An Insider’s Guide To Hiking Mt. Jinba
An Under-The-Radar Hike Near Mt. Takao
Mt. Jinba lies a couple of kilometers away from the popular day-trip hiking destination Mt. Takao. The summit of this little-known mountain, easily accessible from Tokyo, is a perfect place to spread out, have a relaxing picnic, and enjoy incredible, unimpeded views of Mt. Fuji.
For Tokyo locals, Mt. Takao, or Takao-san, is a place to spend time in nature, explore old temples, buy a souvenir, and grab a drink or a bowl of soba before getting on the train back to Tokyo. Because of Takao-san’s accessibility from the city, the hike to its summit is filled with tourists and locals trying to take a break from the urban grind.
And while Mt. Takao may be an escape from the city, it’s certainly not an escape from the crowds.
For those who want to be one with nature, truly away from the Tokyo crowds, there is an alternative: Mt. Jinba. The Mt. Jinba hike is a more challenging, scenic, and under-the-radar version of the Takao-san hike!
What the summit lacks in temples, it makes up for in yuzu sherbet, an interesting horse statue at the top of its viewpoint platform and a lovely picnic area from where you can enjoy the view.
Getting to the start of the Mt. Jinba hike
It only takes one extra step from Shinjuku station to get to Mt. Jinba. From Shinjuku Station:
Step 1: Board the Chuo Rapid Line or Special Rapid Line to Takao Station (¥550), or the Keio Line to Takao Station (¥360). The trains take about one hour, except for the Special Rapid Line which takes 45 minutes.
Step 2: Get off at Takao Station (Tokyo) and take the North Exit out of the station. The Takao Bus Station will be left of the train station.
Step 3: Board the bus labeled Jinbakōgenshita. The bus leaves once every hour, at 34 minutes past the hour. The exceptions are the buses that leave at 8:10 am and 8:55 am on weekends. See the full schedule here.
Step 4: Jinbakōgenshita is the last stop that the bus makes. The ride costs ¥670 and takes about 40 minutes. You can use your IC card to ride this bus.
The Jinbakōgenshita bus station and its vicinity feel like the middle of the Japanese countryside. There’s a small bathroom facility, some benches, and a map of the Jinba mountain region at the bus station. If you’re hungry already, there’s a beautiful little soba shop right next door that has a view of the trickling stream next to it.
Time to start hiking!
The first portion of the trek follows the car road, up winding mountain streets that no bus would fit through. Keep an eye out for signs that will point you in the direction of “Mt. Jinba Summit.” There is one just after the bus station, then another sign plus a big map 1.4 kilometers down the road, which points to where you turn off into the forest.
Savvy Tip: Everyone who was on the bus with you to Jinbakōgenshita from Takao Station will likely be hiking the same route up to Mt. Jinba. If you want to break away from the group, either zoom ahead or stay behind for a while at the bus station.
What to expect on the trail?
The dirt trail after the main road starts flat and forested, and the peacefulness of Mother Earth around you will hopefully calm your city-life anxieties. You’ll start alongside the river and brush by large ferns and bushes bordering the trail. Looking up at the tall pine trees to see them swaying in the wind in unison is dizzying but relaxing.
Most of the trek from the main road up to the Mt. Jinba summit is uphill and over the roots of trees. It’s also well shaded from the sun because of the density of the pine trees above. Some sections are quite steep and have ropes that you can hold on to for balance, although most people will be fine without using them. There are no benches on the trail for resting, but there are some tree stumps and fallen over trees where hikers can take a break.
Other small trails, coming from who knows where, merge with the main trail up Mt. Jinba. Stay calm—there is almost always a sign pointing you in the right direction at each fork in the trail. Because of how wide and well-trodden most of the trail is, you don’t need to worry about getting lost while trying to reach the Mt. Jinba summit.
The distance from the main road to the summit of Mt. Jinba is about two kilometers, almost all uphill. Adding the 1.4 kilometers from Jinbakōgenshita bus station, it will take about 1.5-2 hours to reach the summit.
Mt. Jinba summit and its facilities
You’ll know that the summit is just around the corner when you see the rooftop of the public restroom facilities through the bushes. The summit is a spacious, grassy area that is perfect for picnicking. There are two teahouses serving bowls of udon and soba starting at ¥600, as well as drinks starting at ¥250 and ice cream for ¥300 (yuzu sherbet, anyone?). Plenty of picnic tables are available for free use if you didn’t bring a picnic blanket with you to sit on the grass.
After you’ve reached the summit, you can climb up even higher to a platform (875 m) where you’ll find the Mt. Jinba marker, a massive white horse statue. Take in a deep breath and the panoramic view of Mt. Fuji and the Kanto Plain. You can see Tokyo and its skyscrapers stretched out over the region, with the Skytree sticking up above it all.
Savvy Tip: The best views of Mt. Fuji are from the grassy area in front of the first tea house, or from the patio of the second tea house. The best views of the Kanto Plain are at the beginning of the trail to Mt. Kagenobu, at the base of the viewing platform.
Mt. Jinba is a much less crowded summit than Mt. Takao, and because it has such a wide area to view Mt. Fuji, you’re not grappling for space on a single viewing deck. There were some tourists at the summit, but many more locals who were here grabbing a beer with their friends, resting after a trail run, and enjoying udon with a view.
Some picnickers even brought their own portable grills for some yakiniku! If you plan ahead and bring convini food or some bento boxes, the summit of Mt. Jinba is as good a place as any to spend an afternoon before returning to the city.
Savvy Bonus: For avid hikers and mountain enthusiasts, it’s important to note that there are many great trails in this area. One route popular with trail runners and trekkers is the full 19.4 km hike from Jinbakōgenshita bus station to the summits of Mt. Jinba, Mt. Kagenobu, and Mt. Takao, then finally down to Takaosanguchi Station. From Mt. Jinba, follow the signs to Mt. Kagenobu to attempt this challenge.