Want to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo for a day? Here’s how to plan the perfect day trip to Mount Takao!
Tokyo is a fascinating city, but after a few weeks in the concrete jungle while simultaneously experiencing soaring temperatures, we were craving some time in nature. Thankfully, there are lots of fun and easy day trips from Tokyo to choose from, so we opted for a visit to Mount Takao which offers hiking trails, temples, and delicious food. Located just 1 hour away by train, this turned out to be the perfect escape from the city.
You can also visit Mount Takao as part of this Full-Day Hiking Tour which includes a visit to a hot spring. You’ll hike with a guide and choose a trail that suits your fitness level.
How to get to Mount Takao
The easiest way to reach Mount Takao (Takaosan) is by railway.
We got on the Keio Line at Shinjuku and the ticket was ¥390 for a 54-minute journey.
Two tips if you’re planning to do this trip: 1) you’ll want to make sure you get on the express train to avoid unnecessary stops, and 2) you’ll want to ride past Takao Station and get off at Takaosanguchi Station which is the last stop on the line.
Delicious soba noodles to start the day
First things first: food!
If you’ve been reading this blog or watching our YouTube videos for a while, you probably already know that Sam and I can’t start a day of sightseeing until we’ve had some food, so as soon as we arrived at Takaosanguchi, we started scouting out places to eat.
Since we arrived in the morning, many shops were still setting up for the day, but our perseverance paid off when we came across Takahashiya, a shop specializing in all things soba.
As soon as we sat down, we were offered tea – we thought it was green tea, but it turned out to be soba tea, which is made from roasted buckwheat seeds!
For my main, I ordered the soba noodles with wild shoots and mushrooms, and Sam ordered the soba noodles with tempura, which included shrimp, sweet potato, and eggplant.
Riding the cable car up the mountain
With bellies full, it was time to make our way up Mount Takao, and this is where we were met with three options: cable car, lift, or our own two feet.
We decided to ride what they call the cable car, though it’s really a funicular!
Known as the Takao Tozan Cable, this is the steepest railway line in all of Japan.
The funicular runs up the mountain every 15 minutes (at 00, 15, 30, 60 minutes), so the wait is never too long. We paid ¥480 for a one-way ticket.
Visiting the temple on Mount Takao
Once we got off the funicular, we were about halfway up the mountain so we had to cover the rest of the way on foot.
There are a few different trails to choose from to reach the top of Mount Takao, but we opted for Trail 1 which is the most popular one as it’s paved.
If you’re looking to break away from the crowds, there are smaller and more rugged trails to choose from.
One part of the trail that I really enjoyed was the Cedar Walk, which is a section that’s lined with towering trees.
There is one particular cedar with a twisted root; legend has it that a man planned to cut the root off this tree because it was blocking the path, however, the tree saved itself by twisting its roots up much like an octopus would.
There’s even a statue of an octopus to mark this spot.
From there, it didn’t take us too long to reach Takao-san Yakuo-in Yuki-ji, a Buddhist temple that dates back to 744. Many people come here to pray to the ‘tengu’ for good luck.
The tengu are supernatural beings from Japanese legend that are thought to take the forms of birds of prey, which is why they are sometimes depicted with beaks.
However, over time, their features have been adapted so that their beaks now resemble long noses. You’ll notice the statues of the tengu right away as they are hard to miss!
After enjoying a fairly leisurely walk, we eventually reached the summit of Mount Takao which sits at 599 metres.
There were a few different lookout points at the summit and they say that on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji, however, it was a bit hazy when we visited, so no luck in that regard.
Sampling street food on Mount Takao
Even though we had that wonderful soba meal in town, we couldn’t resist sampling some of the street food available on Mount Takao, and let me tell you, there were lots of options! These are some of the foods we tried:
Mitarashi Dango – ¥350
Dango is a chewy Japanese dumpling made from rice flour and it’s a popular street snack that can be enjoyed year round.
On Mount Takao, they were serving roasted dango which was flavoured with soy sauce syrup and sesame seeds.
The food stand we stopped at also offered free cups of tea.
Tenguyaki – ¥140
Another street food we tried on Mount Takao is tenguyaki, which is a stuffed pancake filled with red bean paste.
These are quite similar to taiyaki, which are pancakes shaped like fish, except these are shaped after the “tengu” mentioned earlier.
I mistakenly assumed they were Angry Bird pancakes!
Matcha Cheese Tart – ¥250
Mount Takao is famous for its cheese tarts. They had two options: the original or a matcha-flavoured tart.
We opted for the latter and it had a buttery pastry with layers of red bean paste and matcha-flavoured cheesecake.
Soft-serve ice cream ¥400
When it comes to soft-serve ice cream, there were lots of different flavours to sample, but the honeyberry is the local speciality.
Taking the lift down the mountain
After all that, we were ready to head back down. Seeing as we took the cable car up the mountain, we decided to choose an alternate means of transportation and ride the lift down.
It looked a lot like a ski lift, except without that protective barrier that comes down once you’re seated.
It was a bit unnerving at first, but thankfully we weren’t too far off the ground, plus there was plenty of scenery to distract us.
We had views of Tokyo directly ahead and were surrounded by forest on either side. We paid ¥480 for a one-way ticket down the mountain.
And now here’s the video we filmed of our day trip to Mount Takao.
Tips for visiting Mount Takao
- Because of its proximity to Tokyo, Mount Takao can get very busy, so it’s best to visit on a weekday. Try to avoid weekends, holidays and festivals unless you’re willing to brave the crowds.
- If you’re planning to take one of the side trails you’ll want adequate hiking shoes, but this isn’t necessary if you stay on the main trail which is paved.
- Though the trails do offer quite a bit of shade, summers are hot and humid, so you’ll want some sunscreen and a baseball cap.
- Make sure you bring water to stay hydrated – very important!
- Carry some cash on you if you want to sample the street food on the mountain.
- Mount Takao is a good destination to come and see the cherry blossoms and the autumn foliage if your visit happens to coincide with the seasons.
Have you visited Mount Takao?
What are some of your favourite day trips from Tokyo?