In Japan, mountains are strongly associated with the local culture and heritage. In Shintoism, mountains are believed to be the dwelling place of gods and divine spirits, and for that reason were considered sacred. Spiritual practices such as mountain pilgrimage had also been a long withstanding part of the tradition. This makes mountain trekking and climbing the activity to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, but at the same time, to get in touch with the nature, local heritage and see Japan in a different way.
Squeezing camping in Japan into your itinerary is not as hard as it seems. Who would have guessed that there are actually spots in Tokyo – the city that is well known for its busy trains, neon lights, high-rise buildings and high technology lifestyle, that offers green views, fresh air, and peaceful nature for hikers?
Here are two of the most interesting places to hike in Japan – just a few hour ride away from Tokyo.
Tips for When You Go Camping in Japan
Mount Takao is located in Hachioji City, about 50 kilometers from the center of Tokyo and a 50-minute train ride away on Keio Line from Shinjuku. It has been recognized by various media outlets including Michelin’s Le Vert Guide from France, which granted it the maximum 3-star rating. The area is fairly cooler than the city’s temperature, which makes it a great spot to escape the hot city temperature in summer. In other seasons, the area also has its own beauty to offer, such as cherry and plum blossoms in the spring, colorful foliage in the autumn, and a breathtaking sight of the setting sun known as “Diamond Fuji” in the winter. Due to its popularity, it is best to go there in the morning as the place gets crowded after 11 am.
Standing 599 meters tall, Mount Takao is the place for beginners to learn hiking. To reach the summit, you could either take the cable cars, which cost 930 yen for a round trip or choose any of the 6 trekking and hiking trails, each with their own difficulty levels and unique characteristics. Take the main Omotesando Trail for example – this 3.8-kilometer beginner course offers sights of unique cedar trees and the famous head temple Yakuo-in Temple around the summit. The other lesser-known trails also offer various hidden gems such as suspension bridges, waterfalls, and trees which initials were made of 48 characters of Japanese old alphabets. At the top of the mountain, there is an observation deck where you can have lunch and look over Tokyo and Mount Fuji on clear days.
Mount Fuji as seen from Mount Takao
Besides trekking and hiking, Mount Takao also have various attractions and local delicacies for you to enjoy. Before hiking, we recommend you to visit the Takao 599 Museum which houses information and exhibits about the area’s unique natural history. You could also keep an eye out for interesting local cultural events such as “Setsubun” Purification Festival in February and the Fire-Walking Festival in March. Last, never leave the area without trying “Tengu-Yaki,” the traditional waffle filled with sweet black soybean paste!
Mount Mitake is located in Ome City in the West – 2 hours train ride away from Central Tokyo. It is one of the two mountains located within the 1,262 square kilometers area of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park. The 929-meter mountain is a famous destination for mountain pilgrims and a home the beautiful Anemonopsis flowers that bloom from late July to early September.
Similar to Mount Takao, it is another perfect spot for forest-bathers and beginners to hike. With its mild topography, it offers easy mountain trails that you and even your pets could enjoy without advanced mountaineering tools. There are areas that offer you views of clear streams and rocks.
Besides hiking, you could also experience religious rituals such as “Shukubo Seizan-so” or waterfall purification and meditation run by local priests and get your hands on the local crafts in the workshops offered by Mitake Visitor Center.
Another thing to notice, having a local friend to guide you around is strongly suggested if you are going camping in Japan. Besides helping you with the language barriers, having a local friend can lead you to many hidden gems and see beyond what meets the eye.
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