Hiking Around Tokyo: 6 Great Spots for Peak Outdoor Fun
When most people think of good places to hike near Japan's capital city, the uber-famous Mount Fuji usually comes to mind. While certainly of peak interest, this mighty mountain may actually be too challenging for some. But did you know that there are actually a lot of spots great for hiking around Tokyo? From relative beginners to those seeking a steeper course, these 6 mountains promise something for every level.
From Beginner to Advanced: 6 Places for Hiking Around Tokyo
Mention that you want to try hiking around Tokyo and almost anyone in the know will recommend Mt. Takao. Why is it so popular? For one, it makes a good day trip; two, it is very easy to climb – young children to the elderly can do it; and three, it is very accessible using public transport. If you are looking for peace and quiet, this might not be the best place, but the trails are beautiful, and there are several trails that you can choose. Trail #6 is probably the most difficult. There is also the monkey park to check out (best to do it on the way down). While the two peak seasons to visit Mt. Takao (or any mountain for that matter) are spring and autumn, autumn is recommended for Mt. Takao because of the fall foliage. Visit around October to November to get the full impact of it and to avoid the crowds.
Access: Take the JR Chuo Line to Takao Station, transfer to Keio Line to Takaosanguchi Station.
Just as easily accessible and located within city boundaries, Ome City's Mt. Mitake is a great place for hiking in Tokyo. Mt. Mitake is home to the 2,000-year-old Mitake Shrine and is one of the highlights of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (also worth a visit in itself!). As this spot is famous for its relatively easy climb and many side spots – the Rock Garden and the Nanayo Falls, for example – there will be many souvenir shops in the village that you will see along the way.
Access: Take the Chuo Line to Ome Station, and from there change to the JR Ome Line to Mitake Station. Take the bus to the Mitake Cable Car, and the cable car lifts you close to the summit.
Though this isn't exactly a spot for hiking around Tokyo—Mt. Tsukuba is located in a neighboring prefecture but still easily accessible by train—this is famous destination for couples due to its twin peaks. Moreover, the view from the summit is one of the most gorgeous even among all the other mountains listed here. While Mt. Tsukuba is located in Ibaraki prefecture just next to Tokyo, the view from the top will make you feel as though you are very far away. This trip definitely requires a pair of good hiking boots and, as parts of the trail are steep and rocky, some may even need walking sticks. While families with young children and elderly people also frequent this place, complete beginners might find it strenuous. The reward when you reach the top, however, makes the trek entirely worth it.
Access: Take the Tsukuba Express Line from Tokyo's Akihabara Station until you reach Tsukuba Station (the terminal station), then take the Kanto Tetsudo Bus to Tsukuba Jinja Iriguchi.
It might be strange to climb one mountain just to see anothermountain, but this is exactly what you do when hiking at Mt. Mitsutoge. Go on a clear day, preferably in winter (November to February), and you can see Mt. Fuji in its full snow-capped beauty. In February, crampons are a definite necessity for the slightly steep climb. Do not go in March or April, because as the weather starts to warm up, it will be very foggy and thus difficult to see anything. However, when you reach the top, you will be greeted with fresh, crisp air. The summit is surprisingly warm even in the snow, and you can eat lunch there. If you continue the trail towards Kawaguchi Lake, you can take the ropeway (Kachi Kachi Ropeway) down, as you navigate among the crowd that you will surely encounter.
Access: Take the JR Chuo Line to Otsuki Station (from Takao Station, same line), transfer to the Fujikyuko line to Mitsutoge Station.
When it comes to hiking around Tokyo, this is perhaps the “purest” spot in this list —meaning no benches, very few hiking steps, no rest stops and nothing to make it easier. This is for those who enjoy plain and simple hiking, which is probably why this spot is never crowded. It takes a total of 7 hours hiking from the bus stop to the summit and back, the hike near the summit is very difficult and the trek downhill can be messy, not to mention steep. However, the difficulty involved is more than made up for by the beauty of naturally flowing ponds and rivers, most famously Hyakuhiro Falls. The name Kawanori means “riding the river.” Definitely go in the autumn. The view of the fall foliage with the towering waterfall peeking between the leaves is incredible (the water might be too cold to take a dip in though). With the absence of crowds, you only hear the flowing water, the soft wind, and the chorus of toads.
Access: Take a bus from Okutama Station to Kawanori-bashi and from there take a 3.5-hour walk.
Mt. Oku-Shirane is the highest mountain in Nikko National Park. It is also one of the most beautiful panoramic views among Japan's alpine ranges and is well worth the travel outside Tokyo. Winter is definitely the best time, with the least crowds, and gorgeous snowy peaks all around, but other seasons will do as well. There are several routes of varying difficulty, but as a way of giving yourself a landmark, you may want to start your trek from Yumoto Onsen and make your way up from there. Depending on where your hike takes you, expect to see the stunning sight of multiple mountain ranges, gorgeous reflective lakes and scenic hot springs. As the climb is quite steep and slippery in some places, this series of hikes is neither for the faint of heart nor the clumsy of foot. In other words, be very careful, bring plenty of provisions, and if possible, make the trek with an experienced group of people in tow.
Access: Take the train to JR Nikko Station or Tobu-Nikko Station, then a bus to Yumoto Onsen. From there you will have to walk 1 to 1.5 hours up the ski piste at the ski resort to reach the summit of Mae-Shirane.
Take Caution When Hiking Around Tokyo and Beyond
Of course, before you go hiking around Tokyo or within Japan, make sure to: (1) Bring plenty of food and water, as many hiking spots do not have convenience stores or other places where you can buy snacks, etc., (2) Pack well and for movement, as you will probably be going to your hiking spot by train, by bus and on foot, (3) Do your research beforehand, as there may not be clear English instructions telling you where to go and what to do, and of course (4) Check the weather forecast before setting out! If hiking is not your speed—literally—and you would like to take a more leisurely stroll in nature, consider some of the wonderful day trips just a short ride from the Japanese capital.