Trekking to the tip of Takao
One of the more easier and more documented experiences, be it spring, summer winter or fall is Mount Takao, as a popular hiking spot among both locals and tourists it has 8 different courses and receives more than 2 million visitors annually. In both Spring and Autumn, it is well known for its vegetation, experiencing both the Cherry Blossom season the during early April and the changing colour of the leaves in November.
Mt Takao stands at a fraction under 600 metres high and is a bit over an hour train ride via the Chuo line (JR) from Shinjuku station. Taking this line practically takes you to the station next to the base of the mountain, so it is very convenient. The total cost is 1,240 yen via the Chuo line.
According to the Yamaquest website, most of Takao’s hiking courses are relatively easy, with a few more challenging options. The easiest courses for beginners start their difficulty ranking at level 24 take almost 2 hours to the peak, ranging up to level 39 with the longest course taking more than 6 hours for the more intermediate and experienced hikers.
As it offers some of the more easier hiking options, this makes Takao prone to crowds, especially during the busy Cherry Blossoms and Autumn leaves seasons. During the warmer seasons, it also hosts a regular Beer Garden event, situated practically opposite the rope-way station, halfway up the mountain. At the Beer Garden, people can enjoy unlimited food and drinks for a smidgen over 3000 yen. Be wary though, as attempting to hike up the rest of the mountain after 2 hours of maxing out your stomach and liver poses an entirely different challenge.
After the trials and tribulations of Oyama Mountain, we were humbled by the initial ease of Takao’s hiking trail. Admittedly, it does get the blood pumping for a good 40 minutes or so, considering some of the paths are quite steep, and the added obstacle of Tokyo’s summer heat. However, the pain and anguish of these inclines quickly disappeared as I indulged in my first beer.
Our intermission was Takao’s popular Beer Garden, which only runs through the summer months. From here you can enjoy amazing picturesque views of the Greater Kanto area, so it’s a photo-op that is definitely worth your shutter’s time. Arriving earlier in the afternoon also guarantees you a faster entrance into the Beer Garden, with potentially increased opportunity to find a seat, under one of the makeshift tarpaulins. However, these did seem to provide sufficient shade and protection from the hot Tokyo sun, so that was an added bonus.
The actual Takao Beer Garden itself is great value and offers a range of beers (on tap), as well as a self-service option for spirits, cocktails, soft drinks and more. In terms of food, the buffet style selection offers a large variety of Japanese and Japanese-Western fusion choices. Offering the standard choices of dumplings, fried rice, curry, fried chicken and potato, to healthier noodle options, vegetable dishes and more. One of my favourite stands was a separate stall offering unlimited grilled corn that was easy to eat and delicious, so I made sure I got my fair share of that too.
The Mt Takao Beer Garden operates annually from the middle of June to October, with 2017′ last day being October 15th. Cost is 33o0 yen for females, 3500 for males and less for kids. One important note is to make sure to exit by your allotted time, as they collect your tickets at the exit, otherwise, they will penalise you an additional 500 yen for every 30 minutes you stay over your initial 2 hours.
Takao Part 2 – Ascending the Apex
Once we had completed our 2-hour binge, we began the tail end of the mission ahead, heading up towards the mountain’s apex. Compared to the first section of the hike, the steep slopes give way to multiple shrines, temples and stairwells to climb, for a different kind of challenge. Further up the course, you also have an array of food stalls, selling desserts, ice creams, sweets and more. If you’re lucky too, you may encounter some of Takao’s mischievous monkeys.
After another hour or so more, we reached the peak of the mountain. Here many people were enjoying lunchtime picnics together, as there were several benches, all full upon our arrival, but appeared to be a lot of fun nonetheless. I imagine this is where people feel they have conquered the mountain, and then take refuge with their alcoholic beverages and rice balls. There is also a map which points to some of the other mountainous areas throughout the area. Mt Fuji can also be seen on clearer days, but we were, unfortunately, subject to overcast skies blocking out a lot of the scenery.
On the journey home, we walked back to the rope-way station and took the cable car down the slope of the mountain. A round trip costs 930 yen or 480 one-way and usually operates between 9 am to 5:45 pm. although it operates longer on weekends and national holidays pending the season. The one-way journey takes about 5 minutes. As we felt we had achieved our exercise for the day, we stopped in at once of the local ice creameries to get our soft-serve fix.
Takao Mountain is one of the more easier and hiking friendly courses, yet I would still recommend you bring enough water, a sweat towel and a change of shirt. In the warmer seasons, I would also highly suggest a hat and sunblock as the sweltering summer heat can be harsh, particularly in the middle of the day.
For more information on climbing Mt Takao, you can visit the website here (although this is translated via Google), additionally, for further information about the Beer Garden, you can check the site here (again translated via Google).