A Virtual-Reality Tour of Mount Takao
JapanIn videoImages Guide to Japan Travel
◆Viewing the 360 degree video◆
- On PC, click and drag your mouse cursor to look around.
- In the YouTube app on your smartphone or tablet, the view changes with the movement of your device. You can also swipe to move the view around.
- Using VR goggles or headset makes the experience all the more immersive!
Easy to Climb
Mount Takao (elevation 599 meters) is located in the city of Hachiōji, Tokyo. Enjoying a Michelin Green Guide Japan three-star rating, it is a popular destination for tourists from overseas and boasts the largest number of climbers in the world, attracting some 3 million per year prior to the pandemic.
Around 40 kilometers from the center of Tokyo, Mount Takao’s appeal is the magnificence of its natural beauty. In addition to the Japanese giant flying squirrel, the region boasts dozens of varieties of wild animals, over 100 types of birds, and more than 4,000 varieties of insects, including a type of long-horned beetle that is known by the scientific name Stenhomalus takaosanus. With over 1,600 varieties of plants native to the region, it rivals the number found in the entirety of Britain. The “father of Japanese plant taxonomy” Makino Tomitarō, a frequent visitor to the region, is famous for having discovered Perilla citriodora, or lemon egoma, a plant that is native to the area.
One of the reasons it enjoys such popularity is its accessibility. Normally, it takes about an hour to travel there by train on the Keiō Line from Shinjuku. The “Mount Takao” limited express, however, gets you there in only 43 minutes.
It is also possible to reach the top of the mountain effortlessly. It takes a mere six minutes to ascend by cable car from Kiyotaki Station, at 201 meters above sea level, to Mount Takao Station, located at 472 meters. Riding up the side of the mountain on two-person chairlifts allows climbers to enjoy the forest breezes as they ascend suspended in midair.
Get off at the top and visit the observation deck. On a clear day, visitors can see the office buildings in Shinjuku.
There is an additional paved route to the top of the mountain that can easily be walked in a comfortable pair of sneakers. The summit can be reached in a little less than an hour. With the many shops and vending machines selling drinks, even novice climbers can be rest assured that their needs will be met once they arrive.
Nowadays, Mount Takao is known as a relatively low mountain that can be hiked casually. But 1,300 years ago it was a considered a sacred place after a temple was founded there by Gyōki (668–749), an influential Buddhist priest. There are a number of sacred sites located on the mountain still today. Legend has it that if one dips money in the stream of clear mountain water that runs past the gold statue of a god at Hachidai-Ryūō-Dō, one will enjoy improved financial fortunes. Others include the Tako-Sugi, a sacred camphor tree that is supposed to bring visitors good luck, Otoko-Zaka and Kunuke-Mon, where hikers can rid themselves of their earthly passions, and Negai-Kanau-Wa-Kuguri, a large ring that you pass through in order to be granted your wishes. The presence of these and other “lucky spots” along the route make the mountain a hotspot for good fortune and blessings.
The main building of a temple called Yakuō-in is where the temple’s principal deity, Izuna-Dai-Gongen, is worshipped. Temple-goers pray there to remove bad luck and ensure that they reap the benefits of good fortune. The statues of tengu (a type of supernatural creature from Shintō folklore) that dot the grounds of the temple are servants known as kenzoku that protect the main deity. They are so closely associated with Mount Takao that there is a namesake confection filled with sweet black bean paste called tenguyaki.
From near the summit of the mountain it is possible to see Mount Fuji on clear days. In the Edo period (1603–1868), the common people would worship Japan’s highest peak from here. This gave it the reputation of being the best sacred location among all the mountains in the region.
Near the mountain is a museum devoted to the area’s plant life, as well as many tourist facilities such as natural hot springs that allow visitors to fill entire days with enjoyable activities. When visiting, be sure to drop by one of the many soba restaurants at the foot of the mountain. One local variety that everyone should try is known as tororo-soba (soba topped with grated yam paste).
Mount Takao may be a small peak, but it is packed with natural and cultural attractions that offer a feast for all the senses, and it can be enjoyed repeatedly throughout the year as it changes with the seasons.
(Originally published in Japanese. Reporting and text by Nippon.com. Banner photo: The Yakuō-in great hall. All images © Nippon.com.)