Mt Mitake: Tokyo’s best kept secret

If you’re looking for a quiet escape from the frenzy of downtown Tokyo, Mt Mitake is the perfect place. And it probably isn’t even in your guidebook.

Located in Chichibu Tama National Park, in the western most part of Tokyo prefecture, Mt Mitake is just 90 minutes by local train from the centre of the city.

But few foreign tourists make it this far. It is a part of ‘Tokyo’ only locals visit. My father came here as a college student in the sixties; and although a lot of things in the Japanese capital have changed since that time, Mt Mitake remains as beautiful now as it was then.

There are two ways up the mountain: if time’s of no concern, the hike to the top is a scenic, albeit steep, climb. Or, for just 1,000 yen ($US12 for a return trip), you can ride the even steeper cable car – a wonderful fifteen-minute journey that moves slowly up through the hillside forest. Needless to say, most visitors opt for the cable car.

(Tip: before boarding, stock up on some local snacks – like the pressed sweet potato – at the lower terminal shop.)

At the top of the ride, ‘enjoy your refreshing time’ (my best Japlish) and gorge yourself on postcard views of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can even catch glimpses of the skyscrapers of Shinjuku in downtown Tokyo.

But the real fun begins on the walk from the upper terminal to the peak (929 metres). At thirty minutes, the hike can be a little demanding. But the trail is well maintained and provides plenty of shade – and the surrounding woods are spectacular, particularly in autumn.

(Tip: in between the mountain’s monasteries and lodges, try spotting birds amongst the foliage: the forest is said to be a birdwatcher’s paradise.)

When you finally reach the summit, you’ll arrive at the beautiful Musashi-Mitake Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest. A place of mountain worship for a reputed 2,000 years, Mt Mitake was once praised by the samurai, who prayed for prosperity and protection from evil spirits. Feel free to do likewise.

For those willing and able, a hike through the neighbouring peaks and valleys awaits. Otherwise, make a U-turn and enjoy the walk back, safe in the knowledge that you’ve just experienced something very special – and all within a stone’s throw of one of the world’s largest metropolises.

Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Mark Harada
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