Mount Takao has it all: stunning views, unusual statues, delicious food and (in more normal times) exciting festivals. Why not spend a day exploring the wilds of one of Tokyo’s best-loved mountains?
Located in the Tama region of west Tokyo, Mount Takao is an easily hikeable 599m mountain especially popular with couples, families and the older generation. Equipped with its own scenic ropeway, there isn’t even any need to hike, so if you’re arthritic, wearing heels or just hate walking uphill, then this is the perfect mountain for you.
Mount Takao has been a sacred site for over 1,000 years and disciples called yamabushi would practice ascetic training here, including Zen meditation, waterfall asceticism and sutra reading. These days it’s a little less serious for most visitors, and is a popular spot or couples and famailies, with the mountain fondly referred to as Takaosan by locals.
There are plenty of sights along the way to the summit, including a monkey park and temple, as well as views of Tokyo to admire, so it will be worth your sweat (or your money, whichever way you decide to go).
Mt. Takao hiking trails: To the top and beyond
Among the trails are a good mix of six main and four additional hiking trails offering easy to moderate routes, none of which take more than two to three hours—unless you’re a keen photographer!
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Most people opt for Trail/Route 1—the Omotesando Trail—which is mostly paved and passes all of the major sightseeing spots. It’s the easiest option in terms of effort—both physical and in the planning sense. It can get busy though, so be prepared for a less-than-silent mountain experience. This route is actually the longest, at 3km, and is easy-to-medium in terms of difficulty.
Top tip: Here’s where you can find hiking gear in Tokyo.
Alternatively, you could opt for one of the regular hiking trails which are unpaved and a tad more challenging, with significantly fewer people. These include the following.
- Trail 2—Kasumidai Loop: This is the easiest and shortest trail, only a 0.9 km stroll through forests.
- Trail 3—Katsura Woods Trail: A medium trail with a focus on nature, 2.4 km of streams, forests and views.
- Trail 4—Suspension Bridge Trail: A 1.5 km medium route through forests and crossing the Miyamabashi Bridge. Features lots of stairs!
- Trail 5—Peak Loop Trail: An easy route of 0.9 km which is relaxing and allows hikers to admire the flowers.
- Trail 6—Biwa Waterfall Trail: The second longest at 3.3 km, and the most challenging. This is known as “the trail of water”. You can pass a waterfall—site of ascetic training—and enjoy the cool forest air.
- Inariyama Trail: A 3.2 km challenging trail via Mount Inari, this is known as the every-season trail as it always has flowers or leaves to admire.
- Iroha no Mori Trail: A medium but at times steep 1.5 km trail, which has trees whose initials form the 48-character ancient Japanese alphabet: the iroha.
- Jyataki Waterfall Trail: A medium 1.5 km trail which follows the water, this one is quiet and peaceful.
- Ura-Takao Trail: The longest at 4.7 km, but an easy stroll, this takes you through plum groves with over 10,000 trees. It does run along a road though, so be wary of fast cars.
All routes converge at the summit observation deck (take note: there is another near the monkey park). It can be a nice compromise to hike up one trail and return on Trail/Route 1 to see the sights.
If you want to continue hiking, from the summit you can take the Takaosan-Jimbasan trail to a further observation deck called Itchodaira. In spring, this area is filled with cherry blossom and is a popular picnic spot, but it is quieter during the rest of the year. The trail continues to Mount Kobotoke and Shiroyama, and you can explore mountains beyond; just remember not to get lost!
Important: Though Mt. Takao is seen as a fairly easy mountain to climb, it’s still a mountain, so make sure you have the right clothing (layers) and sufficient water and snacks for your trek.
Want more mountains? See our comprehensive guide to hiking trails near Tokyo for all skill levels.
Toilets, Trash and Vending Machines
There are vending machines and cafes at the middle and summit observation areas, but carry some supplies just in case. Also note that the vending machines on Mt. Takao are almost twice as expensive as those on the ground! #cheapofail
Note that there are NO TRASH CANS ON MT. TAKAO, so any and all rubbish will need to be carted down the mountain with you. Bring a plastic bag or two, to be prepared.
In terms of toilets, you’ll find loos at Takaosanguchi Station, as well as around the middle observation area and at the summit.
Alternatives to hiking Mount Takao
Not everyone wants to hike, but fortunately Takao has some great options to get you up to the views without breaking a sweat.
You can catch either the chairlift or cable car part-way up (or down) Takaosan. This cuts your time on Trail 1 to about an hour and takes you close to the Kasumidai observation deck and monkey park. From here, it is around 15 minutes to the temple and 40 to the summit. The lower cable car and chair lift stations are at the start of Trail 1. There are lockers on both ends, should you want to stash your bags.
Pro tip: If you’re planning on taking the cable car or chair lift and will be traveling to and from Mount Takao on the Keio Line, this special 1-Day Takao ticket is good value. ¥1,690 gets you:
- 1-day Keio Line and Inokashira Line ticket
- Round-trip cable car and chair lift ticket
- Admission to the Mt. Takao Monkey & Wildflower Garden
Plus you’ll get a small souvenir towel, and discount coupon for use at the Keio Department Store in Shinjuku.
The cable car runs every 15 minutes between 8am – 5pm or 6pm depending on the season, and until 9:15pm during the beer event in summer. Rides on the covered twin-seater chairlift take 12 minutes and run from 9am – 4pm or 4:30pm depending on the season. Both cost ¥490 one way for adults and ¥250 for children. You can pick up a return ticket for ¥950, saving you a cool ¥30 (we never said Japan was good at deals).
Top sightseeing spots on Mt. Takao
While nature is all well and good, Mount Takao has some added bonuses that make hiking it all the more rewarding. These are what make it especially popular for families or as a date-destination, since there is plenty to see and explore for people of all ages.
One example is the view from the summit—on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji, so keep your fingers and toes crossed! If you climb around the winter solstice in December, you might also be able to catch a rare occurrence known as Diamond Fuji—when the sun sets directly atop Fuji-san, creating a perfect diamond. However, you’ll need to make sure you are off the mountain well before darkness falls.
Yakuoin Temple (Omotesando Route/Trail 1)
This impressive temple is close to the summit of Mount Takao and has been protected for centuries. The brightly colored decorative carvings are a thing of wonder, and exploring the temple grounds is especially beautiful in autumn as the leaves change.
Founded in 744 by Gyoki Bosatsu, the temple has a monument inscribed with sessho kindan, meaning that killing is prohibited and reflecting the strict protective laws which have existed since its foundation.
Most well known, however, are the Tengu statues which guard the temple complex. Mythical beings who act as messengers of deities, tengu live on sacred mountains and chastise evil people while protecting the good. At Yakuoin, there are two types depicted in statues and images throughout the grounds: one with a long pointed nose, and one with a crow’s beak.
The temple is free to enter and can be reached on the Omotesando Trail. It is about 10-20 minutes from the summit if you are hiking down, and the same distance from the ropeway stop.
Takao Natural Zoo and Botanical Garden (Omotesando Route/Trail 1)
Nature lovers are spoiled for choice on Mount Takao, as not only can you appreciate the stunning natural landscapes and the forests of the mountain itself, but it also has areas dedicated to wildflowers and monkeys.
In the Natural Zoo, there are 60 monkeys living in a natural habitat, with guides famed for great storytelling skills. Some monkeys answer to their names and can be seen up close. The botanical garden has over 300 species of native grasses which once prospered on the mountain, but were almost lost following development.
The park and garden can be accessed on a single ticket for ¥430 and are open from 9.30am – 4pm (Dec-Feb, May- Nov) and 10am – 4.30pm (March- April).
Takao 599 Museum (Base)
You can learn about Mount Takao before you even step foot on it, as the Takao 599 Museum offers insights into what makes the mountain so special. Visitors can find out all about the natural resources and living inhabitants of the mountain, as well as see examples of the plants and animals themselves. There is a cafe, rest area and also plenty of information about the hiking trails and seasonal attractions along the routes.
The museum is located close to Takaosanguchi Station, is free to enter and is open throughout the year with irregular closing days. Hours are between 8am and 5pm (April-November) and 8am – 4pm (December – March).
Trick Art Museum
This is one of those places where you can take photos that put you upside down or on the ceiling, stick you into some famous artist’s work, etc. The Trick Art Museum is a minute’s walk from Takaosanguchi Station. The signs are hard to miss.
The Takao Trick Art Museum is open daily from 10am – 6pm December to March, and 10am – 7pm the rest of the year. Adults pay ¥1,300, while kids get in for between ¥500 and ¥1,000, depending on their age.
Takaosan Onsen (Base)
Also located right next to the train station (just turn right as you come out of the ticket gates), this natural hot spring is the perfect place to soak after a day of hiking (difficult or not). They offer outdoor baths where you can enjoy the atmosphere of the mountain, and indoor options too. These include a cypress bath with micro-bubbles, a seasonal bath which changes throughout the year, as well as a sauna and an outdoor carbonated option.
The onsen is open from 8am to 11pm, with last entry at 10pm. Adult entrance is ¥1,000, while children get in for ¥500. During peak season (Golden Week, autumn leaf changing and New Year), an additional ¥200 for adults and ¥100 for children is required.
The best food on Mt. Takao
Not many mountains have their own food specialty, nor can you easily find one that serves traditional Buddhist fare, but we weren’t joking when we said Mount Takao has it all. Tororo Soba, the dish the mountain is known for is light, delicious and perfect for a restorative lunch after a pleasant hike. It is a simple dish of soba noodles in broth, topped with tororo: grated yam. Believed to be strength-building in ancient times, tororo was exactly what a pre-paving hiker would need and was served to pilgrims as they ascended the mountain.
There are plenty of restaurants serving soba at the foot of the mountain, as well as along the paths, so you won’t struggle to find a lunch spot. One famous restaurant is Takahashiya, which has been serving the dish for 170 years and has a 150-year old persimmon tree inside the building. There are also vegan soba options at the middle observation deck area.
Other food options include pizza, hot dogs and ramen, as well as coffee and sweets.
Alternatively, if you’re keen to sample the Buddhist life, you can reserve a space at the Daihonbo of Yakuoin temple and try shojin ryouri: traditional vegetarian Buddhist cuisine. Reservations are required and unfortunately can only be made in Japanese, but this is well worth the effort if you can manage it.
Festivals on Mt. Takao
Since the mountain has been a sacred site for over 1000 years, it is no surprise that there are plenty of festivals held here throughout the year (in normal times, anyway). While the mountain is great on a regular day, these events can add a whole new dimension (but also a whole lot of people, so keep that in mind if you prefer peace and quiet).
- Geikosai New Years Festival | January 1st: This ceremony takes place at sunrise, with the priests chanting sutras and blowing conch shells from the mountaintop. A pretty special experience, whether you’re religious or not.
- Setsubun | February 3rd: A traditional festival held across Japan to banish demons and welcome spring, this event features the added bonus of local sumo wrestlers!
- The Takao Hiwatari Festival | March 10th : This impressive display of fire-walking is a must-see if you’re here in March—and you can even try the feat yourself! The festival is held on the second Sunday in March each year.
- Takao Wakaba Festival | April 6th – May 26th: Roughly a month long, this young leaves festival is a spring contender to the autumn leaves festival. There are music and dance performances (both traditional and modern) and a chance to enjoy tea ceremony outdoors too.
- Beer Mount | June – October: Beer at (slightly) high altitudes is the best kind of beer, and after a lovely hike, you can enjoy the beer garden and food buffet at the top. Tickets for two hours cost roughly ¥3,500 for men and ¥3,300 for women.
- Autumn Leaves Festival | 1st – 30th November: Enjoy food stalls, dancing, sake and drumming among other festivities during this month-long event.
Getting from Tokyo to Mt. Takao
The nearest train station is Takaosanguchi on the Keio Line, easily accessed from Shinjuku in just under an hour. If you catch the Keio Line Semi-Special Express for Takaosanguchi from Shinjuku, you can continue straight through without changing at Kitano. This route costs just ¥390 each way, as does the route where you change at Kitano—so don’t worry too much if you don’t get the direct one.
Takao Station is one up from Takaosanguchi, and is good if you need to connect from the JR Chuo Line or the Narita Express to the Keio-Takao Line.
When you exit Takaosanguchi Station, turn right and follow the path for 500m to the cable-car and chairlift stations, and then keep right for the main trail up the mountain.
Guided tours of Mt. Takao
If you’d prefer to experience the mountain with a professional guide, Mount Takao day tours can be booked online. You can also arrange a tour through the Takao-san English Volunteer Guide Club–they offer a free monthly tour, as well as private reservations.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in May, 2018. Last updated in September, 2022.