The draws are aplenty at Mt. Takao but do wear the right footwear should you decide to visit this popular mountain destination. While it’s a comparatively lowly 599 meters high and has paved walkways, going in sandals will prevent you from joining free tours or possibly result in an injury, so lace up your sneakers when setting off.
The course our reporters took is just a sample of the many choices available to you, so let your curiosity and interest guide your feet!
Upon exiting Takaosanguchi Station, it’s a short walk to the pathway leading to the mountain, but before beginning your hike, be sure to swing by the TAKAO 599 MUSEUM to get acquainted with the many animals, flora, and fauna you may encounter on the mountain.
Heading up in the daytime is what most visitors opt to do and there are free guided tours in English given by knowledgeable volunteers. But visiting when there is mist, light rain, or even at night not only means less crowding, but also an entirely different, more surreal experience. After all, it’s after the sun goes down that the giant flying squirrels come out of their nests in the trees to hunt.
As you move towards the summit, you will reach the famous Yakuo-in Buddhist Temple. Exploring the temple complex provides its own welcome distractions with its history, Japanese architecture, and scenery, but since you’re burning calories on the hike anyway, why not consider an additional challenge as well as a way to reward yourself?
Shojin-ryori is vegetarian Buddhist cuisine and Yakuo-in offers visitors a chance to partake of its all-original recipes. Once you’ve finished enjoying the meal, you can try looking for the 88 statues of renowned Buddhist monk Kukai scattered around the mountain. It’s also an activity derived from Buddhism, and presents quite the quest, but if serious hiking and exploration isn’t on your ticket, you can still see all 88 in one spot at the Daishi-do Hall adjacent to the temple’s Main Hall.
The ease of spending an entire day at Mt. Takao is one of the reasons for its popularity, and you’re bound to work up an appetite again after taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells.
If you happen to be visiting during the months spanning mid-June to mid-October, the Beer Mount restaurant will be open and ready to fill your belly with all the food and drink you can fit in! If you’ve come by train,* help yourself to their selection of beers as well. It’s in the name after all, and a cold beer after a long day outdoors always hits the spot! From mid-October to mid-June, the restaurant turns into the “BBQ Mount,” offering various courses of meat, vegetables, and seafood to grill at your table with the same all-you-can-drink options available.
*Never drink and drive while in Japan as the laws and penalties in place are extremely strict.
Another limited-time option is the Kogesawa Plum Grove. When the roughly 1,400 plum blossom trees bloom in early spring, the area is briefly opened to visitors and the countless pinks and whites suspended over the small hills of the grove make it great for a leisurely stroll and beautiful photos.
Do consider also stopping by the Takao Komagino Garden, a somewhat out of the way spot where you can experience Hachioji’s only traditional Japanese garden—complete with Nishikigoi fish and bonsai trees—and enjoy the greenery over a cup of matcha green tea or coffee inside the small café.
Hachioji also has its own traditional woven silk fabric (Tama-ori) for kimonos, and the techniques for weaving it have been passed down for over 120 years at the Sawai Textile Factory, where you can see how the fabric is made or even try weaving something of your own as a souvenir.
And once the sun is down and it’s time for nighttime noms, go local again with a bowl of Hachioji’s own style of ramen to cap off the day.