Long weekend here means that everyone is looking forward for a break outside the city- go somewhere nice and enjoy the start of autumn climate and bid adieu to summer heat. Never mind that you need to wake up a bit early or you know that it will be tiring day, the prospect of leisure travel is way better than spending another 10 hours in the office.
Long weekend is an additional day to the usual 2 days, meaning you can only go to considerable far places reachable by local JR but not to those destinations requiring airplanes/shinkansen or else you will loose the chance to maximize the extra day. It means that I will be confine to a certain kilometer radius outside of Tokyo. As if we are all on the same wavelengths of thinking, together with hundreds of Japanese longing for a getaway, we have all decided that it will be a hiking day at Mt. Takao.
Reachable within an hour away from Tokyo using local train, Mt. Takao or Takaosan is a densely wooded mountain offering 6 hiking trails to reach the 599m peak. Consider as a scared mountain of the Shinto-Buddhist belief, it houses a beautiful forest of pine trees, 500 varieties of plants, a view of Mt. Fuji on a clear day and a chance to see Tokyo city from a bird’s eye view. Most popular and often recommended hiking trail is number 1 (Ometosando Trail) and 6 (Biwa Waterfal Trail). Definitely your choice if you want to do the whole route,but there is an alternate option where you can start at the 400m point by taking the cable car or chair-lift.
Before I even went there, I already decided that I will start halfway going up via trail 1, hike all the way down via trail 6 and will go for the lift option. I enjoyed the lift ride but if you are seriously scared of heights, just settle with the cable car, there is no harness or whatsoever on the lift and can be a bit too much for your nervous heart.
Trail 1 is a fun way of reaching the peak, there are lots of things to see along the way like the monkey zoo, octopus tree trunk and Takaosan Yakuoin Yukiji Temple. You can stop for a break and try some local delicacy like the white rice cakes dip into some sauce which I really thought will be sweet but quite the opposite. Since trail 1 is the most popular, just be patient when you feel like your phasing is a bit slow. Remember, you and together with hundreds of them are doing the reaching for the same thing.
So I finally reach the peak along with the babies on strollers, running 4 year old kids, high-maintenance dogs on basket and a group of elderly tourist. It was supposed to be a personal triumph for dragging my lazy ass out of bed but there is no way or should I say “no place” to celebrate at 599m above since every inch of the place is crowded by Japanese who reached the peak earlier than me and now savoring their packed food as a reward.
Time to descend. I guess it will be easier by law of gravity, right? Well, I underestimated the fact that moving downwards will still require few muscles to be pulled here and there. Following the map, I was supposed to see a waterfall by taking the trail 6 but the pathway towards it is under-renovation. So, I just eagerly took my way down, stopping from time to time to admire the trees and the view. Even descending proves to be a bit of a drag and obviously still crowded.
Long weekend is over. Tomorrow is another day at work. My legs hurts and I can’t walk properly. Well, I guess another lesson learned- “Don’t underestimate the power of Japanese tourists when it comes on long weekends- they come in pack”.