Tennessee or Tokyo? (source)
Climbing Mt. Takao had been on my list of things to do while in Japan and I finally got to check it off! Takao-san, as it is called in Japanese, is located about an hour outside of central Tokyo. My friends and I met up at Takaosanguchi station (literally the entrance to Takao san) and proceeded towards the trails. There are six trails in total providing the range of difficulty and each passes through different parts of the mountain. We wanted to go up trail 6, but because a tree had fallen down on the path, we were re-routed to the main trail, or trail 1. This trail was paved and you would think that would make things easier but it was a bit like hell for the first half. :P The path was completely on an incline and we all had to take a break after what felt like every 5 or 10 minutes. It didn't help to see kids and grandmothers pass us at faster speeds but we kept on keeping on and finally reached the halfway point. At the halfway point, there are chair lifts and cable cars that run from the bottom of Takao-san to the halfway point and back around. The view was already amazing and that gave us the extra push to make it through the second half of the hike which was thankfully much less steep. The last leg takes you through several Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples which are perched at various points along the trail. Each one was unique and provided a good change in scenery as we made our way to the top.
One of the temples on our trail (source)
One of my favorite temples was quite Indian-inspired and included stone-carved images of women in saris. While it serves as a reminder of Buddhism's origins, it is interesting to see how the religion has manifested itself in different countries.
We finally reached the summit after what seemed like forever and were rewarded with a spectacular view. From the top of Takao, you can see all of Tokyo and even areas past it like Yokohama. On good days, it is possible to see Mt. Fuji, unfortunately we could not really see it due to the clouds. The view reminded me a lot of the mountains back home and the view of the Blue Ridge mountains from North Carolina. Of course, we took the token group photos with the view before moving through the tourist-filled crowds to start the descent back down.
Seeing Tokyo from above (source)
Dango made the uphill hike so worth it! (source)
The way back down led us past several little food stalls filled with Takao-san's famous foods like the fresh dango. Dango is practically a larger size mochi and the shops at Takao put a handful on a skewer and layer them with a sweet soy sauce glaze. At the stall I stopped at there were both black and gold sesame dango, I opted for the black sesame and did not regret it at all! Along with dango, soba noodles are a specialty of the place and are very refreshing after a long, sweaty hike. Instead of hiking all the way back down, we opted to take the chair lifts down the last half and it came with an amazing view. With no seat belts, the chair lift literally has you hanging right over the edge of the mountain which is quite the experience. Hiking Takao with friends is definitely worth the hour commute and is a great day-trip getaway from the city.