Mt Takao: The Casual Hiker’s Destination

At just 599m in height, the summit of Mt Takao isn’t particularly imposing. But that isn’t the reason why it’s a popular hiking destination in the Kanto region. Rather it is the mountain’s close proximity to the urban areas of Tokyo and Yokohama that makes it the location of choice for casual hikers.

Mt Takao is serviced by both the JR and Keio train lines, which afford easy access from city areas. Once you arrive at the foot of the mountain, you can take the easy way out and travel by cable car roughly two-thirds of the way up, which leaves a relatively straightforward walk the remaining distance to the summit. I chose this option on my first visit back in the summer of 2014. Alternatively, one can choose between six different routes that will take you to the summit solely on foot. Each of these routes has a different level of difficulty. For example, one trail is paved with concrete from start to finish, while others take hikers along winding mountain paths that include unpaved sections.

For my part, I chose the safe option of route number one, which is the entirely paved trail, on my second visit to Takao last summer. Despite being easier underfoot than the other trails, there is no denying that the initial sections are quite steep, and will test the fitness of the casual hiker. I found myself having to take occasional breaks to rest my body and recover my breath. The scenery surrounding the initial sections consists of dense forest, but things open up once you reach the point where the cable car terminates. From there, one can gain a better sense of the scale of the mountain, with panoramic views looking back towards Tokyo. There is also greater variety along the trail itself, as it winds its way past a shrine and an ornately decorated temple, known as Yakuoin.

A short time later, one should reach the summit. I have experienced contrasting weather conditions on the two occasions I have visited Takao. On my first visit, the weather was clear and sunny on the ascent, but storm clouds gathered ominously on my descent. On my second visit, the weather was gloomy and overcast for the entire duration of my visit. But either way, the summit doesn’t make it easy for photographers to do justice to the view. Some viewpoints are obstructed by trees, and only cameras with long lenses can hope to capture the views available from other spots.

Having only visited Takao in the summer months, I can’t offer any insight into the mountain’s appearance in other seasons. But it is widely known to be a prime location for both autumn leaves and cherry blossoms in those respective months.

In summary, a visit to Takao is mandatory for the casual hiker, because they can get some exercise that isn’t excessively strenuous, catch some pleasant scenery along the way, and be able to say afterwards that they hiked to the summit of a mountain, albeit one of modest height.



imposing (adj.) – large and impressive
ornate (adj.) – decorated with complicated patterns or shapes
ominous (adj.) – making you think that something bad will happen
strenuous (adj.) – an activity that requires a lot of energy, effort, or strength