Are you tired of the urban hustle and bustle of Tokyo? Or searching for some fresh, sweet-smelling air? Do you love nature and hiking? You’ll be happy to learn that the perfect destination is a little over an hour from the capital. Mount Mitake (御岳山), just west of Tokyo, is a real hidden gem that many foreign visitors don’t know about.
Above the town of Ome, this 929-meter high mountain is the gateway to the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. After two months in Tokyo, it was time to fill our lungs with fresh air and indulge in forests, mountains, and shrines. Mount Mitake seemed like the perfect place to escape the city.
Climbing Mount Mitake: Cable Car and Hiking Routes
The mysteries of a mountain have to be discovered and don’t usually reveal their secrets easily. Mount Mitake is no different. There are several ways to climb the mountain, depending on how much physical effort you want to put into it.
The Mitake Tozan Cable Car is currently the most practical and quickest way to get up the mountain. It takes just 6 minutes from Takimoto station to reach the stop at 831 metres. From there, you will need to walk a further 10 minutes to reach the Tourist Information Office.
It’s possible to climb Mount Mitake entirely on foot thanks to two hiking routes that snake their way up. The simplest one starts from Mitake Station and takes about 2 hours 50 minutes to reach the Shinto shrine situated at the summit.
We decided to take the second route which starts from Kori Station and takes just over 2 hours to reach the summit. The hike to the top was certainly a challenge and our journey took us through the thick forest as the fog crept through the trees and created a truly mystical atmosphere.
But the difficulty of the hike was soon forgotten as we became immersed in the scenery around us. The trees displayed their beautiful autumnal colours before our eyes, as the route filled with yellows, oranges and reds. There are numerous picnic areas along the way, which are ideal spots to rest or spend time with family and friends. It’s a fantastic opportunity to take a photograph in a beautiful setting.
Mount Mitake Walking Times:
- From the car park of the cable car: 1 hour to climb up, 40 minutes to climb down.
- From the cable stop stop to the Tourist Information Office: 10 minutes
- From the Tourist Information Office to the shopping street: 10 minutes.
- From the start of the shopping street to the shrine: 15 minutes to go up and 10 minutes to go down.
- To the Nanayo-no-Taki waterfall: 20 minutes each way from the shrine but between 30 and 50 minutes if you decide to hike the loop instead.
- To the Rock Garden, passing the Ayahiro-no-Taki waterfall on the way: about 2 hours when hiking the loop around the shrine (there are a rest area and toilet on the loop)
Visit To Musashi-Mitake Shrine
Whichever route you take to the summit, after passing the Tourist Information Office, you will discover a small village, nestled in the heart of the mountain. Dotted around the streets are traditional wooden houses, small stalls, souvenir shops and a few restaurants. It’s an authentic side of Japan that draws you in and helps you to forget about the strenuous hike. This unique shopping street leads to the steps of the shrine and, with a little more effort, we were finally at the most beautiful point on Mount Mitake.
Situated at the summit of the mountain, Musashi-Mitake Shrine (武蔵御嶽神社) houses numerous national treasures and offers magnificent panoramic views over the surrounding valley. On the day of our visit, the view was impaired by a blanket of clouds, but we were not disappointed as it made the place all the more atmospheric. The clouds focused our attention on the beautiful colours of the main shrine and the vividness of the majestic pine trees. The serenity inspired a reflective and contemplative mood within us which made our visit all the more poignant. As we walked around the complex, we found a separate building dedicated to white wolves. The ‘O-Inu-Sama’, as they are known in Japanese, are the guardians of the shrine and are said to protect against bad spirits and house fires.
It is also possible to visit the museum where some of the national treasures are housed (entrance 300 JPY). Furthermore, visitors can opt to stay the night at the shrine and take part in a meditation session.
A Mindful Walk Around Mount Mitake
From the shrine, there are several hiking routes which allow you to explore the forest further. We recommend the route to the Rock Garden as it’s very well marked by signage and easily accessible. Situated between two waterfalls, the path snakes its way through moss-covered rocks, rivers and other smaller falls for a distance of about 1.5 kilometres. During the changing of the autumn leaves, known as ‘momiji‘ in Japanese, the area is covered in vibrant orange foliage. This place took us to a fairytale world, similar to childhood dreams, filled with fairies, goblins, and other imaginary creatures that might inhabit this land.
A rest area, complete with picnic tables, toilets and shelters, is situated at the edge of the Rock Garden and is the perfect place to have lunch. We were curious about the picnic habits of the Japanese and had the opportunity to witness these first-hand. We were surprised to see a couple seated nearby with a large cooking pot and stove, preparing elaborate noodle dishes in the middle of the forest. It was in stark contrast to our small setup but it was nevertheless much lighter and more practical for the hike.
After a much-needed rest, we continued on our journey towards the two main waterfalls. Nanayo no Taki (七代の滝) is situated just off the hiking trail and is accessed by a hidden staircase. The Ayahiro no Taki (綾広の滝) falls are noticeable thanks to a small tori gate. Many people come here to experience the quality of the water and meditate under the waterfall.
Before heading back down Mount Mitake, it’s possible to continue the hike along a sloping path to Mount Odake (大岳山), at an altitude of 1267 meters. Even though the last 20 minutes were the most challenging, the 360-degree view made it worthwhile as the view was spectacular, even in the clouds.
The hiking trails allow you to complete a convenient loop and the Tourist Information Office provide hiking route maps to plan your journey on the day.
Extend The Hike Into The Valley
Before leaving Mitake, why not extend your hike through the surrounding gorges? If you enjoyed the beauty of the mountain, the surrounding area also has a lot to offer.
Popular for amateur aquatic sports, especially kayaking, many Japanese come during ‘momiji‘ when the autumn leaves are in full bloom. There is a pleasant 4-kilometre walk from Mitake Station which takes in rivers, rockeries, and forests and finishes at either Kawai or Sawai station. Due to the damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis, we could only admire the gorges from the station. From the station, we got a splendid panoramic view of the area and could even see part of the Tama River. It was enough to satisfy us, but it was a shame that we could not get closer.
There are many other things to do near Mitake station, including museums, cultural sites, restaurants and a sake brewery. There is something to suit every taste and this was confirmed when we sat down at Cafe Monaca to enjoy a nice meal. Besides the scrumptious green curry that we tried, the homemade matcha green tea and brown sugar chiffon cake captivated our tastebuds with its little touches of sweet whipped cream. It was delicious! Our eyes were certainly bigger than our stomachs though.
This small culinary paradise can be found to the left of the train station along the main street. Cafe Monaca is easily distinguished by its English sign, advertising a unique menu and set dishes, such as 800 yen for a main dish or 1200 yen for a main, drink, and dessert.
The area of Mitake with its gorges and the mountain itself are full of surprises. Before setting off on your adventure, stop at the Tourist Information Office, situated to the left of the train station. The friendly staff speak English perfectly and offer a warm welcome to visitors. They knew what we needed for the day and gave us all of the necessary information, much of which was in English and proved a godsend for experiencing the treasures of Mitake. What’s more, they made a reservation at our campsite for us.
If you love nature, look no further than Mitake. It’s the perfect outdoor break on the outskirts of Tokyo. And if you are looking for other mountain hikes near Tokyo, you can also climb the popular Mt. Takao and scenic Mt. Oyama.
Access to Mitake from Central Tokyo
To get to Mitake from Tokyo Shinjuku Station:
- By Train: around 1 hour 30 minutes / 935 yen one way. Take the Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Ome and then transfer to the Ome Line to Mitake Station.
- By Car: 1 hour 13 minutes / 62 km with tolls or 52 km without tolls.
To get to Mount Mitake:
Take the ‘Nishi Tokyo Bus’ (bus stop located 10 meters on the left as you leave the station, cross the road) towards Cable Shita (Takimoto Station).
To ride the cable car: 590 yen (one way) or 1110 yen (return) for adults and 300 yen (one way) or 560 yen (return) for children.