Sunday, December 14, 2008
Takao is an approximately 600 meter tall mountain (ok, a really big hill mixed in with a range of other big hills) just west of Shinjuku. The easiest way to reach it is to go to the Shinjuku JR station and jump on the Chuu-ou rapid train heading west. Then you may want to transfer to the Keio Takao line to get to the final stop, and the entrance point to the cable car/ski chair lift.
(Tengu head, greeting you at the Takao city train station.)
One thing about Takao is that it is home to the "tengu", demons with long noses, or bird beaks. There's a big statue of a Tenju head at the station to commemorate them.
The mountain features a number of good hiking trails that meander off into the neighboring hills. You can pretty much hike as far as you'd like, making it a short day trip, or an entire weekend trek.
(Temple at the top of the mountain.)
Takao is revered as a sacred location, and thus has a number of shrines and gift shops, as well as emblems on the trees showing they have been blessed. There's a small monkey park (which I didn't have time to visit) as well. The cable car costs about $10 US for a round trip ride. But, it was shut down for repairs, so we took the chair lift up, and spent 30 minutes walking down on the way back out. There are two photographers situated on the hillside along the cable car with digital cameras and a wireless connection. Your photo is printed out and waiting for you at the end of the ride, for 600 yen, if you want it or not.
(One of the food and gift stalls along the way.)
We had yaki-mochi (a skewer of 3 soft mochi balls roasted over a charcoal flame, basted with a teriyaki sauce), from one of the trail side stalls, which I liked a lot. And, we did a lot of walking. Along the way, we met an American touring Japan as part of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and we hiked together for a while until he parted ways to continue along a different trail. (A later e-mail assured us that he got out of the hills around dark, and had made his way on to Osaka for the orchestra's next performance there the following day.)
(One of the shrines along the way.)
Takao only takes about an hour to reach from Tokyo, and is in the Hachioji region. If you want a place to get some exercise where the air is cleaner, this is a good place to do it.
(Part of the trail leading to the top of the mountain. The tree on the left has a paper lightning bolt symbol to show that it has been blessed. All trees along the trail that are at least 3 feet in diameter (and are therefore a few hundred years old) have these symbols.)
(Statue of a priest in on of the Shinto shrines at a midpoint on the mountain.)