Lace up, and strap on your pedometer (basic ones are available at the 100-yen shops)—it’s time to go hiking! Though Tokyo is famous for its go-go lifestyle and concrete & steel neighborhoods, there are plenty of green spots that will let you luxuriate in nature and escape the city grime for a few hours. Here’s a round-up of some great Tokyo area hikes.
Located in Ome City, Tokyo, Mt. Mitake is the home to Mitake Shrine, a famous destination for pilgrims, and a place with a 2000-year history. With dozens of species of birds, splendid flowers, and clear streams and waterfalls, Mitake is a naturalist’s delight. City dwellers that are familiar with the Tama River probably don’t want to swim in it, but here in the Okutama region, the water flows clear and sweet and is perfect for a dip to rinse off some of the sweat you’ve worked up on the trail.
Nearest station: JR Mitake. From there, there’s an option to take a bus to Takimoto cable car station (10 minutes, 270 yen), then the cable car (6 minutes, 570 yen one way; walking this bit will take about 40 minutes) halfway up the mountain. There’s a visitors center with maps midway between the cable car station and the shrine, with various hiking trails outlined.
Mitake train station is on the Ome line, a branch of the chou line from Shinjuku. On weekends there’s a couple of direct fast trains going all the way to Mitake station, called Holiday Kaisoku Okutama. You can then take the aforementioned bus, or alternatively walk west along the river until you find the sign and bridge to Mount Mitake, and then rejoin the road heading into the mountain, marked by a red “torii” (the big wooden gateway often found at shrine entrances etc).
Whether you hike up or take the cable car to the top, there’s plenty to explore. You can see the Shrine, stop for soba or tea at one of the eateries in the little Mitake village, hike through the woods and nearby nature. If you want to extend the hike, then follow the signs and walk through the forest path to “Mount Hinode” (日の出), a nearby mountain with spectacular views of Tokyo on a good day. It usually takes less than an hour from Mitake to Mount Hinode, and you also have the option of taking the route home via TsuruTsuru Onesen (つるつる温泉). 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.
Mt. Takao, also in the Tama region of Western Tokyo, is located in Hachioji City. Yakuoin Temple, which sits about halfway up the mountain, is one of our favorites because of the tengu statues that stand sentry around it. Takao is noted for its tengu (long-nosed goblins that often pop up in Japanese mythology) and one of them greets visitors at Takao Station. The tengu at Yakuoin, however, are winged, with beaks—creatures halfway between birds and men. In addition to the temple, Takao also has a monkey park, a wild plant garden, and panoramic views of Tokyo and Mt. Fuji.
Nearest station: Keio Takasanguchi. From there, you can hike up the mountain (about 2 hours), or walk to Kiyotaki Station, where you can take a combination of cable cars and colorful open ropeway lifts (ski-lift style) for 470 yen one way, depositing you half way up the mountain.
Mt. Mitsumine and Lake Chichibu
The Chichibu Tama Kai National Park spans over 1200 sq. km. and four prefectures. The Saitama section of the park is home to Mt. Mitsumine and Lake Chichibu. This course includes the 2000-year-old Mitsumine Shrine, lots of mountain huts for campers and hikers, and suspension bridges with breathtaking views around Lake Chichibu. The whole shebang takes about five hours, plus some bus time. Bring your own lunch!
Nearest station: Chichibu Line’s Mitsumine-guchi, then a bus (15 minutes, 310 yen) to the Owa stop. On the return, take the bus back to the station from the lake (30 minutes, 480 yen).
On the other side of Chiba, in Ibaraki prefecture, lies Mt. Tsukuba. This double peaked mountain is one of Japan’s most famous, and the shrine there, Tsukuba-san Shrine, is dedicated to matchmaking and marital bliss, mimicking the pair of peaks forever linked. This non-volcanic mountain (rare for Japan) is not super high at just 877 meters, but the 36-degree slope offers a good challenge for hardy hikers. The viewpoint at Miyukigahara offers jolly nice vistas of the Kanto Plain.
Nearest station: Tsukuba station, then bus to Tsukuba-san-jinja (40 minutes, 720 yen). From there you can take a cable car partway up (6 minutes, 540 yen one way) or hike it (that portion of the hike takes a little under an hour).
Kamakura is well known as one of Japan’s former capitals and the home of the Great Buddha and several other venerable shrines. Most people use the train, bus, or taxis to get around town and hit up the major tourist spots. But Kamakura, nestled in the foothills next to Sagami Bay, is also a wonderful place to hike, taking in ancient historical spots along the way and basking in nature. There are three main hiking trails here: the Tengoku, the Gionyama, and the Daibutsu, and doing a circuit of all three will take about 5-6 hours, not counting stops. Doing this course, you can hit up many of the major temples and shrines, including the Big Buddha, Hasedera, the bamboo grove at Hokokuji, and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.
Nearest station: JR Kamakura. You can go either clockwise or counterclockwise, leaving from the west or east side of the station.
Here’s a more detailed look at the Kamakura hikes.
Kinchakuda and Mt. Hiwada (Saitama)
Those not looking for any serious climbing commitment should visit Kinchakuda and Hiwada Mountain. It’s a short (2-3 hours) and mostly gentle stroll to the top—conducive to a “stop and smell the roses” day out. For a complete guide on getting up and around, visit here.
Nearest station: Hanno Station (get there by taking the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line from Ikebukuro – 470 yen one-way)
Koburi Pass (Saitama)
Koburi Pass is another great hiking option stashed away in the rurality of Saitama. It’s selling points are 1) it’s way cheaper to get there than to other mountains, like Mt. Mitake, that are a similar distance from to Tokyo and 2) it has amazing views of Saitama, Tokyo and even the top bit of Fuji too (really the best part anyways).
Nearest station: Agano Station (Seibu-Ikebukuro Line to Hanno Station, then transfer to Seibu-Chichibu Line – 600 yen one-way)
- Our expanded post on 10 popular Tokyo Hikes
- Ridgeline Images – our bestest favorite Tokyo area Hiking blog
- Japan Hikes Blog – Kanto section
- Maunga—online store for hiking and climbing gear in Japan
- Times Car Plus – Affordable Car Sharing for City Dwellers (a handy way to get to the remote locales)
In our pilot episode, we're joined by Alvin Cheung of ABC Coffee, Hapnick, and Tokyo Keyboards