November weekend getaway

By on November 10, 2014
Late November is a good time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and take the train to Mount Takao for some koyo (autumn foliage) viewing and hiking. Just one and a half hour from Tokyo, the 600 m high mountain is a mix of Japanese culture and nature with lots of beautiful red leaves, waterfalls, creeks and hiking trails.

A nice time to arrive at the place is in the morning. The place gets jammed on weekends as it is a popular hiking spot for couples and families. To go up the mountain requires taking a chair lift or cable car.

After the ride, there is still plenty of climbing to the summit! A festival atmosphere permeates the mountainside, as hikers are treated to the delicious smells of grilled mochi, soba, and udon, sold from stalls lining the trail.

Your first stop might be the monkey haven to view the monkeys through glass in their mountain habitat. From here, just follow the stream of hikers up the mountain. The route takes you through the colorful Yakuoin Temple, and then up more stairs, passing under large orange torii (gates) framed by red maple leaves. Even though the climb is all up-hill, it is surprisingly easy to be “swept along” by the excited crowds of seniors and families out enjoying the exhilaration of the day.

Finally…. the summit! Just as cherry blossoms bring out the mat-to-mat picnickers, so does koyo (autumn foliage). Lunches are laid out under choice trees as hikers share in the accomplishment of reaching the top. Stalls offer local produce, and you can taste the seasonal flavors in such dishes as sansai (mountain vegetable) soba sold at small restaurants…. right on the mountain- top.

There are several routes down, so check your map carefully.
The base of Mt. Takao during the Autumn Festival bustles with hikers, souvenir shops, and stage performances. Our family agreed that climbing Takao-san was a wonderful way to join in the celebration of autumn in Japan.

From Shinjuku station, take Keio line and get off at Takaosan guchi.
The mountain is 5 mins by walk from the station.

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