Mt Mitake: a Tokyo day-trip you haven’t heard of

Foliage on the mountain
In the far distance: Tokyo
One of the huts on the mountain
Dad at Musashi-Mitake Shrine

If you’re looking for a getaway from the frenzy of downtown Tokyo and don’t quite have a full day to spare, head to beautiful Mt Mitake in Chichibu Tama National Park.

Located in the western most part of Tokyo prefecture, on the upstream of Tamagawa river, the mountain is around an hour and a half by local train from central Tokyo. And although my father and I were travelling from our family home in Saitama prefecture and had to change trains three times (an easy task in Tokyo anyway), the trip was definitely worth the effort.

Few foreign tourists come here. It is a part of ‘Tokyo’ only locals visit. My father came here as a university student in the 1960s, and although lot of things in Tokyo have changed since that time, Mt Mitake remains as beautiful now as it was then.

There are two ways up the mountain. If you have an extra few hours to spare, the hike up to the top is a beautiful, albeit steep, climb. Alternatively, if you’re a little pressed for time, like we were on this occasion, you can ride the even steeper scenic cable-car. The ride is a 15 minute journey and moves slowly past the wonderfully coloured leaves of autumn (or camellias and Japanese roses in spring). At around 1000 yen (for a return trip), it comes highly recommended. Before jumping on board, check out tasty delights in the lower terminal shop. On this occasion we tried the delicious (but very chewy) pressed sweet potato snacks. Oishi!

At the top of the cable car ride, you’ll enjoy crisp fresh air, a peaceful environment and stunning views of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you’ll even catch glimpses of the skyscrapers of Shinjuku in downtown Tokyo. However, the real fun begins on the 20-30 minute walk from the station area to the mountain’s summit (929m). The hike can be a little demanding (if you’re in a hurry), but the trail is well maintained and provides plenty of shade. And the surrounding forests are stunning. When you stop to draw some breath, try spotting some birds amongst the brilliant foliage: the mountain is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Further up, you’ll pass some traditional pilgrims’ lodges and even a tiny village, complete with eateries and cute souvenir kiosks. Pop in for a drink and you’ll feel like you’ve left the 21st century behind.

At the summit is the beautiful Musashi-Mitake Shrine. A place of mountain worship for a reputed 2,000 years, it is one of Japan’s oldest shrines. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself alone, take the time to enjoy the serenity of the place.

If you’re willing and able, you can hike through the neighbouring peaks and valleys. Otherwise, make a U-turn and enjoy the downhill walk, safe in the knowledge that you’ve just experienced something very special.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.H
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