Hiking Mt. Mitake’s Varied Scenery
Tired of spending your summers at overcrowded beaches or pools? Sometimes the best way to cool down in Japan during summer is to get out of the city for a hike in the mountains. Surprisingly, there are many wonderful hiking areas that are easily reachable by train from central Tokyo. After hiking both Mt. Fuji and Mt. Takao, I decided that Mt. Mitake is and will stay my favorite spot for hiking near Tokyo. Read on to find out why.
Mt. Mitake (called Mitakesan, or 御岳山, by the locals) is a part of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, which extends into Yamanashi, Saitama, Nagano and Tokyo prefectures.
I enjoyed Mt. Mitake for its unique mix of rocks and greenery. Contrary to Mt. Fuji (too rocky) and Mt. Takao (more a hill than a mountain), Mt. Mitake offers varied scenery, making the hike extremely enjoyable because it never looks the same at different stages along the path.
If, like me, you are too lazy to hike up, you can take the cable car (¥590 per person, three departures each hour). You have the option of taking a bus from Mitake station (¥290) to reach the cable car station or to walk there from the train station; it’s up to you. The cable car will bring you quickly to the mountain’s summit at 929 meters. Taking the cable car saves you about an hour of walking on a pretty boring road through the forest. I took this way to go down, and honestly I was so bored that I began counting the trees along the road! Once you reach Mitake village you will pass a few traditional inns, souvenir shops and public toilets, before arriving at the shrine, which is where the real beauty of Mt. Mitake begins.
From there, you are again presented with two options: going down to the beautiful rock garden, a forested valley with a relaxing stream, moss covered stones, and two nearby waterfalls. It takes less than an hour to reach the valley from the shrine. Another option is to continue up to the peak of Mt. Odake (1,267 meters), from where you can enjoy nice views of the surrounding forest-covered mountains and Mt. Fuji on clear days. I didn’t get so lucky on my visit, but at least I saw Tokyo Skytree on the way to the top! Some passages are quite dangerous near the summit, especially when it’s raining (trust me!), but there are chains to help you pull yourself up with your arms. Be sure to wear proper footwear.
You can pick up a map at the Mitake Visitor Center (closed on Mondays), located between the upper cable car station and the shrine, but you will see that it’s not really necessary as the way is very well marked with signs.
Getting there: Take the JR Chuo Line from Tokyo or Shinjuku station to Ome station (75 minutes from Shinjuku). At Ome station, change to the JR Ome Line to Mitake Station (20 minutes). The whole trip from Shinjuku to Mitake station costs ¥920 per person each way.
Waterfall photo by Guilhem Vellut; cable car photo by Ume-y.