Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hiking up Mt. Takao (高尾山)

Yesterday I spent most of the day with 原さん, 岩下さん and Chris, hiking up Mt. Takao. Even though it was challenging at times I must say I enjoyed the experience quite a bit.
Getting there
Getting to Mt. Takao is relatively simple - more so for people on the Chuo or Chuo-Sobu JR lines (which works out great for me since I can take a bus to Kichijoji or Mitaka (三鷹駅)both of which are on both the lines). On the weekends there is a special express train with reserved (and unreserved) seats, double-decker cars and very few stops between Mitaka and Takao. The whole trip takes about forty minutes or so. In order to get to Mt. Takao though one needs to take one more train from Takao - on the Keio Takao Line (京王高尾)though this trip only takes a few minutes and one finds himself/herself at the Takaosanguchi Station (高尾山口駅)which literally translates to "entrance to Mt. Takao".
The Climb
As soon as getting off the train, a huge mural with the map of the region and a list of possible trails up the 600 meter/2000 feet high mountain welcomes the visitors. We chose one of the harder trails because we wanted to see at least one of the two waterfalls on the mountain. It turns out the mountain used to house a "training facility" for Buddhist monks and the waterfalls were used as a part of this training with the monks standing under the waterfall, getting pounded on by the freezing water. We even saw someone under the waterfall when we were passing by.

The way up can be as gentle or as tough as one chooses based on the trail chosen. The trail we chose turned out to have quite a few paths with lots of rocks sticking out of the ground making it a little tougher. We saw only a few people on this trail due to the difficulty of the path I am guessing. On the other hand the funny thing is the few people that we did see were relatively old :P Oh and a small cultural note - it looks like people are much more likely to say こんにちわ! to people they do not know on the mountain than on the street.

The view on the top of the mountain is amazing - a complete mountain range is visible as well as a decent portion of Tokyo's sprawling buildings. The top also has quite a few more people than on the trails since some people take the cable car up. In fact, we even saw some very young kids up there who could not have possibly hiked up. There are two restaurants and a visitors center as well.

Climb Down
For the climb down, we decided to use the cable car to get a different view of the mountain (which by the way does not exist, there is pretty much no view during the 2 minute trip). The high point of the climbdown though was the many temples on the way with beautiful statues and beautiful buildings. Some of the statues were actually wearing wool berets which I heard was to keep them from the cold...

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