Monday, November 24, 2008

Takao Isn't Nature

Mt. Takao.

It's touted as beautiful nature about 50 minutes from Shinjuku, which is the world's busiest train station. This is true. It's by far the closest hiking you can get to from the busy city. There are ample other places, maybe 90 minutes instead of 50, but they aren't as famous.

You see, Mt. Takao is famous for hiking to the top of a mountain. In Japan, this means that everyone knows about it. If everyone knows, then in turn it must be good. It's a cyclic relationship that fuels tourism and consumerism amongst the masses. But whatever, I wanted to see the koyo (autumn colors) on Takao. I've been to this mountain all other seasons of the year. 3 down, 1 to go.**

You have several options in your pursuit of famous mountain tops. Option 1 is to take the tram with all the old people. 90% of people take this. I shouldn't be so inconsiderate. It's not just for old people. Families who don't want their children to get exercise and girls in 4 inch heels might want to skip the hiking part. Not that I know what girls in 4 inch heels want. Besides Luis Vuitton. Which they already have.

Option 2 is the paved path. It's a hiking trail... I guess. It also doubles as a road for service vehicles to the shrines and soba noodle shops I guess. Actually, the shrines here are pretty tight the first time you see them.

Option 3 is an actual dirt trail. I've hiked the dirt trail almost every time I've been, so today I took the paved path. There was also a map at the station of places to see nice fall foliage, and it recommended this route. Actually, the colors kinda sucked on the way up. I was like 3 or 4 decent trees. Each with about 30 otaku camera dudes taking shots. It's very steep and I heard people cursing my long legs as I flew past them.

About 2/3 of the way up, it was suddenly like a line at Disneyland. This is when the tram people merge with the hiking people for the remaining couple of kilometers to the top. Don't worry, it's all flat at this point. Holy shit hella people. It was absurd. I went on a damn Wednesday, don't you people have jobs! If you go on a weekend or holiday... BEWARE

Here's the useful advice. Listen up! Once you reach the top... don't stop... the walk. Keep hiking to the next mountain. It's like 30-45 minutes further.

Ok, maybe like 1 hour. But there are some stairs at the beginning that scare away the old folks. I'm serious, I watched as people surveyed the steps, decided that the beauty of mother earth wasn't worth it, and turned back. You'll soon be quietly strolling through pristine Japanese maples and ginkgo trees.

Its not famous, and that's why its good.

I took the long way home, heading on to Lake Sagamiko instead of returning. There's a train station at Sagamiko that takes you straight back to Shinjuku.

Do you have any funny hiking stories?

**FYI, winter kinda sucks, there is snow. Summer has a beer garden. Spring has about a hundred "secret" cherry blossoms that bloom a month after Tokyo if you walk past the peak. Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the pictures and insight into Japan

Ramen Adventures said...

Rock on Jamaican Otaku dude!

Anonymous said...

Haven't been to Takao yet, even though I live right on the Keio line next to Shinjuku Station. Guess all those glum faces on the Keio don't inspire me to take the 50-min ride out to the end of the line with them.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the coverage. Thinking about visiting Takao early April 09. Will it be sakura season by then? Which routes do you prefer, in terms of sights/solitude?

Ramen Adventures said...

The glum faces usually get off well before Takao.

Take the left trail to get to the top. It's actually made of dirt, so people may be scared. High heels, designer suits, and old people don't do well on dirt, which is 90% of the "hikers" there.

Anonymous said...

Cheers for uploading the great photos. Damn it, I need to go back to Japan- seeing all the fall colours reminds me of first arriving a year ago. Have you been on the Philosopher's Walk in Kyoto- the autumn colours there were otherworldly.

Anonymous said...

You're forgetting the best part about Mt. Takao! The TENGU live there! Or so they say...

Ramen Adventures said...

@Rob - I haven't spent more than a couple days in Kyoto. It's on my list. I want to spend a week there and take things slow.

@Anonymous - Yeah, actually the temples on this mountain are really cool. On a weekday in winter you will have the whole place to yourself.