Going to Mount Takao, a mountain which 2.6 million people climb annually from Shinjuku on Keio Line

Plan in the morning and go on the same day! Mount Takao is a mountain easy to access

Mount Takao received three stars, the highest ranking, as the “Must Go” mountain from the Michelin Green Guide which introduces tourist spots. The reason described is “the breathtaking beauty of nature which is unimaginable for a metropolitan area”, but the easy access and the opportunities it provides to experience the traditional culture and food of Japan cannot be ignored. It is particularly spectacular and full of charms in autumn with colored foliage of trees. This article will walk you through the Mount Takao in autumn.

Shinjuku Station of the Keio Line

Mount Takao has the excellent access from midtown Tokyo. It is about 50 minutes by express train from Shinjuku Station of the Keio Line to Takaosanguchi Station, the gateway to Mount Takao. You can get up in the morning, check the weather, have a relaxed breakfast and go carefree.

Departing from Shinjuku at 10:40 a.m. and arriving in Takaosanguchi at 11:30 a.m.

The Keio Line train running through the autumn color of leaves.

Half an hour after departing from Shinjuku Station, the scenery along the railway dramatically changes. As the vista of the trees which have just begun to change colors draw near the window of the train, the sense of expectation is aroused.

The cool design of Takaosanguchi Station

The station building of Takaosanguchi Station was designed by a renowned Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma. The design using plenty of cedar trees is reminiscent of the beautiful roadside cedars designated as the natural monument of Tokyo along Mount Takao, and the building also features a beautifully sloped dynamic roof.

Route Map of Mount Takao

There are seven climbing and hiking routes in Mount Takao. Our recommendation is trail route No. 1, which is to climb halfway up the mountain by cable car, and keep climbing on foot toward the summit while visiting the Takao-san Yakuoin Temple (established in 744) along the way. This route takes only 1 hour or so, which won’t be too hard even for beginning climbers.

12:00 p.m. – Taking a walk around the foot of the mountain and climbing halfway up by cable car which has the steepest inclination in Japan

Mount Takao Cable Car
Cable car going up the steep slope of 31’18” degree at the highest inclination (Right)

It is about 5 minutes’ walk from Takaosanguchi Station to the Cable car station of Kiyotaki. Let’s enjoy the stroll and walk on the charming trail lined with souvenir shops along the stream.

”Octopus Cedar” with amazing shape
The octopus cedar (Takosugi) has a height of 37m (about 121 feet) and a circumference of about 6m (about 19 feet), and its estimated age is 500 years old.

About half way up the mountain trail from Takaosan Station, you will immediately notice the Octopus Cedar or Takosugi with an amazing shape. The roadside cedars are continuous from around here to Yakuoin and the age of the trees are a few hundred years old.

12:30 p.m. – The Tengu statue, a long-nosed mountain goblin greets you at the Yakuoin Temple of Mount Takao.

The Tengu statue of Yakuoin
Tengu is believed to have a long-nosed red face and fly in the air with the wings at his back

The must-visit place in trail route No. 1 is Takao-san Yakuoin Temple known as one of the main temples of the Shingon Buddhist sect. Mount Takao is famous for the mountain asceticism (Shugendo) which practices strict discipline. The legend has it that this mountain is home to a Tengu, an imaginary being with supernatural powers believed to be a meiny of Buddha.

The trail to Yakuoin Temple
The trail to Yakuoin Temple is well paved and easy to walk. The Yakuoin will appear at the end of the cryptomerias-lined trail.

1:00 p.m.- The view of the autumn leaves from the summit is a spot of unparalleled beauty in Tokyo

The summit of Mount Takao with beautiful autumn leaves
We can catch the sight of Mount Fuji on a sunny day

As Mount Takao is located near the boundary line between warm-temperature zone and cool-temperature zone, the vegetation of both evergreen broadleaf trees and deciduous broadleaf trees can be observed here. The summit of Mount Takao commands the scenic distant view of the magnificent Mount Fuji on a sunny day and the vista of the glorious broad leaf forest colored in red and yellow just below our eyes.

Also, only at about 4:00 p.m. around the winter solstice in December, the so-called Diamond Fuji can be observed on a sunny day when the sun sets on the peak of Mount Fuji.

The Diamond Fuji that can be seen around the winter solstice

Notably exquisite gourmet food of Mount Takao!

Mount Takao is also a mountain where we can enjoy gourmet food. Restaurants and Japanese sweets shops that can be enjoyed only in Japan are dotted around Takaosan Station of the cable car. You can eat the food while overlooking the beautiful scenery of the surrounding area.

Takao's specialty Tororo soba, the buckwheat noodle with grated yam on the top

Among these gourmet foods, Tororo soba is particularly famous. Tororo is grated natural yam which is said to have nutritional fortification effect and is poured on soba noodle.

The popular sweets with simple flavor
“Three-fortune dumpling” is a Japanese sweet of simple flavor made with steamed and hulled rice flour. “Tengu-yaki” has the filling of bean paste made of black soy beans
Takaosan Beer Mount with beautiful night view
“Takaosan Beer Mount” at the elevation of 500m (about 1640 feet) with a spectacular night view

Surrounded by the Mother Nature, “Takaosan Beer Mount” is a popular all-you-can-eat/drink restaurant (for two hours) and is open for a limited period from June 15 until October 15 every year.

Ukai Toriyama

For those who would like to savor the genuine Japanese food, Ukai Toriyama is a recommended restaurant which is in a particularly tranquil location in Takao. It is popular for the grilling of seasonal foodstuff over a charcoal in Irori* as well as the view over the beautiful garden. We recommend this place for an early dinner after you descend from the mountain. A free shuttle is provided from Takaosanguchi Station.

* Irori is a sunken hearth with a square pit cutting the floor and filled with ashes spread all over on which firewood or charcoal is used to light the fire for cooking.

Mount Takao is more enjoyable when you take a different route

A suspension bridge of the trail route No. 4

Side trip (1)

When you descend from Mount Takao, we advise you to take another route. Our recommendation is the trail route No. 4, which is the only route with a suspension bridge. If you use the lift from halfway to the foot of the mountain, you can see a different scenery from the cable car.

The lift of Mount Takao
The museum where you can learn everything about Mount Takao

Side trip (2)

The TAKAO 599 MUSEUM opened in October 2015, is located five minutes by foot from Takaosanguchi Station of the Keio Line. You can visit and learn more about the nature including some 1600 species of plants of Mount Takao, known as the treasury of flora and fauna.

The hot spring adjacent to the train station

Side trip (3)

Right next to Takaosanguchi Station is the natural hot spring “Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokuraku-yu.” The hot spring which springs up from 1000m (about 3280 feet) underneath the ground is said to have skin-beautifying effect. It is perfect for refreshing oneself and relieving weariness from climbing Mount Takao.

The day trip which combines the nature and meal of Mount Takao

There is a day trip tour that combines a one-day pass of the Keio Line, a round-trip ticket of the cable car or the lift, and a meal voucher for restaurants around Mount Takao. The meal options offered vary depending on the season and feature such meals as the genuine vegetarian food of the Buddhist tradition, charcoal grilled chicken of Ukai Toriyama, Takaosan Beer Mount, etc. You can make a reservation and pay online, and we recommend you to purchase the trip even after you are already in Japan. You can pick up the voucher at the Shinjuku station tourist information center called “Central Honshu Information Plaza in Keio Shinjuku” (from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Open every day, 365 days a year.)

Take advantage of the good deal ticket and the convenient services at Shinjuku, the beginning point of the trip

There are various value tickets you can utilize to enjoy Mount Takao. The Mount Takao Discount Ticket gives you 20% discount on a round-trip ticket and a cable car or the lift ticket. For those who would like start from Shinjuku and take a stroll in west Tokyo such as Shimokitazawa or Kichijoji, both known as the “young people’s town”, Keio 1Day Ticket allows you to board any route on Keio and Inokashira Lines as many times as you want (900 yen). These tickets can be purchased from automatic ticket vending machines which offer foreign language options.

Keio Nekonote Baggage Service Counter
Keio Nekonote Baggage Service Counter inside the Shinjuku Station of Keio Line

The Keio Nekonote Baggage Service Counter provides convenient services such as temporary baggage storage, the same-day delivery to certain hotels in Nishi-Shinjuku area, same-day delivery to Haneda Airport, and overnight delivery to destinations across Japan. English and Chinese-speaking staff will provide the support to allow you to go on a sightseeing tour hands- free.

The Keio Plaza Hotel offering cultural experience
The Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is an international hotel with 70% of the guests from overseas. You can enjoy the gigantic flower arrangement in the lobby area which gives you a great sense of the season and experience the tea ceremony as well as various events designed to introduce the Japanese culture.

The Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is one of Tokyo’s leading hotels, which is convenient and comfortable, and is ideal for sightseeing from Shinjuku as a base location. The hotel has an easy access from Shinjuku Station, only 5 minutes’ walk. The brand-new Premier Grand floors will open in December. At 160 meters above the city, the new Club Lounge will offer the ultimate experience with luxury and comfort.

There are not many mountains like Mount Takao, which allows you to easily make a round trip from and to Shinjuku in a single day. You can have a relaxed start of the day to experience the autumn leaves and hot spring, ride on the Keio Line and travel back from the center of Mother Nature to the center of Tokyo and still enjoy the sightseeing in the metropolitan Tokyo. Why not plan on visiting Mount Takao which allows you to enjoy Tokyo sightseeing twice as much?