like a damn tourist trap. So we made do with lesser views of our surroundings.
Hike to the Summit
After stalling for pictures, we start on the hiking with a rainbow flare on the takosugi tree below. Its called a ‘Takosugi’ because its roots resembles the legs of an octopus. ‘Tako’ being octopus.
Claire is kinda superstitious with everything, so she’s trying to read Japanese to get an idea on how to ‘operate’ this contraption. All for good luck, because its written there in kanji…
Anyways, below are the sights we saw along the way on trail 1.
Mt. Takao Summit
And here we are finally, on the highest point of Mt Takao. There are more tourist traps here selling ice creams, dangos and other snacks. But if you look out for the locals here, they all either brought their own food from home, or they brought a camping stove to cook something up.
We belonged to the prior, we packed some bread and coffee before coming here. So I whipped out my newly bought camping mugs for us. But watching the young Japanese family cooking with a camping stove gave me a new inspiration. I’ve been toying with the idea of camping with Claire for a couple of years now, but I wasn’t motivated enough to make it happen. As some of you would know, the outdoorsy person between us is me. So planning an outdoor activity means I’ll have to do all the preparation work because Claire won’t know and probably won’t be too interested to know.
And I’m lazy.
But that one lady cooking on her camping stove pushed me to make camping a reality, albeit with all the luxury and comfort usually not found in a traditional camping trip. More on that in my new camping series soon.
Back to the summit, we would’ve gone to the Itchodaira area about 30mins from the summit of Mt Takao where the mountain sakura trees are located. But its fast approaching 3 pm at the time and we have to catch the last chairlift down before it closes at 4pm. So I scraped the idea and drag Claire on a ‘fast march’ down to the chairlift station.
Not before taking a few panoramas from the summit to end this section.
Descending Mt Takao via the Chair lift
This ride is scary, this is like the scariest ride I ever did. OK sans the jumping out of airplanes stunt I did while I was in the army, goodness.
The way up was ‘swingy’ but at least we were facing the slope. But going down now, we’re facing emptiness. And we’re swinging on a chair without any safety contraption. Holy crap. I’m kinda holding onto the chair with both my hands and asking Claire to hold on to me, in case things goes sideways.
But once the chair stopped swinging, so the only thing left is the awesome view on a comfortable ride down the mountain.
Then we walked through the central street of closed tourist traps.
Funny how we ran around the city searching for sakuras when it happens in the least expected places. We encounter this mini scenery right by the canal-like.. canal, beside the train station.
Back in The City
And this is how we gonna end our night, we decided to go to Harajuku on our hour-long journey back from Takaosanguchi station on Keio Line. It brings us back to Shinjuku and looking at my notes, I thought I can hit 4 places we wanted to visit in one go at Harajuku:
- Kyushu Jangara Ramen Harajuku for dinner, trying something other than Ichiran.
- Kiddy Land Harajuku for Rilakkuma lunch bag I promised Claire
- Snow Peak Omotesando for the 60th anniversary Ti Mug, my new obsession.
- Lattest Cafe Omotesando for awesome single origin, third wave coffee.
But after making the mistake to trust my phone’s GPS on Google Maps and turning a few wrong turns, we lost too much time and had to make do with a random ramen restaurant for dinner, skipping #1 because I passed the place by mistake.
Then while having dinner, which was so-so, I realized #4 closes at 5.30pm, which was about 30mins ago at that time. So we ended up just going to #2 and #3, wandered the streets for another hour, before retiring the night, back at our hotel in Sugamo..
We were kinda sad too, because this trip is going to end. This is when the shit hits the fan kinda in-your-face type of end game scenario. Reality hits us hard, our dream is ending..