Located just a short hop from central Tokyo, in the western suburb of Hachiōji, Mount Takao has long been popular with day-trippers. Many international visitors head to the mountain for a little light hiking as well, particularly since the Michelin Green Guide gave the peak a three-star rating in 2007.
“Before the Michelin rating, Mount Takao had two million annual visitors,” explains Sakamoto Tameaki, a guide for the Hachiōji Tourist Association. That figure has now risen to three million, making it the most visited mountain in the world.
While happy about the increased profile of the mountain, Sakamoto laments that many visitors fail to take advantage of all that Takao has to offer and merely make the trip because it is included in their guidebooks. “Some people think it’s popular because it’s near central Tokyo, not too tall, and easy to climb. But in my opinion, the Michelin ranking and the growing number of tourists illustrate the natural, historical, and culinary appeal of Takao.”
Sakamoto explains that the mountain boasts 1,600 plant varieties. “That is around the same number of wild plant species in all of Britain,” he exclaims. “It is a small botanical reserve.” He proudly points out Takao’s many cultural treasures. “The Yakuōin temple is almost 1,300 years old and has a number of impressive buildings and memorials. The mountain is also famed as the residing place of the legendary tengu [a long-nosed supernatural being similar to a goblin]. In summer, you can enjoy a drink at a beer garden that sits 500 meters above sea level. There are lots of popular kinds of food too, including soba topped with tororo [grated yam] and tenguyaki sweets. Instead of just taking the cable car to the top and back, I wish people would explore Mount Takao more. That is why I decided to become a volunteer guide.”
Below are some of Sakamoto’s recommendations for where to go and what to do when visiting Mount Takao.
It takes less than an hour to get from Shinjuku Station to Takaosanguchi Station on the Keiō Takao Line. The station building, completed in 2015, was designed by world-renowned architect Kuma Kengo.
The cable car and chairlift station is a five-minute walk from Takaosanguchi Station. Both the cable car and chairlift deposit visitors a little over 100 meters shy of the 599-meter summit. The cable car takes 6 minutes to reach the top and the chairlift 12 minutes.
Japan’s steepest cable car route reaches a maximum incline of 31 degrees.
Many visitors start their ascent from the cable car’s Takaosan Station, which is only 130 meters from the summit.
Passengers are closer to nature on the two-seater chairlifts.