Did you know Mount Takao is reportedly the world's most climbed mountain by annual climber numbers? This popular hiking spot was also given the highest rating of three-stars by Michelin Green Guide Japan. Both accolades stand as testaments to the mountain's enduring popularity and incredible natural beauty!
It's amazing how lush the greenery on Mount Takao is considering the mountain's location right in ultra urban Tokyo itself. Even more amazing is how gorgeously different it appears with every change of season! Let's take a closer look at how to enjoy the beautiful Mount Takao during each season and absorb its vibrant spiritual energy!
[Spring] Kogesawa Plum Grove: A bewitching contrast of red and white
When winter melts into spring, about 1,400 red and white plum trees start blooming all over Kogesawa Plum Grove. The grove is open to the public every March during blooming season, which means it's also the best month for viewing the pretty plum petals up close while trekking up the mountain.
Spring is also the season when the Takao Baigo Plum Festival will be held in all four plum groves within the Mount Takao area. Flower appreciation is, needless to mention, a staple of the event, but you'll also get to browse through open-air shops and watch koto, or traditional Japanese zither performances. Throughout the day, a stamp rally will also be held along with plenty of other activities designed to help you get the most of your plum blossom viewing.
Since the groves are only open during this special period from early to late March and will be closed for maintenance and conservation on other months, if you're hoping for an up-close-and-personal experience with these beautiful flowers, do check out the website for opening days before coming down to avoid disappointment!
[Spring] Takao-san Yakuou-in: Sakura in a historical shrine
The historical Takao-san Yakuo-in is a must-see site for visitors of Mount Takao. Its nearest station about a 20 minutes walk away is Takaosan Station, which is accessible via cable car or echo lift. The main building of the shrine is an impressive structure, and the massive hanataka, or long-nosed mask of Tengu, Mount Takao's guardian deity, is worth a viewing as well.
The shrine is also known to be a scenic sakura viewing site during spring, especially because of the shidarezakura, or weeping cherry blossom trees that can be admired when scaling the staircase leading to the main shrine. Taking pictures of these sakura flowers against the backdrop of the grand Niōmon gate is a popular activity for many. Within the shrine premises are a few other species of sakura such as yaezakura, kanhizakura, and yamazakura - each with their own unique appearance and blooming schedule. The wide variety of blossoms thus beautifies the shrine area and ensures an endlessly exciting experience for admiring visitors.
Besides the places we've already mentioned, Itchodaira at the mountainpeak is also where you can find about 1,000 somei-yoshino sakura trees, often touted as the king of cherry blossoms. One can really see why Mount Takao is at the top of many people's list of choice sakura viewing spots! Because of the mountain's altitude, the sakura here usually bloom for a longer period of time as well, from the early to late April, making it a feasible sakura spot for tourists who may be visiting outside of the regular sakura schedule.
[Summer] Takosugi: A power spot for receiving good luck and blessings
Takosugi is a massive Japanese cedar tree that is 450 years old. Many view the site where the tree resides as a power spot, or a place of spiritual rejuvenation that showers good luck and blessings upon those who visit. The twisted roots of the tree are its trademark. It is said that if you pet the head of Hipparidako, a mascot statue situated next to the tree, you'll benefit from the good luck it dispenses!
Legend has it that this large tree was in the way during the building of the pathway leading to the shrine. When workers tried to cut the tree down to finish their work, the tree bent its roots to open up a way for them instead. The bent roots seemed like the tentacles of an octopus at that time, and thus the tree came to be called Takosugi, which literally means "octopus cedar"! Sacred rope has been put around its trunk, making it Mount Takao's sacred tree. The tree has also been designated as one of Hachioji city's natural monuments.
[Summer] Takaosan Beer Mount: A place for delicious drinks and the perfect view
If you've ever wanted to have a refreshing drink or two in an observatory 488 meters (about 1,600 feet) above sea level while gazing out at Mount Takao's beautiful natural sights and Tokyo's electrifying streetscape, consider making a trip to Takaosan Beer Mount! Opened for a limited period each year from the 15th of August to 15th of October, this beer garden offers an excellent night view of Tokyo city and is so popular during midsummer weekends that many find themselves having to wait in line for the next available table. Plan a lot of leeway into your schedule to accommodate that if you're visiting around that period of time!
All food and drinks in the beer mount are offered all-you-can-eat buffet-style for two hours, which naturally means you can relax and enjoy as much or as little food and alcohol as you like without needing to worry about breaking the bank. Besides draft beer from four major beer brands, you'll also find a veritable lineup of cocktails, sours, shōchū, and Japanese sake that will satisfy any alcohol connoisseur. The buffet-style spread offers a mix of Japanese, Western, and Chinese cuisine, and with more than 30 types of food always being available at any one time, you'll definitely find it hard to grow tired of the wide variety of dishes to choose from!
Mt. Takao Beer Mount高尾山ビアマウント
- Address 2181 Takaomachi, Hachioji, Tōkyō-to 193-0844
Transport: 5 minutes walk from Takaosanguchi Station on the Keio Line; 6 minutes via cable car from Kiyotaki station, immediately next to Takaosan Station on the cable car
- Phone Number 042-665-9943
Cost: Men 3,800 yen; Women 3,600 yen; Senior Men (65 and above) 3,500 yen; Senior Women (65 and above) 3,300 yen; High School 3,300 yen; Junior High School 2,500 yen; Elementary School 1,500 Yen, Children (3 to before elementary school age) 500 yen
* All prices are inclusive of tax
[Fall] Autumn Colors: Transforming the mountain into vivid shades of red
From the mid-November to late-December, Mount Takao starts getting painted over from head to toe with the bright red hues of autumn leaves, and this is the period that sees the most number of mountain climbers in a year. Most are aiming to either sightsee at the mountain's Yakuo-in shrine while admiring the autumn view, or watch the beautiful landscape slowly roll by from within a cable car.
The panoramic view of autumn leaves from the top of the mountain is splendid beyond measure, and you'll also find an observatory deck nearby that offers a possible glimpse of the famous Mount Fuji. A month-long event, the Takaosan Momiji Festival takes place here every year starting some time in November. Every weekend and public holiday, activities like yosakoi dance performances or music concerts are organized to further liven up the mood.
From the vibrantly yellow maidenhair trees around Takaosanguchi Station to the red Japanese maple leaves in the vicinity of Yakuo-in, the stunning diversity of trees in the mountain as well as how its high elevation alters the coloring of the autumn leaves slightly are the main reasons for Mount Takao's popularity as an autumn leaves viewing site. Some also love how the location allows them to admire the view while comfortably seated in a cable car or echo lift!
[Winter] First Sunrise of the Year at the Summit: Ushering in the New Year with Mount Takao
It's not difficult at all to reach Mount Takao's peak if you use the cable car or echo lift as a shortcut, and that's also why the mountain buzzes on New Year's Eve with groups of excited people waiting to see the first sunrise of the new year from this scenic spot. Here, there are no skyscrapers or residential buildings to block your view of the sunrise, which will surely enhance your enjoyment as you gaze at the dynamic sun slowly climbing into view from the horizon!
If there is too much human traffic, however, entry to the mountaintop becomes restricted, so it's actually not unusual to find people already waiting there from before New Year's Eve. To ensure a spot on the mountaintop for the first sunrise of the year, therefore, you may need to plan to go way in advance! Temperatures on Mount Takao can dip below zero degrees Celsius (about 32 Fahrenheit) during this period, so don't forget to pack enough protection against the cold before making the climb.
Since times past, Mount Takao has been looked up to as a "mountain of faith" where monks would carry out their training. Many thus believe that starting their new year here allows them to absorb the spiritual benefits it has to offer. After admiring the sunrise, don't forget to drop by Yakuo-in for your first temple visit of the year as well!
Of course, what we've featured on this article is only a small sampling of the many charming sightseeing spots Mount Takao has to offer. As you scale this famous mountain during different seasons and get closer to its natural world and history, we're confident you'll be able to find something that appeals to your heart in time to come as well.
Text by Medium KK. English translation by: Huimin Pan
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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