Autumn Hiking in Western Tokyo

The Okutama region in far western Tokyo is a playground for outdoor adventurers. The pristine waters of the Tama River that flow through the middle of Okutama is one of the most popular spots in Japan for canyoning and white water rafting. The mountains are covered in dense forest and dotted with limestone caves, waterfalls and onsens. And come November, it’s one of the best day trips from Tokyo to experience the stunning autumn colours.

I was up early and arrived at Mitake Station around 9am. Being a sunny Saturday and the peak of the autumn season, the train was so packed I had to stand the entire 1.5 hours from Shinjuku! It wasn’t so bad though as I love looking out the window on train trips—and this one in particular included a snow-capped Mt Fuji almost the whole way. From the station, I caught a local bus to the Mitake cable car which takes you up a 22º slope and halfway up Mt Mitake.

Mt Mitake is only 929m above sea level so it’s not a difficult mountain to hike. For more of a challenge, many hikers continue on to Mt Odake which is 1,266m tall and considered intermediate level. From the summit, you can see as far as Mt Fuji if the weather cooperates—which unfortunately it rarely does. It’s a 2-3 hour hike each way to Mt Odake, and the area between these peaks has lots of trails and things to see and do which make it such a fun place. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure course.

Mt Mitake
A very colourful Mitake Station
Mt MitakeMt MitakeMt Mitake
Mitakesan village
Mt Mitake
Beautiful morning light
Mt Mitake

The trails were covered with momiji and other deciduous trees of all shades. It felt like a dream walking under a canopy of red and yellow and on an equally colourful ground covered with a thick layer of freshly fallen leaves. It’s hiking etiquette to say ‘konnichiwa’ to everyone you pass, and with so many people on the mountain that day, I must have said hello a hundred times! The shrine on the mountain is home to a deity that protects dogs, so it was also cool to see lots of shiba-inus, poodles and other breeds on the trails. It’s impossible not to smile when you see these beautiful, playful creatures with their tails wagging!

My plan of attack was to head straight to Mt Odake. We’d had such a beautiful view of Mt Fuji on the train, and I was excited to see it from the mountain, too. But just my luck, I was literally 30min away from the summit when the peak was swallowed up by a mass of grey mist. A few hikers on their way back said they hadn’t been able to see anything, so I decided to turn back and just stick around the Mitake area. I headed across the ridge to Mt Kamitakaiwa. With only a few other people on this trail, it was very quiet and peaceful. From the lookout on the top of the mountain, you get an awesome view of the surrounding mountain range, Ome City and Tokyo in the distance.

Mt MitakeMt Mitake
Musashi Mitake Shrine on the mountaintop
Mt MitakeMt Mitake
Mt Mitake
Fiery orange mountains

From the lookout, I went on a more advanced trail that went straight down to the bottom of the valley. The trail map warned it involved using chains, but I didn’t realise just what I was in for! Not only did the trail involve climbing down slippery rocks, but there was even a section so steep a ladder had been permanently installed. As much as I had to be careful not to go tumbling down the valley, tackling this unexpected, rocky adventure course was a lot of fun!

I finally made it to the base of the trail, and continued onto the Rock Garden. This was by far the most beautiful part of the mountain. A walking path followed a crystal clear stream full of little waterfalls and mossy green rocks. Stepping stones crossed over the stream a few times, and red and orange leaves were scattered all throughout the ravine. The path cut between huge boulders and eventually led to a spiritual waterfall, Ayahironotaki Falls.

Mt MitakeMt MitakeMt MitakeMt MitakeMt MitakeMt Mitake

Making my way back to the cable car, my final stop was the ancient Musashi Mitake Shrine. This shrine is said to have been founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin over 2,000 years ago. According to legend, a white wolf appeared out of the blue to help a prince who had gotten lost due to fog on the mountain. The Sacred Wolf became the deity of the shrine and to this day is believed to protect dogs. The shrine includes multiple structures, and the main offering hall has sat on the mountaintop since 1700.

Mt MitakeMt MitakeMt MitakeMt Mitake
New stamp in my Goshuincho
Mt Mitake
Autumn cherry blossom
Mt Mitake
Ending the day the best way: with a bowl of udon

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41 thoughts on “Autumn Hiking in Western Tokyo

  1. What a magical trail Celia, it looks so beautiful in the Autumn colours and your photographs are a real treat. Thank you so much for sharing :o) xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kat! The chain/ladder section wasn’t too bad! But there was a part when I couldn’t find the trail because there were so many leaves covering it, and there was no one around – and that was a bit scary!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John! The autumn colours are just starting in Tokyo city. I think the next two weeks will be very busy! I’d consider being a volunteer worker at one of the Olympic events, for sure! lol :P

      Like

  2. You have simply outdone yourself with this treasure of a post, Celia! I loved every instant of this virtual stroll, from the first peek above the hillsides to the beautiful maple leaves to the udon at the end. You do have my respect for tackling that ladder, though — this reader of yours may have ended her walk right there.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing.
    I’m currently living in Busan, Korea and the colours of the autumn leaves reminded me of a trip I took to Seoul last November. Without a doubt the most beautiful variation of autumnal colours I have ever seen. Cannot wait for that time of year to come about again so I can take inspiration from you and make sure I hike a lot to fully appreciate them :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! The colours are so beautiful aren’t they! Most people wouldn’t expect it from Asian countries, but Japan/Korea/China has some amazing autumn destinations.

      Liked by 1 person

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