Ultimate Guide to Hiking in Tokyo

By Georgia and Maddy | September 2, 2021 

Tokyo has a big secret... Many people think of Tokyo as a thriving city with advanced technology, crowds of people and lots of lights. But on the outskirts lie endless opportunities for nature lovers to get outdoors and experience some of the best hiking that Japan has to offer. Just 2 hours out of Tokyo are a mixture of easy, family-friendly hikes and challenging all-day hiking ventures to satisfy the need to escape the city.

Below, we’ll introduce some of Tokyo’s most popular hiking destinations, as well as some of the lesser-known but more challenging hikes.

For more detailed information on these Tokyo hiking trails, find us @globetrottingpeanuts on Instagram or our blog at www.globetrottingpeanuts.com. Don’t underestimate what Tokyo hiking has to offer!

 


Want to know more about relaxing outings in Tokyo? Also check out on BFF Tokyo:
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Ultimate Guide to Cafes in Tokyo


 

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    Hiking Tokyo's famous Mt Takao

    About 

    Mt Takao is the most visited mountain in the world and holds this title by welcoming over 2.6 million people every year. With multiple hiking trails to choose from, breathtaking mountain temples and serene views, it’s no wonder this mountain is so popular.

    Another factor of its popularity is its close proximity to Tokyo. In just 50 minutes from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station, you can arrive at the base of the mountain to begin your hike or even take the cable car or chair lift to get you halfway up the mountain. Below, we’ll break down the numerous trails Mt Takao has to offer hiking lovers near Tokyo. 

    Mt Takao, hiking in Tokyo

    Trails 

    Takao has 7 main trails of varying distance and difficulty.

    Trail Name

    Distance

    Time

    1. Omotesando Trail

    3.8km

    100min

    2. Kasumidai Loop

    0.9km

    40min

    3. Katsura Grove Trail

    2.4km

    60min

    4. Suspension Bridge Trail

    1.5km

    50min

    5. Top of Mt. Loop Trail

    0.9km

    30min

    6. Bitawaki Falls Trail

    3.3km

    100min

    7. Inariyama Trail (Ridge Trail)

    3.1km

    100km

    Mt Takao, hiking in Tokyo

    As a general rule, the longer trails are more difficult as they cover steeper and trickier terrain like roots and rocks. But, because the mountain is so popular, all trails are very well maintained and you’re unlikely to find anything out of the hiking-ordinary on the routes. 

    If you are a short term visitor to Tokyo, we recommend hiking the Omotesando Trail as it will take you past everything you need to see on the mountain like temples, shrines, and monkey parks! As an added bonus, this trail is completely paved the entire way you can easily walk it in comfortable shoes (we have seen people do it in everything from converse to strappy sandals). A slight warning: the first kilometer of this trail is VERY steep. There is no difficult terrain but it is very steep so if you want to skip the steepness, catch the cable car or lift! It will take about 1km off your trail so you still have plenty of walking to do at the top.

    Author’s pick: Inariyama (Ridge) Trail.


    If you’re an avid hiker and want to avoid the normal crowds of Mt Takao and enjoy some Japanese nature, we recommend the Inariyama Trail. It has some steepness to it in parts and some nice tree roots and rocks around the place but it’s still a very well maintained trail. The reason this is one of our favorite hiking trails is its serenity. Although Mt Takao is the most visited mountain in the world, this trail wouldn’t seem like it. It’s generally frequented only by locals who enjoy hiking in Tokyo. This trail will also take you to a second view point at the peak of Mt Inari where there are many benches which make a great rest stop for lunch. Of course, this trail also takes you to the top of Mt Takao where you can enjoy food and drink with all the other visitors to the mountain.

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    What should you see on your Mt Takao hike?


    Mt Takao is famous for a reason as people have been worshipping there for over 1000 years. On the main trail which leads to the top of the mountain, you will find the Yakuoin Temple. Here, people pray to the Tengu gods (Shinto-Buddhist gods) and you can even come across the practicing monks and services at the temple on your journey. Statues of the gods can be found at the entrance to the temple and don’t worry, you can’t miss any of it as it is part of the main Omotesando trail to the top of the mountain. On the same main trail, you will also find the Monkey Park which is home to hundreds of Japanese Macaques and wonderful employees who can give you information about these wonderful animals and point out the babies! 

    Depending on the trail you take, there are also many beautiful waterfalls on the mountain. To see one of these, take the Biwataki Falls Trail which gets you nice and close to a beautiful waterfall! 

    One thing many visitors flock to the mountain for is to catch a glimpse of the elusive Mt Fuji. It can be seen from the peak of Mt Takao however it must be a very clear day to see it. We have visited Mt Takao 5 times and only caught a glimpse once! But, keep an eye out at the top and you might get lucky.

    Mt Jinba, hiking in Tokyo

    Are you up for a little extra challenge? Mt Jinba

    There are several opportunities to include multi-peaks when you're hiking around the Mt Takao area. One popular route is by first hitting Mt Jinba, starting from the Jinbakogenshita bus station. This first peak will take about 2 hours to reach and combines walking along a bitumen road with an uphill forest trail that takes you to the summit. This trail is mostly dirt and tree roots.

    The summit of Mt Jinba rewards with spectacular views and facilities including restrooms, picnic tables and teahouses that sell udon, soba, and ice cream. On a clear day, you can even catch a view of Mt Fuji. Don’t forget, the tea houses are not the peak, there is another platform where the Mt Jinba marker lies as well as a big white horse statue. Yep, you heard that right. Of course if you reach the peak of Mt Jinba and decide that’s enough, you can return the way you came. It is a much less crowded mountain than Takao and still provides rewarding views! 

    But, if you’re looking for an extra challenge, you can continue your hike by following the signs towards Mt Kagenobu. It’s a long trek to this next peak with a lot of uphill and downhill trekking. Before reaching Mt Takao, you will also pass through the summit of Mt Shiroyama. Here there is another teahouse that’s usually open if you want a rest before continuing. The next peak will be Mt Takao and there are plenty of signs leading the way so don’t worry! Even with multi-peaks, the signage will ensure that you don't get lost. Once reaching Takao, you can of course take one of the above mentioned trails down, or, if you’ve had enough, then you can take Omotesando trail down until you reach the cable car station and take it back down the mountain.

    Although a challenging and long hike, it is very rewarding. Be sure to prepare well with extra food and water if you need it as this hike can take up to 8 hours. Along with commute time, it is a long day so start early and give yourself plenty of time to complete it. 

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    A good hiking trek as a beginner: Mt Mitake & Mt Hinode

    About 

    Like Mt Takao, Mt Mitake is a hiking destination close to Tokyo and easy to get to with various trails to choose from. A major difference is that most of the main hiking trails start from the top of the cable car station. You can walk the section between the bus stop and the cable car station too but it is mostly just a paved road. But don’t worry, there is plenty of good hiking to do on the other side of the cable car station! Mitake is known for its gorgeous nature like rock gardens, streams, greenery, and seas of autumn leaves.

    To get there from Shinjuku takes about an hour and a half. Taking the Chuo Line special Rapid from Shinjuku Station, get off at Ome Station (important point: if you take the special rapid, the train will split halfway through the journey. Make sure you look at the screens to be sure you’re on the correct end of the train!). From here, change to the Ome Line bound for Oku-Tama and get off at Mitake Station. From Mitake Station, you will need to take a bus to the cable car station (but most people getting off at Mitake Station will head to the bus stop so just follow them).

    Note: be sure to drop by visitor information outside Mitake Station as they have detailed maps in English of everything to see and all the trails on the mountain.


    For even more detailed information on this trail, check out our blog post about it at: 
    https://globetrottingpeanuts.com.  


    Mt Mitake and Mt Hinode, hiking in Tokyo

    Trails

    There are numerous hiking trails to choose from on Mt Mitake varying in difficulty from paved paths to steep and rocky trails. 

    1. Musashi Mitake Shrine

    Musashi Mitake Shrine is the most visited part of the mountain. It also sits on the peak of Mt Mitake. Almost everyone who visits the mountain will make the hike to Musashi Mitake Shrine. The path between the cable car station and the shrine is fully paved so if you just want to see this mountain-top marvel, you only need comfortable shoes to get there. The path can get quite steep at times so beware to take your time if you’re not used to the uphill. Before the shrine torii gate entrance, you’ll wind through the shrine-priests village which is a thrill of Japanese traditional architecture. As you ascend to the shrine, there is a grand staircase that leads from the village and restaurants to the shrine, which is quite long but there are cute benches on the way up to take a rest so don’t fear! On your way up the stairs, remember to keep an eye out for the secret little creature carvings engraved in the stairs. Another important reason to make the stairs climb is the views. Just think: a mountain top shrine overlooking the surrounding mountains. Magical.

    Although, after two trips to Mt Mitake, we have not yet actually seen the view as the mountain top was covered in fog. But that was still magical, just in a different way! It’s a good idea to take a jacket with you when you're hiking Mt Mitake as it can get quite cold due to the height. 

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    2. Most popular hike: Rock Garden trail

    The trail to the Rock garden is the most popular and scenic trail on Mt Mitake. It takes you past flowing streams and moss covered rocks which leaves you feeling one with nature. It only takes about 60 mins from the cable car station to reach the rock garden and is one of the easier treks on the mountain. 

    On the way to the Rock Garden, a few trails to waterfalls such as Nanayo-no-taki and Ayashiro-no-taki branch off. These waterfalls are stunning to see and are nice places to take a rest if you’re hiking in summer due to the coolness of the water. For a different trail to and from the Rock Garden, you can do a loop from Mt Mitake via the Ohama-no-Katsura Tree and Ayashiro-no-taki waterfall to the Rock Garden. Then, return via Tengu-iwa Rock (which you can climb via a rope!). Follow the signs back to the Musashi Mitake Shrine. 

    Mt Mitake waterfall, hiking in Tokyo

    Other than the Rock Garden trail, most other hiking trails lead to the surrounding mountains. The trails to these mountains have relatively clear signage, but we do recommend looking up the Kanji of the mountain beforehand. There’s not a lot of English signage around on some of the trails! 

    Trail destination

    Time

    Mt Otake

    2h30

    Mt Nabewari

    1h15

    Mt Okunoin

    1h00

    Mt Ohtsuka

    40min

    Mt Kami-Takaiwa

    1h30

    Mt Hinode

    1h00

    Mt Takao, hiking in Tokyo

    Author’s pick: Mt Mitake → Mt Hinode. 


    The trail from Mt Mitake to Mt Hinode is great for those who are less experienced in hiking or are looking for a good trek near Tokyo that doesn’t involve climbing rocks or tree roots. The trail is relatively flat or downhill most of the way and gives way to a spectacular view when you reach the Mt Hinode peak. There are tables and benches at the peak which means there are usually other groups of people taking a rest and cooking lunch with their portable gas cookers. The other bonus of choosing Mt Hinode is the routes to bus stops or train stations. You won’t have to hike back to Mt Mitake to catch the cable car to get back to the train station. There are 3 routes coming off Mt Hinode and you can read the signs which lead to either JR Hinatawada Station, JR Musashi Itsukaichi Station, or Kami-Youzawa bus stop, depending on where you want to go from there. We advise taking some snacks with you on this particular hike as there is no food after leaving Mt Mitake and it can take a few hours to get back to civilization. 

    What to see on your hike at Mt Mitake and Mt Hinode

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    Musashi Mitake Shrine is definitely the top thing to see on Mt Mitake. It has been an active place or worship for almost 2000 years and has a wolf deity enshrined within it, so many people come to the shrine to pray for the health of their dogs. Don’t forget to take a walk around the back of the shrines to see some of the surrounding infrastructure and the Nagao-daira Plateau which provides scenic views of the mountainous landscape below.

    If you hike to the Rock Garden, you’re likely to pass Tengu-iwa rock at an intersection of 3 trails. This rock can be climbed using a rope if you’re brave and many people choose to go up and check it out, apparently there’s a surprise at the top! The rock got its name as it looks like a Tengu facing upwards. 

    The rock garden is a short hike from this intersection and, of course, is another must-see on Mt Mitake. A small torii gate entrance, with a waterfall behind, leads to a shrine created from mountain stone. This is the central part of the rock garden which continues with a flowing stream, towering rocks on both sides, and the greenest moss you’ve ever seen. It’s a little like walking into a fairy garden which is why it’s a must-see of Mt Mitake.


    To see more of this enchanting rock garden, find us on Instagram @globetrottingpeanuts


    If you’re lucky, you might even catch a Japanese serow. A Japanese serow is a Japanese goat-antelope that primarily lives in woodland areas. Many hikers long to see a serow and we were lucky enough to see one on the trail between Mt Mitake and Mt Hinode! They are a unique animal to see so, naturally, we stopped and just watched in for a while as it casually walked up and down an extremely steep slope. So, keep your eyes peeled on the Mt Mitake trails and you might just spot one! 

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    Hiking the isolated nature of the Okutama Region

    About 

    If you’re looking for a more isolated hiking destination in the Tokyo area, look no further than the Okutama region in western Tokyo prefecture. The region is home to a variety of hiking opportunities from multi-day, multi-peak mountain hiking to long, flat trekking. These hikes take a little more effort to get to, often requiring multiple trains and buses to get to the trail heads. Alternatively, it’s also easy (and sometimes cheaper) to hire a car in Tokyo and drive out to your starting destination. For nature and hiking lovers that prefer not to climb a mountain, Okutama also holds the perfect adventure with its Mukashi Michi Trail. 

    Okutama region, hiking in Tokyo


    Mukashi Michi Trail 

    This 10km trail winds its way along the stunning Tama River as it follows part of a historic transportation road first built in 1899. It used to serve as a way to get provisions between villages and provided a number of rest stops for travelers including lodgings and tea houses. It was no longer used after 1945 when another road was built but now serves as a popular hiking destination. 

    The trail conveniently begins at Okutama train station and ends at Lake Okutama. Along the way you’ll find impressive views, old suspension bridges and abandoned railway tracks and tunnels. There are also numerous old buildings like tea houses you will pass which give an insight into what the road might have been like in its heyday. 

    There are many maps you can find online of the area but the trail is well marked with むかしみち (hiragana for Mukashi Michi) or ‘Lake Okutama’. The attraction of the old and historic trail is the mostly flat and paved terrain. It is frequently hiked by families for this very reason. Due to its easier terrain, it's also a very popular hiking spot on weekends and holidays so getting an early start from Tokyo is a good idea. There is only one rather steep 2km climb towards the end of the trail which is on a proper hiking trail. But, after this, the trail ends with a lovely kilometer downhill to the lake. In addition, the trail boasts an incredible sea of colored leaves in autumn. At the end of the Mukashi Michi trail, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Lake Okutama. The trail will end at the Okutama Water and Greenery Museum where you can catch a bus back to Okutama station. 


    Things to see when you're hiking the Okutama Region


    Lake Okutama is of course the real winner on this trail. Although it seems to feel like you’re in a rural village when you begin, you end at a spectacular expanding Lake. In summer, the Lake is bordered by lush greenery, cherry blossoms in Spring, and orange maple trees in autumn. It’s a great place to visit in every season! 

    Okutama region hiking in tokyo

    It’s not just nature you can enjoy on this trail but memories of the once-bustling transportation route. Along the trail, you can find nods to the history of the old road including abandoned tea houses and lodgings, as well as shrines. In addition, there are 2 large suspension bridges that can be found along the way (but be careful to read the signs because only a few people are allowed on these bridges at a time!) They provide incredible views straight down the Tama River which you will also find yourself walking alongside at points on the trail. 

    Maybe our favourites are the abandoned railway tracks and tunnels. Although it’s not wise to follow them too far (they will eventually reach old bridges which are no longer stable or end), it is a wonderful piece of history to see the old tracks pop out in the forest. And of course, the railway tunnels make for a great photoshoot opportunity. 


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    The experienced hiker: Mt Mito

    If you’re looking for more of a hiking challenge near Tokyo, look no further than Mt Mito. It is the highest peak (1531m) of the three famous mountains in the Okutama region (alongside Mt Odake, and Gozenyama). This hike takes a little longer (about 5-6 hrs) than the Mukashi Michi trail due to its distance (11.4km) and elevation change. If you start this hike from the Ogouchi Jinja bus stop, you also get the opportunity to cross the Lake Okutama floating bridge. Another bonus of this hike is that you hit 2 other peaks on the journey to Mt Mito summit. The first you will reach is Mt Iyo, then Mt Nukazasu before reaching the summit of Mt Mito. A fair warning, there are ropes on the way to the summit to help steady footing so keep that in mind when choosing this hike. Once reaching the summit (depending on the weather), you will be rewarded with views of both Mt Fuji and Mt Kumotori. There are also heaps of benches where you can take a break and celebrate reaching the peak with some food.

    Mt Mito, hiking in Tokyo

    Then, you can head down the other side of the mountain towards the Tokyo Citizens forest which is another entry point to the climb if you wish to only summit Mt Mito and return. 

    While a more physically challenging hike than Mukashi Michi, this 3-peak Mt Mito climb offers incredible views and scenery encompassing Lake Okutama, 3 mountain peaks and views of the great Mt Fuji. But make sure to get an early start from Tokyo which leaves you plenty of time to enjoy the hike. 


    Do you want to know more about living in Japan? Also check out on Japan Switch:
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    Hiking in Tokyo: Final Notes

    Don’t let the big city lights of Shinjuku fool you. Even Tokyo has incredible hikes to offer that can easily be completed in a day trip from the city. Our only recommendations for preparation are hiking boots. While some touristy sections of the above mentioned trails are paved, most aren’t.

    Due to the frequency of rain in Japan, many paths can get quite wet in places so it’s a good idea to have boots that can make it through muddy paths. In addition, ALWAYS carry an umbrella/poncho/raincoat with you. It can rain or get extremely foggy at the drop of a hat in Japan so it’s always a good idea to be prepared.

    Lastly, of course, make sure you’re topped off with water. The more frequented hikes often have vending machines or taps to fill up water on the peak but the lesser-known hikes don’t. So just make sure you’re always prepared with enough water for the day. 

    Georgia and Maddy from Globetrottingpeanuts

    If you’d like to know more about hiking in Tokyo or hiking in Japan, find us on Instagram @globetrottingpeanuts or our blog www.globetrottingpeanuts.com to find more hiking tips and cool trails in Japan!


    We hope you get the opportunity to experience hiking in Tokyo!

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