Tokyo may seem like it’s a huge metropolis of never-ending concrete stretching as far as the eye can see but if you go far enough west then there are actually some mountains. Mount Takao (599m) is the most famous and just over 30km north of there is Mount Mitake (929m) which is similar in that it can be ascended via cable car thereby making it a good day-trip alternative to the world’s busiest mountain.
At the summit is a Shinto Shrine and there are many hiking courses stretching to the other mountains (Mt. Otake, Mt. Nabewari, Mt. Ohtsuka, Mt. Takamizu, Mt. Sougaku etc) in the area and beyond. I have been meaning to go to Mount Mitake for quite some time but it is actually a place that I have visited before. That was back in 2005 and I probably would’ve included it in the TF Flashback series on Tokyo Fox except for the fact that I could hardly remember anything useful about that trip, and also I have no idea where the photos are! On that occasion I stubbornly refused to take the cable car and walked up the mountain but as it’s just a winding concrete road and not a hiking trail I decided to take the easy way up this time.
Armed with just a carrot, two bananas and a couple of bottles of 500ml water (New Years diet and all that!) I set out with no idea real idea where I’d end up on the hike. There was always the consoling thought that I could just go back to Mitake if things didn’t turn out right.
A winding path leads up to the shrine taking you past the Mitake Visitor Center (where I picked up an English map), some moss-covered roofs and through a shopping street selling all kinds of souvenirs alongside some restaurants.
It’s quite a steep climb to the top and, having passed by some interesting benches (below), I was finally rewarded with some scaffolding and sheets covering the main shrine!
It seems like this place is one for dog owners to visit and pray for good health of their beloved pets. There is a dog statue or two along with wooden blocks (featuring dog-related scrawls) and another statue of a Kamakura period warlord on horseback.
Having descended some side steps heading back down to the hiking course it didn’t take too long until I was at Nagaodaira; an open area with picnic benches, a toilet and an observation deck offering some fines of the other mountains (below) in the vicinity.
From Nagaodaira, there were some steep steps (next to a sign warning of the possibility of bears in the area) leading down to Nanayo-no-taki waterfall (0.6km away) and from that moment I only saw about four people until I arrived back at the same place a couple of hours later albeit from a different angle. The waterfall (below) was nice enough but I’m one who does mountain hikes for the achievement and the goal rather than being rewarded with amazing views and sights.
From there, some vertiginous steel steps were on hand to take me back up to the trail that would eventually lead to the rock garden which was less than a kilometre away
The further and further you go into the walking trails the less English signs there are. Once I’d gone past the rock garden I lost my bearings slightly and asked the only other two people in the whole place (who had been on my tail since the previous waterfall) to read some of the kanji for me on one of the signboards. They explained that the route continued west to Ayashiro-no-taki waterfall (below) and then cuts back from there returning you to the Mitake cable station which was 3.1km away.
Unaware of what lurked beyond the waterfall and how I could get back home from there I decided to just cut my losses and follow in their trail back to where I had started off and was more than happy to do so. However, in the future with a bit more time and warmer weather I’d like to hike onto Mt. Otake (2.2km) and Mt. Nokogiri (5.4km).
How to get there: On weekends and public holidays JR operates a special train which goes directly to Mitake (and indeed on to Okutama) from Shinjuku station without the need to change trains. Weekdays are a different matter and a number of minor changes (crossing the platform at the most!) may be needed at Tachikawa and Ome.
Once you leave the station turn left and walk for about 50 metres and you’ll see the bus stop. A short ten minute ride takes you to the lower station of the Mitake cable car and from then on it’s all pretty easy. Of course there is the option to walk all the way up and that takes about an hour. There are only 2-3 cars operating each hour and the journey up the mountain takes less than 10 minutes.
Click on the links below to read about other mountains which can be done in day trips: