This is quite possibly my favorite easy(ish) Tokyo hiking day trip. It’s a hard start, with over an hour of steep hiking, but then most the difficulty is behind you leaving you with a fairly easy ridge and spectacular views. At the end you have the simple option of taking the funicular railway down. Alternatively, you can the walk for a couple of hours and ending off with a dip at the Tsuru-tsuru Onsen.
- Altitude: 1,266 m
- Altitude change: ~900m
- Difficulty: Medium
- Time: 4-6 hours
- Season: All year (best to take crampons in the winter)
- Train Fare: Roughly 2,000 yen return from Shinjuku Station
You’ll need to be reasonably fit to do this hike (and not be put to shame by all the Japanese pensioners overtaking you). You should also be aware that there are a few brief sections where you’ll be clambering over rocks. As with any hiking trip, bring plenty to drink—hydration is key! And outside the summer months, take along warm and waterproof clothes. You’ll need to bring some snacks and lunch as the first eateries you’ll come to are near the end of the hike at Mount Mitake.
During the winter months do check the weather forecast carefully. And crampons are definitely advisable as there may well be snow and ice at any time. Also set off early as it’ll be dark around 17:00, or bring a flashlight if you’re a late starter. During the summer it’ll still be pretty hot at the peak, so pack sun screen and mosquito spray.
You need to take the JR Chuo/Ome line from Tokyo/Shinjuku to Okutama. The train takes 1.5 to 2 hours, and depending on the departure time, you may need to change trains a couple of times. If you’re hiking on the weekend, your best bet is to start early and catch the Okutama Holiday Kaisoku from Shinjuku Station. Trains leave at 6:44am and 7:44am and go all the way to Okutama with limited stops in between.
Once you arrive at Okutama Station (the end of the line), leave the station and turn left, cross the bridge over the Tama River and enter the forest path on the right-hand side of the road. You’ll need to follow the signs for Mount Nokogiri (鋸山) and Mount Otake (大岳山). Make a note of the kanji as the signs often lack English. Fear not, though, there are a few junctions along the way, so once you start the ascent there’s not much scope for going the wrong way.
The path is quite steep to begin with, particularly the steps pictured below and there are a couple of shrines along the way.
Much of the first 90 minutes is through cedar forest, which can range from fairly dark and boring to Instagramtastic in the snow.
After about 90 minutes, the climb levels out and you reach Mount Nokogiri. Sadly there’s not much of a view, but at least there’s a few benches to sit on while you munch on your biscuits/dried fruit/power snacks, etc. Rest well because there are still a few short steep sections and climbing over rocks coming up.
It’s another hour or so to reach Mount Otake, which is definitely the spot for lunch. On a clear day you’ll have a breathtaking mountain vista, and quite possibly views all the way from Yamanashi in the West, Mount Fuji and to the Pacific Ocean in the East.
The last stretch is fairly easy and mostly down hill. Just follow the signs to Mount Mitake (御岳山), or Mitake Shrine (御嶽神社).
If you’re still up for a longer hike, just before you reach Mitake Shrine, you can follow the signs to Mount Hinode and then Tsuru-tsuru Onsen to extend the hike by another two hours. Follow the signs down the mountain and through the forest to tsurutsuru onsen, and have a well deserved soak at the end of you hike, then you take the (train shaped) bus back to Musashi-Itsukaichi (武蔵五日市) JR Station. It takes about an hour from Hinode To Tsurutsuru Onsen, and the last bus back is usually around 8pm, so make sure you plan enough time if you chose this extension. And here’s a map of the extended hike via Mount Hinode
Otherwise the last part is walking through Mitake village, where there are various eateries and souvenir shops. Pro tip: grab a cup of amazake (the sweet fermented rice drink).
Getting back to Tokyo
Keep following the signs to the Mitake Ropeway, or you can fork off the path walk down the mountain back to Mitake Station. The easy (and more fun) option is riding the funicular railway back down. There’s then a bus stop for the ride back to Mitake Station on the road, a one-minute walk below the funicular railway base station. Once you arrive at Mitake Station you take the same train line back to Tokyo/Shinjuku, and if you time it right you can ride the Holiday Kaisoku all the way back to Shinjuku.
For other trails to keep you busy, see our post on 10 popular Tokyo hikes.