Tokyo, the planet’s most populated metropolis, is home to a slew of tech and industry giants, so it may come as a surprise that it is also home to two spiritual mountains, Mt. Takao and Mt. Mitake. We visited Mt. Takao during the fall of 2017, so this year as we gear up for Mount Fuji in July (2019) we thought we ought to tackle the lesser known Mt. Mitake (929 meter) which is nestled in Chichibu-Tama-Kia National Park in the Okutama region.
If you are looking for a great hike with sweeping views of the Kanto Plain and mountain sides chock full of history, Mitakesan is a wonderful choice. Compared to Mt. Takao we would grade this hike a bit easier as the trail to the top is paved (although if you ascend Mt. Takao via Trail 1 it will also be paved). Additionally, both mountain ascents have fairly steep inclines. In fact, Mt. Mitake’s cable car is the steepest in the Tokyo region! So definitely no Mt. Fuji, but both are most certainly tougher than your typical nature stroll allowing you to leave the technical boots at home or sport them… after all it’s never too early to start breaking them in if you’ve got your eyes set on some tougher peaks in the future.
We used our Deuter Hiking Carrier to carry our two-year-old for part of the journey it while our five-year-old was able to hold his own for the entire adventure. Overall, we would grade the hike as “Easy” and feel its perfect for nature lovers who enjoy a side of history and a dose of Japan’s rich spiritual past.
Getting to Mt. Mitake
Car: It takes just under two hours via toll roads to get from the Yokosuka area to Mt. Mitake (just over 100km). As a bonus, most routes stay well south of Tokyo so if you are planning on tackling the day trip on a Japanese holiday weekend you can avoid some of the worst traffic. If you are looking to save a little money, you can make the trip while avoiding tolls, it just takes substantially longer (generally just over three hours).
Train: Mitake Station is ~1 hour and 30 minutes away from Tokyo’s well-known Shinjuku. Once you arrive at Mitake Station via the JR Ome Line, exit and turn left, making your way to the bus station (Click here for the bus schedule). You’ll be looking for Bus 10 here. Fear not, Suica and Pasmo can be used to pay the bus fare to the cable car station (the ride will cost 280yen). The bus ride will take you through Tamagawa Valley and eventually drop you off at Takimoto Cable Car Station (~10 minute ride). From the bus stop its just a minute or two walk to board the cable car. *You can also walk the bus route to the cable car station, but this will take ~40 minutes, so depending on how much time you have this may be an option as well.
*When you arrive at the ropeway, there will be a few places to purchase a few snacks for the journey ahead. Additionally, you can pick up a local map as well as various brochures outlining many of the sites. We always default to our favorite convenience stores 7-11, Family Mart, and Lawson when it comes to snacks and there are several locations along the road (if you’re driving) prior to arriving at the cable car station.
It should be noted that although the walking is cut down significantly by using the ropeway, there is still a good bit to explore once you reach the top. Consequenty, you may want to consider wearing some comfortable shoes regardless of whether you are hiking up the path or hitching a ride.
Additionally, the cable car will only take you about halfway up the mountain (ride duration is ~6 minutes). The good news is though that the cable car runs pretty often, so you most likely won’t have to wait long (bonus!). Click here for the cable car schedule.
Once at the top you have a bit of a paved hike ahead of you to reach Mitake Shrine (expect ~20 – 30 minutes). Keep an eye out for the Visitor’s Center on the way to the Shrine as well as there are free maps available which cover some of the hiking routes, however, it is closed on Mondays. After exploring Mitake Shrine you can either head back to the cable car, hike down the paved descent, or explore some of the other parts of the mountain – up to you!
If you’re in the mood to burn some calories and you don’t mind a fairly steep inclined and paved path for hiking you can hit the trail that starts in front of the Takimoto Cable Car Station. Plan on ~1 hour to hike up to the junction and then another 10-15 minutes to reach Mitake Shrine. On your way up the mountain you will notice hundreds of cedar trees. These trees are said to ensure a safe delivery and birth for expecting parents. Once at the end of the trail, you’ll pop out onto a paved path that will lead you to Mitake Shrine. There is a Visitor’s Center on the way to the Shrine that has free maps available of some of the hiking routes, however, (as previously mentioned) it is closed on Mondays.
Before you head back down you have got a good bit of exploring to do – yup, there’s more! Follow the hiking path (paved) to Musashino Mitake Shrine on the mountain’s summit first (this should take ~15min if you hiked to the top and a bit longer from the upper cable car station). Along the way you’ll pass traditional Japanese structures, shops, eateries, various accommodations, as well as a traditional shopping street eventually landing at the shrine’s Zuishinmon gate. Prior to 1868, it was common for Buddhism and Shinto to be intertwined.
After making your way up a healthy number of steps you’ll finally land upon the 2,000+ year old shrine. The shrine (according to legend) was founded by the mythical Emperor Sujin. In 736, the shrine became Musashi Mitake-Jinja Shrine. Like many religious sites in Japan, the shrine has been rebuilt and the current main hall dates back to 1877. So although a replica it’s stunning, right? Even on the somewhat dreary day the colors pop… so vivid!
Make sure to walk around the back and take a look around as there are several smaller buildings that comprise the inner shrine. If you are interested, pop into the small museum and take a peek, as well (it’s located to the right of the main shrine). However, everything is in Japanese and there is an entrance fee, so we opted to skip, but to each his own.
After leaving Mitake Shrine, take the road that goes behind the staircase. Here you will meet up with several forested trails (these aren’t paved unlike the one winding up the mountain).
Post-Mitake Shrine Exploring
After Mitake Shrine we encourage you to explore a bit more, after all, the forested hiking trails are a bit more fun than the paved path. The following is a short list of some of the sights that you can add onto your adventure!
Nanayonotaki, a famous waterfall located on the mountain, is ~30 minutes from Mitake Shrine. As you follow the posted signs, you will be led down a dirt path. Watch your step here as the stairs as you near the waterfall are VERY steep.
Rock Garden, a bit more hiking from the waterfall will take you to the Rock Garden. We’d love to tell you that we made it to these beautiful mossy rock formations under the forest canopy along the stream, but we (unfortunately) didn’t. The weather turned on us as we started that direction (y’all we are taking thunder and lightning – yikes!) and we decided (soaked) that it was best to head back.
Good reminder to always pack a rain jacket and rain pants in your day pack regardless of what the weather man says! Our Outdoor research Interstellar rain jackets were a bit of a splurge, but they are extremely light and breathable – they are also top ranked by Outside Magazine. Unfortunately, we put too much faith into the day’s forecast and didn’t pack ours this trip (we haven’t made this mistake again). Last year we invested in high quality gear for our Mount Fuji Trek and we have haven’t regretted the decision.
Ayahironotaki Falls, will be your next stop if you follow the rock garden upstream (again, we unfortunately didn’t have this opportunity – darn weather). This area is where Shinto rituals are sometimes completed. From here, you can follow the signs back to Mitake Shrine and then either hike down the mountain via the paved path or catch a ride via the cable car.
- Hours: 24/7
- Admission: No admission
- Parking: Several paid lots at the bottom of the cable car station ranging in price from 1,000yen – 1,300yen
- Hours: 0730 – 1830
- Admission: 590yen/Adult (one way), 1,110yen/Adult (round trip), 300yen/Child (one way), 560yen/Child (roundtrip)
Ropeway Tip: Make sure to be vigilant of the time as missing the last cable car may mean hiking down the mountain (possibly after dark).
Enjoy the Trails,