Mt. Takao, the most convenient hiking spot in proximity to Tokyo (50 km away). It is an easy hike for beginners who want a short bit of exercise to spruce up their life. Mt. Takao, or Takaosan, is very popular for those reasons. On National Health and Sports Day, October 10th, Sachi and I took the trip out to Takaosan to breath in that fresh, fresh air.
After getting off the train, I looked back down the tracks and was pleasantly comforted by the green circular mass of plants that surround the train’s tunnel.
It was such a great feeling getting out of busy Tokyo and actually seeing the blue sky free of buildings and sky scrappers. But unfortunately it was more crowded than I expected. Hiking is a popular pastime for Japanese, so going to exercise on national exercise day was guaranteed to be busy. It felt like a Disneyland-ish nature because of the crowds.
We watched the hikers eat delicious looking dango, or grilled mochi on a skewer, before starting the hike. We grabbed some Nappa sushi. It had some salty seaweed plants inside and was wrapped with a Nappa leaf that was pickled.
Takaosan has 7 different hikes you can take with different themes, such as “forest walk”, “man and nature”, “monkey park”, etc. There are a few temples and sights on the way.
We took the red route, Trail No. 1, Nature and History of Mt. Takao. We had a few nice viewpoints too, where Tokyo Tower andSky Treewere visible.. You get to see The Octopus Sugi tree, Takosugi, near the entrance to little Monkey Park, and several temples along the way.
We passed many omise (restaurants)along the way, but saved our appetite for the hike down.
Sachi and I enjoyed catching up and comparing our lives to our days before. There is something about being in nature that brings our true feelings out, I think. Maybe being in our ancestors element grounds us back to our honest selves. Sachi told me her dislikes from her conversations with her Japanese friends. Since Sachi is 30 years old, her friends (also the same age) are only focused on marriage and having kids, often pestering her about when she will marry her boyfriend and have kids of her own. She mentioned she is often disappointed in their time together because instead of respecting her as an individual person, they push her to start something she is not ready for, to conform to societies ways (which is a strong force in this homogeneous country). I’m glad I could support Sachi in being independent and enjoying her working life, trying to develop a career for herself, instead of the traditional way of the Japanese. We talked about our future and plans as well as some books we had been reading. Along the way, Sachi taught me some new Japanese words related to nature and hikes. The great outdoors!
We waited about 25 minutes to eat at a small traditional shop with a nice view from the mountain. We sat on the tatami mat in a partitioned area. The TV in the corner, the little pillows we sat on, the beautiful wooden walls and kawari, refills of Japanese tea made me feel like I was in a Japanese cabin house with some friends. I ate a delicious bowl of Sansai Udon (Udon with mountain vegetables) which I hope were picked from the mountain itself ^^. Tororo Soba (buckwheat noodles with grated yam) are the specialty though!
We finished our hike with some omiyage shopping. We bought souveniers for friends and ourselves, as well as the irresistible little doughy balls of sweetness, manjuu!. They are so warm in your hands, and soft, and sweet, but not too sweet, you can’t help but feel comforted!
at 100 yen each, I bought two!
Sachi and I contemplated entering the onsen at the bottom of the mountain near the train station, but there was no way we’d get to experience the calmness that with all the people there, so we boarded the train and napped on the way back to Shinjuku.
I can’t wait to visit in Koyou seasons when the trees turn orange and red!
It’s time to do another round of contemplation. What is it that I want to improve/do/work on this year? I wonder…………
Another great day Japan. Thank you!
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