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.
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
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
especially on sunny days.
In Tokyo, you can
find a lot of enjoyment from viewing
the autumn leaves in the numerous parks
the central area, however if you have time to spare,
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
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,
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
At the base, by the train station, you
can find many
different places of interest, like a hot spring public bath,
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
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
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
and 210 Yen for children.
(Mountains in Japan are considered sacred, so you can
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
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
to visit would be Monday, as the mountain is
the least crowded then.
is a number of other trails, which are
not as populated. These trails are
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
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:
The top of Mount Takao
When you reach the
very top of the mountain, the
stunning view of Tokyo opens up before you. There
few restaurants at the top, so you can have a meal and a
There is a big selection of soba noodles in
particular, as this meal is closely
mountain climbing in Japan. The prices are inflated
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.
your day sightseeing I strongly
recommend you visit the hot spring public bath
“Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu”, located next to the
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
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
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
red bean paste shaped like Tengu
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
get something that will last longer and have practical
I hope you will have the best experience of Japanese