Walk together among Japanese goblins on Mount Takao during a fun day trip from Tokyo Shinjuku, see Mount Fuji and, if the season is right, enjoy romantic cherry blossoms or amazing autumn foliage! Doesn’t it feel like the best hiking spot ever?
My experiences on Mount Takao were very positive: I enjoyed different hiking trails alone and with friends several times, I dated my Japanese girlfriend there on a sunny day, and I even slowly accompanied families with children to the top. Trail 1 felt easy but was crowded every time, my girlfriend was very happy with the view from the mountain top, and the kids had fun all along!
Japanese goblins at a Buddhist temple
Sacred mountain for more than 1000 years, Mount Takao features a marvelous Buddhist temple and many small statues on its hiking trails: Gods of Happiness, Jizo protector of travelers, and many other Buddhist guardians. The buildings of Takaosan Yakuo-in Yukiji Buddhist temple are great spots for impressive twofies, and its big statues of long-nosed Japanese goblins (tengu) and crow-beaked Japanese goblins (karasu-tengu) are beautiful! Ask other travelers to take a photo of you two with a tengu to share this special memory of your trip in Japan with your family and friends afterwards 🙂 The fan held by a tengu brings good fortune so you may consider praying there together, writing a wish with your lover on an “ema” wooden plaque, or buying a pair of local talismans.
Lucky or patient, you may see a procession of Buddhist priests and hear the sound of their conch shells… You feel like savoring a pure meal like them? Make a reservation for a shojin-ryori traditional plant-based meal at Takaosan Yakuo-in Yukiji; this wonderful new experience is not just for vegans or vegetarians! At nearby shops, you can also taste and share different foods such as sticks of sticky rice or “Tengu-yaki” goblin-shaped pancakes filled with bean paste… If it is your first try, you should film each other’s reaction with your camera or phone 😀
Hiking trails for you
You can walk hand in hand from Takaosanguchi train station to the top of Mount Takao without any problem in two hours: the trail 1 “Omotesando” is easy for both young and older couples, it is possible to walk side by side, and there are signs in English in the forest. For a more intimate day with your partner, the more arduous trails are more attractive as fewer hikers use them… Choose trail 1 to see the monkey park, wild plant garden, octopus-shaped cedar, and Takaosan Yakuo-in Yukiji. Choose trail 2 to hike among broad-leaved evergreen trees (e.g. oaks) and broad-leaved deciduous trees (e.g. fagus japonica). Trail 3 is recommended for nature lovers to observe wild plants, wild birds and insects among the trees. Trail 4 is popular thanks to its Miyama-bashi suspension bridge. To enjoy various kinds of flowers in spring, trail 5 is a good choice. Trail 6 is culturally interesting as you may see monks going through an ascetic training at Biwa Waterfall but it is a bit rough. The Inariyama trail is great to admire hydrangeas and gold-banded lilies bloom in June/July as well as amazing yellow, orange, and red autumn leaves in November. The Iroha-no-mori trail has trees with boards featuring traditional poems. The Jyataki Waterfall trail is the least crowded. The Ura-takao trail is great in February/March thanks to the red and white blossoms and perfume of its 10000 plum trees! In general, the sun between the leaves is beautiful and best seen in the morning.
As a couple, you should take Trail 1 if you want to walk together side by side and chat while holding hands in the wild plant garden. If you are more independent and adventurous partners, choose another trail.
Views from Mount Takao
At the summit (599 meters = 1965 feet), you can enjoy great views of the surroundings including Mount Fuji (especially with clear winter air), buy two different sets of cheap soba buckwheat noodles and share them to try several tastes (I recommend soba with mountain vegetables) at a restaurant, and find modern clean Western-style toilets nearby. Around the winter solstice (December), you may witness the so-called Diamond Fuji, when the sun sets on the peak of Mount Fuji; this is a magic moment you want to share with somebody you love! Also, you can have a look at Tokyo from the observation deck near the top station of the cable car, which I recommend to go down as it is comfortable and offers impressive views with its steep descent. If you prefer, you can use a chair lift instead to spend time just with your partner rather than with a big group of tourists.
At the base of the mountain, you can enjoy hot drinks in cute coffee shops, buy local souvenirs, and relax your muscles beside the train station at Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu hot spring, which has gender-segregated baths (a good opportunity to spend a few minutes without your boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife). A few more travel tips to wrap up:
- Favour standard weekdays because Mount Takao is particularly crowded on weekends and national public holidays.
- If you spend a few days in the area, check the weather forecast to select the day when the sky is the clearest to get the best chances to see Mount Fuji from the top.
- On the second Sunday of March, you can see priests walk barefoot on hot coals during the “Hi-watari Matsuri” Fire-crossing Ceremony.
- In spring, you can enjoy a romantic moment together among amazing cherry blossoms on Mount Takao in Itchodaira area also known as Takaosan Senbonzakura (Mount Takao Thousand Cherry Trees), 30-minute hike from the summit, a couple of weeks after the blossoms of central Tokyo (typically late April).
- In summer, you may see Hachioji Fireworks nearby (typically end of July) before returning to your hotel, hostel or ryokan.
- As a couple, try to put many of your things in just one bag. You should appreciate the result in a packed train or on narrow trails in the forest.
Access by train
To access Mount Takao, you can ride direct semi-limited express trains (50 minutes, 390 yen) of Keio Railways from Shinjuku station to Takaosanguchi station. With a Japan Rail Pass, you may instead decide to ride the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku station to Takao station (40 minutes, normally 550 yen) then transfer to the Keio line to reach Takaosanguchi station (3 minutes, 130 yen). Depending on your plans, you may decide to purchase Mount Takao discount tickets providing a 20% discount on the round-trip, cable car, and lift in 2018.
As a couple, you should depart as early as possible in the morning to be able to sit together, side by side. Staying at a hotel in Shinjuku the previous day would be helpful in that regard. There is no such problem on the way back to Shinjuku after spending your day on Mount Takao.