Thinking about where to go can be a little daunting and problematic sometimes due to the choices we now have with various airlines and local tour groups all competing for our business. Even when we go to the train station, we can see murals of various attractive domestic locations that can be visited throughout the different seasons here in Japan.
The trick is finding a good price, the best time to visit and most of all how to avoid the hordes of people. Many short trips I have taken in the past have proved to be a little disappointing in terms of the points mentioned above. One was to Mt. Takao, a mountain which is located outside of Tokyo and easily accessed in just under an hour by local train using the Keio line from Shinjuku. It is visited by 2.6 million people annually and a big destination during public holidays.
I recently decided to head out there for some relaxation, fresh air and silence and to escape the daily hustle and bustle of metropolitan living for a day. The mountain’s convenient location and proximity to Tokyo made it attractive for what I was looking for and I thought immersing myself in nature would be good for one day. As I boarded an early train in Shinjuku, I noticed I was not the only one with the same travel plan. In fact, the platform was extremely crowded to the point that it felt like rush hour and the majority of the people were dressed in hiking attire and eager for their train to arrive.
As the train pulled into the platform and the doors finally opened, everyone quickly jostled for the available seats leaving most people to realize that they would be left to stand for the duration of the trip. By the time the train arrived at its final destination, the majority of the passengers were ready to get off and get started on their upward journey to the top of the mountain. For me I think this was one of my first experiences seeing a mass of people all congregated as one from base to summit without any sort of separation. Unbelievable I thought!
As I joined my fellow hikers I had the pleasure of viewing the back of people’s necks and hairlines along with the different types of backpacks and water bottles dangling from their straps. I noticed certain brands were favored more than others and were mostly made here in Japan. The hikers seemed to move at a very slow pace due to the heavy congestion and this in turn brought some degree of frustration to both myself and to my fellow climbers. As we approached the summit, it also became clear to everyone that finding a place to sit and enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji in the distance would become a challenge in itself since early bird adventurers had already occupied all available spots for sitting.
So all in all my trip to the countryside and my fantasy of relaxing in the depths of nature was shattered by the reality of what presented itself in front of me. In the future I will plan out my trips a little more carefully and with a little more research. It was a good experience but I won’t be rushing to repeat it in the future.
daunting (adj.) - something that is difficult to deal with; overwhelming or intimidating
mural (n) - a painting or art that is executed on a wall
horde (n) - large group of people; crowd
immerse (v) - involve oneself deeply in a particular activity
attire (n) - clothes, especially fine or formal ones
hustle and bustle (idiom) - busy and excited activity
jostle (v) - push or bump against someone roughly