Hiking Mount Takao in Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan

After a full day of recovery and shopping in Akihabara, I hiked Mount Takao. The mountain is located in Tokyo, in the city of Hachiōji. To get there, I took a train from Akihabara Station to Shinjuku Station. From Shinjuku Station, I took another train to a station called Takaosanguchi. The station is small, with two tracks. One track is for arrivals, the other for departures. I stopped into an open air convenience store near the exit of the station. There were coolers with water, electrolyte drinks, beer, aisles of snacks and Montbell hiking products. I left the store with a lime green Montbell water bottle, sour candy, a bottle of water and a sports drink called Pocari Sweat.

The base of Mount Takao was a short walk from Takaosanguchi Station. Along the path to the base camp, I passed shops and cafes. One of the shops was the Salomon Tokyo Takao Concept store, which used to be a house. At the base of Mount Takao, I had to make a decision on which trail to take to the summit. The Omotesando Trail was the longest trail but the easiest choice as it was paved for nearly three miles. There were shorter trails, such as the Kasumidai Loop, which is a half mile in length. The Katsura Woods Trail, known as Trail 3, is a mile and a half in length. I chose the second longest trail, the Biwa Waterfall Trail, which is two miles long. The trail begins across a small foot bridge to the left of the cable car.

The Biwa Waterfall Trail was adorned with hundreds of weathered wooden steps. The steps, varying in size and spacing, made the trail unpredictable and my pace deliberate. The path brought me through a terrain of large tree roots, loose rocks, and patches of mud. I stopped every five to ten minutes to drink water or replenish electrolytes. Every time I stopped, the sounds of nearby wildlife and bugs were deafening. Notable among them were the thousands of cicadas inhabiting the forest. I had never listened to the sound before. Each cicada made the same noise in a rhythmic pattern, a harmonious soundtrack to the trek.

Sign in Japanese explaining what a cicada is.
Twenty wooden steps built into dirt on Mount Takao.

Distance to the summit was measured by wooden poles in the ground along the trail. The distance markers had notes such as, “二/三一 KM” (2 / 3.1 kilometers). I reached the south side of the summit after an hour of hiking. Views of distant hills and mountains were visible from the observation deck. Mount Fuji was visible from the summit, the top shrouded in clouds upon my arrival. I took photographs from the observation deck and walked to the small restaurant in the center of the summit. It was near lunch time and I was ready for a beer.

Person next to metal railing, looking out from the summit of Mount Takao.

At the restaurant, I was seated at a short-legged chabudai table. I kept my shoes on but was required to sit cross-legged. I ordered sansai soba, which is a Japanese cold noodle dish with buckwheat noodles and sansai - a mix of wild mountain veggies. Admittedly, I did not enjoy the soba dish. The veggies were slimy and did not taste great on a humid Japanese summer day. I ate half of the bowl and finished my beer. Before I left, two Japanese children came to me with chaperones. The children were part of a school field trip and their goal was to interview foreigners in English. They asked where I was from, my age and what my favorite meal was. When I said tonkatsu, one of the children became excited. It was their favorite meal.

After I paid the bill, I descended Mount Takao via the Omotesando Trail, known as Trail 1. It was a comfortable walk, although steep at times. The path is paved and has shrines with the smell of incense, a temple, shops, a monkey park and a wild plant garden. Unlike Trail 6, Trail 1 was popular. I passed large families and groups of friends. I stopped for a break near a cable car midway with a great view of distant mountains to the north and bought a Mount Takao pin from a gashapon machine. At the base of the mountain, I sat on an aged wooden bench for awhile next to a small stream of water. Asides from the heat and humidity, it was a beautiful day.

Distant mountains viewed from the summit of Mount Takao.
Downward facing cement road with metal railing on the left side.

I returned to Takaosanguchi Station but did not return to Shinjuku Station. Instead, I took the train to Shibuya Station. I went to revisit Shibuya Sky, an observatory atop the Shibuya Scramble Square skyscraper. Unfortunately, no tickets were available. Along the way to the observatory, a camera crew stopped me. They asked if I was available for an interview. I was asked the usual travel questions - where I’ve been, where I’m going. They spoke to me in both English and Japanese. Afterward, I received a piece of paper with the time of when the interview aired and on what channel. I’m sure I sounded foolish. I returned to Akihabara afterwards. I went to the Gigo 3 arcade and played Typing of the Dead until it was dark.