Hiking Mt. Takao for Mt. Fuji
When our Japanese friend Misako invited us to join the Mt. Takao hiking tour with her work colleagues, and Tomek asked me if I like to ride the ropeway to see more stunning autumn leaves (koyo) but most of all mount Fuji, I knew we were going on another relaxing koyo watching trip.
As I learned on the spot, we were going to hike up and around Mt. Takao for 10 km to see Mt. Fuji. The ropeway was going to be an option towards the end of the hike, for people who ‘are too tired’. This is what the yellow sticky note on our map said, handed out by our well prepared tour guide and Misako’s co-worker.
Getting there. Mount Takao is in Hachioji City. It is easily reached from Takaosanguchi Station, which is around an hour from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo on the Keio Takao Line. We took JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Takao Station and hiked.
At Takaostation. I thought people looked suspiciously well prepared at the station, waiting in line for the bus that was going to drop us off at the starting point for the hike.
I looked around and tried to figure out what all the equipment was. Especially if that blue hose was connected to oxygen, which is what I suspected.
While some brought water and hiking shoes, I brought an extra dress. We were planning to go shopping with Japanese archery fan Mai, to complete our outfits for kawaii day. Yep, I was fully prepared as the hike started full on and up the mountain. Gentleman of the day and ever: Tomek. Who carried my supplements.
First goal: Mt. Kagenobu-yama.
Luckily, the crowds thinned as we made our way on up, passing families, couples and groups of elderly friends out for a day trip. There were maaaany people, but I noticed that something that I had gotten used to (apart from the crowds) was missing.
Refreshments were provided by mother nature (or let’s hope it was mother nature and not some father…). Alex was the bravest one drinking it. He is still doing fine.
Up we go through the mountain forest.
Yes, we are coming!
We were going for the 0.2 km choice. Yay!
The views were pretty. The day was bright, the sky clear and crystal blue, the air smelled of autumn grasses.
I started to warm up to the hike at Mt. Takao.
Preparing to see pretty leaves.
And flying squirrels.
In autumn, the feathery momiji (Japanese maples) can be marvelled at in all their colourful glory. The spectacle of crimson autumn leaves are celebrated by the Japanese as intensely as Hanami in spring, with picnickers on park benches or Japanese waterproof blankets.
I thought a walking stick would be a good idea, but then Tomek was already carrying enough.
Alex got one and really enjoyed his purchase.
Probably the saddest sight…
Monkeys actually co-exist well with people who take away their habitat. Like in India. Unchain the animals. It does work.
Next hike stop. Mt. Shiro-yama. Lunch break.
These flags advertise the mountain snacks we could buy: nameko and oden.
Nameko なめこ are small brown mushrooms, with an amber cap and delish nutty taste, which are often served in miso soup. Oden おでん is a Japanese winter meal consisting of various snacks such as boiled eggs, radish and processed fish cakes simmering in a soy-broth-hot-pot. We chose the season’s best seller nameko!
And because we are in Japan, the nameko mushrooms have been marketed as cuddly toys, keyrings and a lot of things parents like to buy for their kids. Nameko are everything except what an infantile being like myself thought, the first time she saw a nameko soft toy.
Some people had brought their own cooking equipment and gas burners.
Tomek and I each had multiple bowls of the super tasty nameko miso soup. It was fantastic and I only thought about the nameko stuffie occasionally!
In case you don’t know, since very recently I see a rabbit in the moon. Which is why it is no coincidence I spotted rabbits hiding underneath our bowls as well. Japanese dishware esthetics are adorable.
Our exciting after lunch activity: Mt. Fuji viewing! We saw Mt. Fuji and became a little more Japanese.
I present to you: THE mountain of Japan.
After the lunch break and making the most of the autumn sun on a plastic blanket, we hiked on.
See the rabbit ears?
That’s just me. In my new autumn/winter hat, from fashion hot spot Shimokitazawa.
I am not alone. Spot my fluffy soulmate.
Apart from bunny spotting, a neat thing and fun at all major sights in Japan: get your Japanese souvenir stamp.
Our group picture with the view of Tokyo in the background. Misako actually works for a German company which is why the group’s motto was “Wir lieben die Natur!” And I spoke German again with Oliver, one of the co-workers who is from Cologne (like me!) and we reminisced about carnival, the mega event that starts each year in November, on the 11.11 at the exact time of 11 o’clock and 11 minutes in Germany. Maybe that was the underlying reason, I bought the bunny-ears winter hat.
As we hiked on, we were spoilt with Japanese koyo all the way up to Mt. Takao! When the wind was tossing the boughs, the fragile maple leaves shuddered and I was anxious for them to be able to hold on just a bit longer.
Sweet Japanese persimmon fruits are a common sight in autumn.
Cute creatures kept us company. Like tanuki. Being one big round ball himself, he is actually missing two (if you read my blog, you know what amazing qualities tanuki has).
Finally, we made it to the top!
And it was full with other koyo admirers. Crowds of people come for the fall colours – to Mt. Takao every year.
The work team.
Alex and Tomek. Giving their best smiles. So they said.
Misako and me. We have got nothing to hide!
A last koyo fix. I couldn’t get enough of the bright colours. The maple leaves will probably be gone in a few weeks.
Another beautiful attraction at Mt. Takao are the temples, fantastically ornate, showing mythological scenes, dating back to the 8th century.
Like Yakuoin Temple, intricately carved and dedicated to one of Japanese spirits, the tengu (Shinto god). We saw many images of the spirit of the wind.
Winged and with a long nose, the tengu of the wind is an impressive figure. He is holding a magical ha-uchiwa – a fan made of feathers. In Japanese folk tales, they are attributed the power to stir up great winds.
Everything was tengu themed.
Even the vending machine.
And the souvenirs (which we ate on the spot waiting in the long queue to the cablecar).
If you look close, you will see the (disturbing) production process for those round sweet ‘cocoa peanuts‘.
We also came across Buddhist monks who were carrying an instrument that looked like straight out of the Arielle mermaid movie. A sort of shell flute.
It just so happened that we heard a foreigner playing that strange shell instrument.
After a memorable Takao round trip, we made our ascend with the super steep cablecar.
Our dinner was as colourful and dramatic as Japanese koyo. Mexican food!
We shared so many delicious and multicoloured meals. It was a psychedelic ending to a picturesque trip.
While we were waiting for our train back to Kyodo, I spotted a girl wearing some over-cute pink high heels – foreboding crazy kawaii day. Stay tuned!