When we talk about good places to “see” Tokyo, generally we refer to spots inside the city that provide a good cross-section of its features and character. However, the true scope of a city like Tokyo, sprawling and densely packed with cultural gems, can often be hard to see this way. To truly appreciate the size and breadth of Tokyo, it’s sometimes necessary to get a little perspective.
Mount Takao is just a one-hour trip west from the centre of Tokyo, and offers some of the best views in the region. The mountain lends itself to hiking, sightseeing and Japanese cultural tourism. Take a two-hour hike or 45-minute cable car ride to the peak, gaze at the true scope of Tokyo and several gorgeous mountains, including Mount Fuji and Mount Tanzawa. On clear days, the city of Yokohama is even visible in the distance. An observation deck near the cable car station offers a magnificent panoramic view of the Kanto Plain, and an unparalleled look at Tokyo’s ultra-modern skyline.
The mountain offers a unique blend of Japanese culture and natural beauty, with 1200 species of plant and animal just on the surface of this 600-metre mountain, and amazing traditional religious structures.
Established in 744, the Takaosan Yakuoin Temple near the mountaintop is one of the oldest and most traditionally run cultural destinations in Japan. It pays tribute to tengu – Japanese mountain gods or holy spirits. Breathtaking figurines and face carvings of tengu are abundant at the peak, but are also hidden away all over the mountain. There’s little more exhilarating than discovering an ancient, half-hidden statue to a revered mountain deity.
Michelin Travel Guide gave Mount Takao a three-star rating and named it one of the best places to discover the “real Japan.” Akira Tsushima, in the official Tokyo travel guide, named Mount Takao his favourite Japanese day trip. The area has a “unique blend of Japanese culture and natural beauty,” Tsushima said. With so many options for diverse groups – let the kids set off an hour early on foot, and meet grandpa at the top thanks to the cable car – it’s little wonder that he singled it out. Just remember that many people have heard of the mountain’s appeal, and those looking for an escape from the crowds of Tokyo are encouraged to visit on a weekday.