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05/15/2015

CONQUERING MT. TAKAO

One of my favorite things about Japan is how the country has taken the effort to preserve its natural heritage. A survey of the country’s geography from a bird’s eye view will reveal that there is just as much green as there is gray, if not more. With the beauty of nature still flourishing throughout the country, taking a daytrip to a mountain, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to spend a weekend in Japan, especially on a sunny day in May. In this blog post, I will be detailing one of the best daytrips I’ve ever had in Japan: my day-long adventure to the summit of Mt. Takao!

Personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as especially outdoorsy, at least, not any more than the regular person; I will say, however, that the sight of the sun illuminating a clear blue sky can be very inspiring! That said, it was at midday on a Saturday, when the sun was at its apex in the cloudless sky, that I decided I wanted to climb something – something forested, preferably at least six hundred meters tall, and nearby. Through the power of the Internet, I learned of Mt. Takao, a popular daytrip destination for many residents of Tokyo. What sold me was the photo of tourists riding on the ski lifts surrounded by nature.

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From Matsudo Station, where my dormitory is located, Takaosanguchi Station is about an hour and forty minutes away if you manage to catch the “Special Semi-Express” Keio Line train once you arrive at Shinjuku Station. If you’re feeling like spending about two hours on a train, though, then there’s also the more-frequent Chuo Rapid line, which stops at Takao Station. As I was leaving at midday, I decided to try my best to catch the faster train, so that I could get there in time to do stuff.

As I exited the station, I spotted a couple of tourists walking with sticks of dango – a Japanese treat made of rice dumplings, covered in a special sauce – and realized that I had neglected to grab lunch. I traced this trail of tourists to a purveyor of dango near the station, and purchased my own stick for 300 yen. I mention this because the lady at the dango stand was telling everyone that whoever returned their finished stick to be properly disposed of would receive 10 yen back. This, I think, fits in with this blog post’s theme of preserving the environment and the beauty of nature

Dango in hand, I made my way up the trail, until I finally found the ski lift station. Intending to ascend the mountain by technology and descend by foot, I purchased a one-way ticket. Naturally, there was a trail where hardcore mountaineers could climb the whole mountain by foot, but alas, I was too well-aware of the limits of my legs’ strength.

It was only when I got to the top third (where the lift drops you off) that I discovered there were a lot of cool things to do other than actually climbing the mountain. In addition to the myriad of food stands selling dango and ice cream, there was a monkey park, where you could see Japanese macaques in enclosures, as well as a botanical garden showing off vegetation indigenous to the station. This was also the day I found out that in spite of being in the higher-intermediate level of Japanese language learning, I didn’t know how to say the word “plant” in Japanese.

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There was so much to see, in fact, that I didn’t get to the top until really late, by which time the lift and cable car services had stopped, and the mountain staff were going around on their motorcycles chasing people off the mountain. Ascending just the top third of the mountain had worn me out, so needless to say, by the time I’d gotten to the bottom, my feet were a mess. I returned to the station and hopped on the train home, exhausted but satisfied. The view which those who reach the top are rewarded with was really marvelous.

Then I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t returned my dango stick, and the thought that the trip could’ve been 10 yen cheaper continues to haunt me to this day. Still, I had a lot of fun, and will definitely be returning to Mt. Takao before my flight home. And I’ll also be sure to return my dango stick for that 10 yen back.

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