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Koyo - the Beauty of Autumn Leaves on Mt Takao

by WJSstaff 2593

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Japanese are well known for their fascination with the
beauty of nature and seasonal changes it brings.
Probably the most well-known season is spring with
its’ mesmerizing cherry blossoms reminding us of the
temporality of life. However, the season that is arguably
even more stunning is autumn - a time for enjoying the
colorful tree leaves. Just like Hanami (the viewing of
cherry blossoms) in spring, the viewing of autumn leaves
has its’ name in Japan - Koyo.

Koyo in Japan begins on different dates depending on

the region. You can already see the amazing colors in

September if you are in the northern part of the country,

while the trees in the southern parts do not change their

appearance until way late in autumn. The peak season

in Tokyo is around mid to late November. When the

weather starts getting colder and colder, you can see

many people heading to the mountains, parks and other

nature spots on weekends to view the amazing colors,

especially on sunny days.

In Tokyo, you can find a lot of enjoyment from viewing

the autumn leaves in the numerous parks located in

the central area, however if you have time to spare,

I would recommend visiting Mount Takao, located on

the outskirts of the metropolitan Tokyo area, just a 50

minute train ride from Shinjuku.

Although not high (only 599 m/1,965 ft), Mount Takao

is one of the most popular mountains in Japan, with a

projected traffic of around 3 million visitors each year!

It is most crowded in November, right when the autumn

leaf colors are at their peak. So it is safe to say that

Mount Takao is one of the best Koyo spots in the country.

(The diligent dog Haru is guarding the parking lot at the

base of the mountain)

The easiest and cheapest way to get to Mount Takao is

by taking a train on Keio line to Takaosanguchi station,

located at the base of the mountain. The train fare is only

390 Yen (381 Yen if you are using an IC card) for one way

from Shinjuku.

At the base, by the train station, you can find many

different places of interest, like a hot spring public bath,

a nature museum, and little cozy shops in the small town

located right by the mountain. During the Koyo season

these small shops are all filled with traditional Japanese

sweets and snacks shaped like momiji leaves (momiji is

the word for Japanese maple).

(picture courtesy of Takao Visitor Center)

When climbing Mount Takao, you can choose from a

variety of hiking trails to the top. The most popular

one is trail no. 1, which is mostly paved and wide,

and it guides the visitors through numerous points of

interest located on the mountain. When on this trail,

you can visit Takao Monkey Park, where Japanese

macaques live. The entry ticket is 420 Yen for adults

and 210 Yen for children.

(Mountains in Japan are considered sacred, so you can
often find temples, statues and other objects of worship

Another major attraction on the trail is the Yakuo-in

temple first built in 744.


The length of trail no. 1 is 3.8 km/2.4 mi and it roughly

takes about 100 min to finish. You can cut the time in

half by using a cable car or a chair lift located at the

base. (There is an observation deck at the cable car

destination, which is used as the famous Beer Mount

barbeque place in the summertime). However, be

advised that if you visit the mountain during peak

season, you might have to wait in line additional 40 to

50 minutes to get on the cable car or the lift.

Furthermore, since the number of visitors increases

dramatically during the Koyo season, you might want

to avoid the trail no. 1 altogether, especially during the

weekends or holidays. Generally, the recommended

weekday to visit would be Monday, as the mountain is

the least crowded then.

Thankfully, there is a number of other trails, which are

not as populated. These trails are typically narrower

and not paved, which is good for those who seek to

admire the flora and fauna of the mountain, rather than

the attractions. The difficulty level and time required

varies depending on the path, but in general even the

toughest path should not be too much of a challenge.

In fact, you can meet elderly people and small children

on every course.

If you are somewhat of a hiking maniac, I would advise

taking the hardest Inariyama trail, and then continuing on

from the top of Mount Takao to the neighboring

mountains if you are up for it.

Official information on Mount Takao:

Takao 599 Museum

Keio Sightseeing

Takao Visitor Center

Mount Takao Guide Book

The top of Mount Takao

When you reach the very top of the mountain, the

stunning view of Tokyo opens up before you. There are a

few restaurants at the top, so you can have a meal and a

drink there. There is a big selection of soba noodles in

particular, as this meal is closely associated with

mountain climbing in Japan. The prices are inflated

compared to the shops on the ground, but the meals

taste particularly good after a climb, so I guess it is worth

the extra cash. You can find vending machines, bathrooms

and a visitor’s center there as well.

After spending your day sightseeing I strongly

recommend you visit the hot spring public bath house

“Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu”, located next to the

Takaosanguchi station. The hot spring water soothes the

tired muscles and makes your skin radiant. You can also

have a massage and a dinner at the bath house.

Admission fee is 1,200 Yen for adults during high season

(the Golden Week and Koyo in November).

The regular fee is 1,000 Yen.

During the Koyo season I would advise visiting the onsen

on weekdays, if possible.

This onsen has a NO TOLERANCE policy for tattoos,

even when covered up with tape etc., so if you have them,

you will unfortunately not be allowed admission.




If you want to bring a part of Mount Takao back home

with you, you can choose from a variety of edible and

non-edible souvenirs you can get from a number of

shops located at the base of the mountain.

The most popular souvenir is the Tengu-yaki - cakes with

red bean paste shaped like Tengu (Japanese folklore

creatures with birdlike features who dwell on sacred


The other popular Japanese sweets sold on the

mountain are the Manju,  which are also cakes usually

filled with red bean paste. You can get Manju in the

shape of maple leaves, called Momiji manju.

If you are not much of a sweets lover, you might enjoy

freshly made senbei - savory rice crackers.

Get a small Tenugui towel as a souvenir, if you want to

get something that will last longer and have practical


I hope you will have the best experience of Japanese