The mountainous terrain of Japan means nature lovers are spoiled for choice when it comes to trekking. Simply embark on a short one hour train, nature-bound and watch the transformation of metropolitan Tokyo to scenic and serene inaka (Japanese for rural countryside). Even if you’re only traveller passing through, I encourage you to block out a day on your travel itinerary to climb some of the coolest mountains around Tokyo.
Standing at a manageable 599m tall, Mt Takao is a hot local favourite. Once you’ve arrived at Takao-sanguchi Station, check the maps located outside for the starting point of six different routes leading up to the top. Regardless of which way you choose, dotted throughout all of the hikes are shrines, food stalls and a seemingly endless amount of vending machines so you’re never all that far away from civilisation. Make the trip during peak matsuri (Japanese summer festivals) season and the atmosphere is inimitable. Getting there requires only one change from Shinjuku Station and about 60 – 65 minutes (check the website here), which means less time sitting idly on a train and more time in the great outdoors.
Mt Shiroyama & Mt Kagenobu
If Mt Takao wasn’t enough to tire you out, carry on! From the peak of Takao, hikers have the option to descend via one of the other routes or continue onwards towards Mt Kagenobu via Mt Shiroyama. It’s completely worth the trip if you have time and stamina left in the tank. Arriving at Mt Kagenobu’s peak also promises the reward of mountain vegetable tempura and piping hot udon noodles from the stalls located at the top. Be sure to mention this clearly to convince foodie friends to come along for the climb.
Mt Jimba is in the same area as the mountains above but it can be climbed on its own. Check the full bus schedule here. Jimba itself isn’t too challenging but does promises quite a bit of fun as the root-addled terrain makes it seem more like an actual climb on hands and feet, rather than a walk. At its peak, you can observe a strange-yet-cool horse statue and choose from two little shacks to purchase drinks and hot soba from. To make your way there, go via the same train as above towards Mt Takao, but make sure to get off earlier, at Takao Station. Take the North Exit out of the station, walk towards the left for the bus stop and get on the bus labelled ‘Jinbakōgenshita’.
Tick another Japan prefecture off your list with a climb at this uniquely shaped twin-peaked mountain located in Ibaraki. It stands at about 877 metres tall with one peak being taller than the other. Choose to summit either or obtain bragging rights by venturing up both. The valley in between the peaks houses some food stalls which are a welcome respite after you’ve climbed all you can. The views at the top are as awesome as the lush vegetation on the mountain itself. Getting to Mt Tsukuba can be slightly tricky, we recommend referring to the official website for the latest information (mt-tsukuba.com).
Mitake‑san offers serenity in both a nature and spiritual form. Located in the Okutama region, it sits in Chichibu-Tama Kai National Park, which covers a vast variety terrain such as mountains, hills and gorges. One can easily enjoy a change of pace hiking as well as a visit to the popular shrine near the top. Within that area is also shops and cute stalls peddling multi-flavoured dango. Mitake is great all seasons but for some excellent momiji, make sure to trek up in Autumn. For the best way to access Mt Mitake, check out the Japan Guide
A 1.5 hour train ride from bustling Shinjuku lies a tranquil Mt Oyama. It’s popular due to its variety of hiking trails to suit all levels of fitness, spectacular views and convenient picnicking spots. There’s also a traditional shopping street prior to ascending should you wish to indulge in some omiyage to take home. Find out more on how to get to the top of Mt Oyama here.
No hiking list is ever complete without a mention of Mt Fuji. While summiting Mt Fuji is achievable in one day, I recommend turning it into an overnight journey so you can experience staying in a mountain hut. There are several towards the peak that will provide accomodation (reservations are a must) as well as a simple dinner and breakfast the next morning to power you up and down the mountain. More information on the climb and booking your hut can be found here. Not a lot of sleep is to be had but the experience of sharing hot curry amongst strangers at a height of 3,776 m? Priceless.
For more on what to do around Tokyo visit gotokyo.com