Though Tokyo is known as a concrete jungle, Mt. Takao (or Takao-san as it is known to the Japanese) is all-natural. It takes only an hour to reach the mountain via a direct route from Shinjuku Station, making it the perfect destination for a satisfying hike that will still have you home in time for dinner.
Mt. Takao is a famous destination for busy Tokyo residents who want to escape the city and immerse themselves in nature. There are several trails that cater to hikers of all skill levels and numerous tourist attractions. Since receiving three stars from the Michelin Travel Guide in 2009, Mt. Takao has become very popular with Japanese visitors on weekends, so it might be best to visit on a weekday.
So, what are you waiting for? Fill up your water bottle, lace up your shoes, and find out why 2.6 million people scale this sacred mountain each year.
Purchase a Mt. Takao Discount Ticket
Mt. Takao Discount Ticket
Mt. Takao can be easily accessed on the Keio Line (京王線). From Shinjuku Station, you can take a train to Takaosanguchi Station (高尾山口), which is the final stop on the line and located at the foot of the mountain. The fare is 390 yen one way and it takes less than 50 minutes if you take one of the direct, semi-limited express trains.
Mt. Takao Discount Ticket
If you plan to climb the mountain using a cable car or chair lift, remember to purchase a "Mt. Takao Discount Ticket", which includes return tickets for the train and cable car/chair lift. The price is 1,380 yen, saving you 20%.
Getting Around Mt. Takao
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Shop for hiking tools at one of Takaosanguchi Station’s outdoor shop
For those who need to do last-minute shopping to equip themselves for the hike, you can check out "Kaede" right outside the ticket gate at Takaosanguchi Station. This shop offers a good selection of standard hiking gear, including jackets, hats and walking sticks.
This store also carries Mt. Takao-only outdoor logo goods, such as tumblers, cosmetic pouches and tenugui (a versatile Japanese washcloth). So you can also get something special for yourself on the way back from your hike too.
Select a hiking trail to the top of Mt. Takao
Select a hiking trail
Mt. Takao is a 599-meter tall beginner-friendly mountain. There are nine hiking trails that access the summit of the mountain, each with a different degree of difficulty, estimated trekking time, and attractions. Depending on your company or the purpose of your visit to the mountain, you can select the most suitable trail.
Those who need some help narrowing down their choice can check out the three recommended trails below.
Trail #3: Katsura Forest Trail
This 2.4-kilometer trail focuses on the forests of Mt. Takao and takes around 65 minutes to ascend and 55 minutes to come down. You can take a cable car or chair lift to the middle of the mountain and start your hike from there.
Walking along this tranquil and well-maintained trail, you can enjoy the beauty of the forest and a handful of famous tourist attractions.
Yakuoin Temple (薬王院) is a Buddhist temple whose grounds feature images of Japanese mythical beings called Tengu, which are considered to be supernatural creatures in Shinto.
Combine trail #1 and #4
trail #1 and #4
Trail 1 is a well-paved road and an ideal option for novice hikers and children. Those looking for some adventure can walk along trail 1, then make their way to trail 4 at the Joshinmon Gate (浄心門). The path to the Joshinmon Gate is 2.5 kilometers in length and takes around 50 minutes to ascend, but you can also opt to use the cable car or chair lift. Trail 4 also has a suspension bridge and you can enjoy the chirping of birds along the way. This trail extends for 1.5 kilometers and is estimated to take 55 minutes to ascend.
Walk along the ridge line of Mt. Jimba to Mt. Takao
If you are an experienced hiker or confident in your physical strength, you might want to start your hike at the base of Mt. Jimba (陣馬山), an 857-meter-high mountain located between Tokyo and Kanagawa. A 15.3-kilometer-long trail connects Mt. Jimba all the way to Mt. Takao (including two other mountains) and is estimated to take more than five hours one way.
To get to the base of Mt. Jimba, you can take a bus from JR Takao Station to "Jimba Kogen Shita".
There is a lot more to do in the Mt. Takao region other than hiking, so here's a list of things you might want to try.
Satisfy your appetite at the foot of Mt. Takao
Mt. Takao is a famous place for casual hiking but is also known as a culinary hotspot where you can try various Japanese street snacks, soba, and freshwater fish cuisine, just to name a few.
Once you exit Takaosanguchi Station, you’ll notice an approach to the cable car/chair lift station that’s filled with a variety of food stalls, cafes, and restaurants. You can still find eateries outside of the cable car/chair lift station but it gets very difficult to find them en route to the summit.
Observe the cable car/chair lift’s panoramic views
If you want to have extra fun while saving time and steps, take a cable car or chair lift halfway up the mountain.
Chair lift station
While riding a two-seater chair lift on the way up, you can enjoy the seasonal views, as well as the fresh air. There are no seatbelts for these chairs, so the ride can be a bit thrilling, but it's safe as long as you grab the handles on the side.
On your way down, take a cable car to experience its roller-coaster-like sensation, which is known as the steepest cable car in Japan with its 31-degree incline.
Drink and eat to your heart's content at the Takao Beer Mount
Takao Beer Mount
Takao Beer Mount
Located 500 meters above sea level, the Takao Beer Mount is the perfect place to enjoy craft beer while taking in the expansive views of Tokyo and Yokohama.
This all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink beer garden opens from mid-June to mid-October and you can stuff yourself for 90 minutes with a wide selection of Japanese and international food.
From early June to late October, this restaurant turns into a DIY barbecue spot where you can show up empty-handed, order your preferred meat and cook it at your table using their eco-friendly, portable grills made from bamboo and cardboard.
Nomihodai in Paradise: Beer Mount
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Make a stop at the Takao Monkey Park
Takao Monkey Park
Takao Monkey Park
The Takao Monkey Park is home to around 70 Japanese monkeys living in a natural habitat. It’s located walking distance from the cable car station at the midpoint of the mountain and offers a great opportunity to see monkeys up close. The admission ticket is 420 yen for adult and includes access to the Wild Plant Garden in the compound.
Refuel with a bowl of Tororo Soba, a local specialty
Bowl of Tororo Soba
One of the most famous foods in the Mt. Takao area is tororo soba, a simple Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour and water, then topped with grated mountain yam.
It’s said that this soba dish was offered to worshippers at Yakuoin Temple in the old days. Soba and tororo make a highly nutritious and easily digestible combination, so it's the perfect dish for mountain climbers. There are several soba shops around the base of the mountain, and along trail 1, as well as at the summit. So grab a bite when you want to refuel with something tasty.
What to Eat in Takao-san
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Pay a visit to the Yaokuoin Temple for a spiritual uplift
Located near the summit of Mt. Takao, the Yakuoin Temple (薬王院) is a famous site to pray for good fortune.
If you are vegetarian or a curious foodie, you might want to try Shojin Ryori (reservation required), a type of Buddhist cuisine that’s prepared with seasonal vegetables and gentle seasoning.
Another attraction in Yakuoin is Hiwatari-sai (translates as “Fire-Walking Festival”), which takes place on the second Sunday in March every year. Many locals and tourists come to the festival and walk barefoot over hot coals to cleanse their misfortunes and pray for protection against impurity.
Discover the charm of Mt. Takao at the TAKAO 599 MUSEUM
TAKAO 599 MUSEUM
TAKAO 599 MUSEUM
The TAKAO 599 MUSEUM is an interactive nature museum where you can educate yourself about Mt. Takao’s ecosystem while feasting your eyes on their wildflower and insect displays.
If you visit the museum before embarking on your hike, you can get useful information about the mountain to make your adventure even more appealing.
This admission-free museum also offers beautiful projection mapping that showcases the mountain’s seasonal attractions, with the projections changing every hour.
Outside of the facility is a relaxing lawn where visitors can have a picnic and there are splashing ponds called jabu-jabu-ike where children can play during the warm months.
Try local sweets: Dango and Tenguyaki
If you have a sweet tooth, you should stop at Mt. Takao Sumika to grab a bite or two. Sanpuku Dango is a roasted rice flour dumpling that’s seasoned with sweet and salty miso paste. Sanpuku means “three fortunes”, so you can eat it to bring yourself good fortune.
You can also try Tenguyaki, a crispy Japanese waffle that’s stuffed with sweet black bean paste shaped like the face of a Tengu. On weekends, visitors line up in their numbers to try this iconic snack.
Treat yourself to a relaxing bath at Gokurakuyu
Once you finish your hike, you can soak your weary muscles at a natural hot spring (onsen) before you head back to the train station.
Hot springs have a special place in the hearts of many Japanese people for their relaxing nature and healing effects. Located right next to Takaosanguchi Station, this onsen facility offers several baths, including outdoor rock baths and a cypress bath with micro-bubbles to name a few.
They also have a restaurant and a massage facility, as well as a napping space for those who want to rest their heads.