Happy Earth Day! On Sunday, the hiking/charity group I’ve joined for the past five years, went on a 15km hike along the South Takao Ridge. It’s been a while since I did a solid hike, and what better time to get back into it than a day dedicated to spreading awareness of the need to protect and preserve the world we live in.
Fallen petals from a late-blooming sakura tree
Located near the south-western border of Tokyo, Mt. Takao is an extremely popular place to visit since it’s a relatively easy hike and can be reached from Tokyo city in less than an hour. In fact you basically step out of the train station and onto the mountain! As you can imagine, it gets very crowded. But if you diverge from the main entrance, there are some really great trails that will take you away from the ‘circus’ and into the wild.
From Takaosanguchi Station, it’s a 4km walk to the start of the South Takao Ridge trail. On the way, you pass through Ukai Toriyama, an insanely exquisite restaurant complex that specializes in traditional grilled cooking. It feels like a little village, or perhaps the set of a movie, but the whole place—private dining rooms, kitchens, ponds, gardens—is all part of the same restaurant. I would love to dine here one day. Surrounding the restaurant is a special type of Japanese maple that changes to red twice a year. It’s bizarre to see autumn colours in spring!
The entrance to the trail is marked by a very simple handwritten sign. When doing these local trails, I’ve come to realize it’s important to know how to read/recognize Japanese characters (kanji). At every intersection in the path there are proper wooden signs, though they’re not always written in English. It also pays to have a good hiking map for three reasons – One: even if you can’t read the kanji, you can match up the words on the sign with the words on the paper. Two: they show the estimated walking time between different junctions. Three: it’s hard to get phone reception in the mountains, so you can’t always rely on Google Maps!
One of the things I love about hiking in spring is seeing forests lush green and full of colourful flowers. Along the hike, we saw beautiful ferns, wisteria, various wildflowers, and red and pink mountain azaleas. There were lots of bugs and butterflies flying around, and we heard many birds calling out. All the sounds and sights of the forest!
While it feels like you’re on an adventure when the foliage is dense and the track narrow, it’s also great when the trail suddenly opens up to beautiful views over the land below. It’s like a reward for the hours of climbing and is definitely a great boost to keep going – something hikers like me need! We were blessed with good weather so could see the Tanzawa mountain ranges in the distance – another great place for hiking.
From the top of Mt. Nakazawa – standing in Tokyo, looking out to KanagawaShrine at top of Mt. KusatoLake Shiroyama (Honzawa Dam)
South Takao Ridge is an intermediate-level trail, but it could be considered hard if you’re not a regular hiker. Because you’re going along the ridge over various peaks, there are a lot of ups and downs. It can get a little tiring so you need good shoes, plenty of water and a lot of willpower!
No matter if it’s an easy or tough hike, I always feel good after a day spent in the outdoors. The fresh air, the sunshine, the feeling of accomplishment, living in the moment and really embracing the world around us… there’s a lot to gain and be thankful for!