Hike Up The Sacred Mt. Mitake

One of the most important highlights of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park is the popular Mount Mitake. Just an hour and a half by train from Tokyo, this 929-meter-high mountain will certainly provide you a very interesting insight on how the Japanese pay tribute to, and respect their mountains. If you want a break from city life, make plans to go and breathe some fresh cool mountain air at Mitakesan or Mount Mitake.

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Mountains; An Important Part of Japanese Culture 

Did you know that three-fourths of Japan is made up of mountains? If that’s news to you, here’s some more information about the different kinds of mountains around Japan.

The Japan Alps stand tall in Japan's main island, Honshu. It is a chain of mountains reaching about 3000 meters high. Then there's Mt. Fuji, majestic and beautiful, is the country’s tallest mountain at 3776 meters high. Crowds of people try to climb it yearly. In 2013, Mt. Fuji was made UNESCO’s World Heritage List for its contribution to culture and the arts, not only in Japan but also throughout the world. 

Japan has impressively maintained a healthy balance between the fast modernization of life and the preservation of nature. The Japanese have conserved their mountains and gardens in their most pristine forms.

Have A Glorious Hike up Mt. Mitake 

Hiking and trekking are popular activities in Japan. The elderly, children and almost everyone has easy access to a mountain and can get to enjoy a climb and a hike. Mt Mitake is a popular choice.

Heavily forested mountains cover the Japanese islands. Some are navigable, and some aren’t. When it comes to the case of Mt Mitake, it covers more than 1250 square miles of hills, gorges and valleys offer various hiking opportunities while enjoying unspoiled nature. Located in the Okutama region – by the river of Tama-gawa, this sacred mountain, which stands tall at this westernmost part of Tokyo, can give you an exciting trekking experience you will never forget. 

By Arashiyama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Guidelines on Accessing Mt. Mitake

Take the Ome Line (operated by JR East) from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station and stop at Mitake Station. This will take around 95 minutes and will cost 920 yen for just one way. At the Mitake Station, about 50 meters to its left side, find a shuttle bus that leaves Mitake Station every half hour and goes to Takimoto Village. This will cost 290 yen and take 10 minutes. This bus fulfills its designated route from 7:30 AM to 18:30 PM. 

When you arrive at Takimoto Village (which is a cable car station), you must get the Mitake-Tozan Railway cable car to go to the top of Mitakesan Village. This will cost 1110 Yen roundtrip. It makes 3 departs thrice an hour. 

If you want to go further on to the Mitake summit and see the Musashi-Mitake Shrine, you can hike the 1000 meters that’s needed to reach these places. Though the walk is uphill there are many benches along the way for those who want to rest.  To reach the Shrine would take around 30 minutes of a hike, but you will be passing Mitake village where you can find many Japanese style inns and souvenir shops, so that may increase the duration of the hike.

Hiking Up Mt. Mitake – Tips and Suggestions

It is recommendable to wear a bear bell just for your safety. Like many hikers in Japan, the bell is worn to ward off bears. Also bring enough water and the right clothes for your journey, depending on what season it is. 

By Arashiyama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Study the Map of Mt. Mitake Before Your Journey

The city of Ome is distributing a guide in the form of a map to approximately 230 organizations to promote Mount Mitake and the Mitake Valley. This map gives visitors accurate information about Mount Mitake, its topography, distances, and clear directions to ensure safe travel. 

Foreign residents of Tokyo and its surrounding cities can avail of this brochure from the Ome City Tourism Section or Tokyo Tourist Information Center. The office is on the 1st floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with telephone number 0428-22-1111.

Also available for Mt. Mitake visitors is an excellent hiking map which depicts the extensive network of hiking paths and trails in the Okutuma region. This map is available at the Mitake Visitor Center which is located halfway between the upper cable car station and the shrine. The center is closed on Mondays.

More About Musashi Mitake Shrine

Musashi Mitake Shrine rises on Mt. Mitake as a place of worship for Shinto pilgrims. This large shrine has been venerated for the past two thousand years. It is one of the oldest shrines in Japan. Those who are dedicated faithful ascend Mount Mitake, climbing the long and steep stairs until they see the torii gate.  The faithful visit the shrine so they may honor and pray to the Kami of Japanese gods and spirits enshrined here. 

By 松岡明芳 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

An interesting thing about Musashi Mitake Shrine is that it has a purification fountain just for pets. You can also buy your pet an omamori (Japanese amulet or charm) It comes in a pair, one for you to keep and the other is for you to clip on your pet’s collar. 

  • The Hinode (Sunrise) Festival is the yearly spring festival of Musashi-Mitake Jinja Shrine. It is a very important festival held on May 8. 
  • On May 7, the people start to prepare for the festival. There is a solemn Shinto procession that starts at 8:30 PM and at 9:00 PM the sacred objects are transferred to the palanquin (a large box that contains the sacred objects of the Kami) The faint lights of the lamps illuminate the performances. 
  • On May 8, the procession starts from the plaza in front of the cable car station and the portable Shrine is carried all throughout the Mitake village. Shinto priests, men dressed in white, armored warriors, and even children follow the mikoshi (floats) that are being brought to its destination up the stone steps to the main shrine at the summit of Mt. Mitake. Visitors that stay overnight at the mountain can participate in these mystical celebrations. 

Visit the Rock Garden on Your Way Up

On your way from the Shrine, you have many choices of routes to take passing through peaks and valleys. You will pass a “Rock Garden” with a beautiful, picturesque stream with moss-covered stones and two waterfalls. It only takes less than an hour to reach the valley from the Shrine. 

Some paths are quite steep and sturdy walking shoes are recommended. If you continue past the Rock Garden, you will reach Mount Otake (1267 meters high). From here, you can soak in the breathtakingly beautiful view of the surrounding forest covered mountains. You can see Mt Fuji on a clear day from Mount Otake. 

On another trail you, if you continue you can also reach Mount Hinode. You can admire the beauty of Mount Mitake from the retrospective viewpoint seen from the summit of Mount Hinode. 

Soak in A Hot Spring Bath in Tsuru-tsuru Onsen

Tsuru-tsuru (means smooth) Onsen is a Japanese onsen (hot spring) at 4718 Okuno, Hinode, West Tama Region, Tokyo. 190-0181 it has open-air baths and saunas. Cedar and cypress timbers are used everywhere so that forest fragrance is in the air. A bus travels between the onsen and Musashi-Itsukashi Station every hour. 

Reception closes at 7 PM and the facilities close on every 3rd Tuesday of the month. Rates go from 820 yen to 410 yen. Bath towels are available for purchase at the shop. Take a day trip to the natural hot spring (onsen) that spurts forth from the woodlands and the alkaline water is smooth and gentle to the skin. Take a dip and wash the soreness away and rejuvenate your mind and body. 

Accommodation Options: Hotels and Ryokan Near Mt. Mitake

If you want a uniquely Japanese experience that is unlike any other kind of accommodation service you’ll have outside of Japan, book a room at a ryokan (Japanese inn). Otherwise, if you’ve already tried a ryokan and just need someplace to stay, a hotel is a more budget-friendly choice. 

There is one highly recommended Ryokan called Shukubo Komadori Sanso (155, Mitakesan, Ome -198-0175) It is a 15-20-minute walk from the top cable car station. Feel free to ask for help if you lose your way. 

The locals are always ready to help, and their hospitality is incredibly available all the time. All travelers in Japan must at least once try to stay in a ryokan. This ryokan has a fantastic, stunning, outside view that will refresh your mind and spirit. They offer a full set of traditional Japanese breakfast too. 

Another ryokan is Matsuno Onsen Suikoen (640 kawai Okutamacho, Okutama, Tokyo) It is just 3.4 kilometers from Gyokudo Art Museum and 4.9 kilometers from Kushi Kanzashi Museum. It has free parking and free breakfast but though bathtubs and showers are separate, bathrooms are shared. 

Comfesta Inn Kabe is a top seller in Ome. It is recommended, and it offers free wifi. This inn is popular as it is not too expensive. 

What’s the Weather Like in Mt. Mitake? Research for a Forecast

December weather in Mount Mitake is freezing. There can be a dusting of new snow and at night temperatures drop to -4 C. Winds blow at 20-25 km/hr from the Northwest every now and then, but other nights are calm. 

Mt. Mitake Vs. Mt. Takao – What is the Difference?

Mount Takao (599 meters high) is a mountain under the “Must Go” mountain from the Michelin Green Guide. Easy to access with lots of opportunities to experience nature at its best. In Autumn, the colored trees give such a spectacular view. It has become a tourist destination and it attracts the largest number of mountain climbers as 2.6 million people try to climb it annually. 

Since it is not a very high mountain, it can get quite crowded. Mt. Mitake is devoid of tourist crowds, therefore, it is more pleasurable to climb it. It is more peaceful and quiet in Mt. Mitake. Most people enjoy Mount Mitake more with its unique rocks and greenery.  There never is a dull moment along the trail of Mount Mitake. 

Take A Cable Car Up Mt. Mitake

Mount Mitake is the best place to go to escape the city’s noise. If you want to skip hiking, you can opt to take a cable car, which can get you to the top of the mountain in only 22 minutes. Note that this mountain is the steepest in all of Kanto region, which can make it a rough climb. 

A Well-Loved Mountain

Just as the locals have grown to love this mountain as it teaches those who trek it about the ways of nature, so would you.