nature walk at takao-san

i needed to get away from the intensity of Tokyo, and shinjuku station was lined with posters and video ads of Takaosan. it looked easy and near enough, so i gave it a try on a thursday. apparently it gets crowded on weekends as it’s the nearest nature getaway to Tokyo, so avoid weekends if crowds bother you.

i took a train on the keio line all the way to the end to takaosanguchi. (bring a book as it takes more than an hour and a half from shinjuku, and then there’s the return journey too)

the station has a small convenience stall where i bought a dorayaki in case i got hungry while climbing (which was just as well, because none of the food stalls on the ‘summit’ were open). it’s a short walk past some souvenir stalls to the foot of takaosan, where you can board the cable car up to the middle of the hill. there are about 7 different trails up/down, and i chose the inariyama trail which starts from the left of the station.

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a screenshot i took from the website before i left my accommodation (comes in helpful when you’re taking little hikes alone!)

here’s what the trail looks like, with mud stairs supported by wooden/bamboo beams –

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and there are treeroot-lined steps too –

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and being a ridge trail –

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there are segments where the trail is no more than 1.5m wide and it slopes steeply off on both sides.

as this is a popular trail, there are distance markers –

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this one told me i was just 700m away from the summit.

(random side story: i passed a salaryman on my way up. he was dressed up in a shirt, blazer and dress shoes and the sight was quite incongruent. perhaps he was just walking to destress, but i was half-worried for him as I’d heard stories of how places like these were suicide hotspots. i hope he’s ok and that im just over-imaginative.)

when i reached the summit, i met a family of cats which came out to play –

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the view from the summit is rather pretty, and on a clear day, one can apparently see mt. fuji (not my day, anyway)

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for the way down, i chose the japanese judas trees trail (now, ‘judas’ should have been a strong hint of a bad idea, but i was in a good mood from the walk)

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note that the website says ‘wild plants’ and ‘rich foliage’ in its description. i didn’t get the hint.

no pictures of this trail, as i was somewhat freaked out about 15-20mins in. the trail got so narrow that it would only allow a single file to pass, and the foliage so dense that sunlight was hardly filtering through. there was hardly any birdsong compared to the inariyama trail, and i had to sing hymns to calm myself down.

as this doesn’t appear to be a popular trail, there were no distance markers available and i couldn’t decide whether to turn back or to trudge on. it got worse, when, some way in, a warning sign about wild boars and how to recognise their footsteps appeared. i sped up.

as if that wasn’t bad enough, another sign appeared 10mins later, educating the public on the common snakes of takao. i broke into a jog, jumping over twigs and leaves, sometimes nearly tripping over small boughs.

by the time i stepped off the trail (many trails intersect in the middle of takaosan, where the cable car stops), my legs were jelly, not from the run/walk, but from fright. now, it sounds over-dramatic and silly, but i was genuinely freaked (by nothing at all, i know). an hour of being utterly alone in the woods without any comforting birdsong is scary. (I’ll never survive the army)

i wasn’t tired, but i didn’t wanna take another forest trail, and so opted for the cable car.

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quite a vista over Tokyo! i think it’s far more fun taking it down the hill, for the view it affords. riding it up would give you a view of trees (of which you’d be seeing a fair bit of if you climb up to the summit).

im glad i did this – doubly so because I’d stayed up the night before crying over my ex. were i to be in my home country, i think I’d have stayed in bed for most of the day. when you’re overseas, though, you feel this itch to get out and see things…and thus this post.

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