Access: JR Ome Line Mitake Station
Cost: Around JPY 3,710 (Shinjuku Sta. to Mitake Station: JPY 970; Bus to Mitakesan: JPY 280; Round-trip Cable Car JPY 1,110; One-way Lift to Anzan Sugi: JPY 100)
Difficulty: Absolute beginner to beginner
Duration: Approx. 3 hours
Hiking Course: Mitake Station→Mitakesan Station (Cable Car)→Anzan Sugi→Shopping Street→Musashi Mitake Shrine→Nagao Taira→Tengu Rock→Rock Garden
Date Visited: April 16, 2017
While not as popular as Mt. Takao, Mt. Mitake makes a very pleasant day hike for people living or staying in Tokyo. Most of the hike is pretty easy with some options for challenging routes. And by easy, I mean I hiked this mountain with a grade one sprain, which is something no person with proper sense would do, but given that I frequently meet elderly people with slightly impaired motor abilities go on hikes, I decided to take on the challenge. (That, and I was seeing my end to a promise to a friend.)
The hike starts at Mitake Station of the JR Ome Line, which is around an hour and a half away from Shinjuku. From there, you can take a bus that takes you to the cable car station. It’s about a 10-minute ride.
Once at the cable car station, you will see a few shops lined up. I got myself a wasabi-flavored chikuwa for the hike ahead.
When you reach the end of the cable car trip, you will see another rest stop. Granted the weather is good, the area is also a good place to take photos.
Lift to Anzan Sugi
From the rest stop, you can either start hiking the mountain trail or take a lift that takes you directly to Anzan Sugi (安産杉), a cedar tree that people have prayed to for safe birth since ancient times.
Getting to Anzan Sugi on foot is perhaps not very challenging. Given my condition at the time, however, I decided to minimize the strain on my foot by taking a lift. The lift looked rather rickety and I could imagine children falling off the chairs rather easily, but I dare say that’s part of its charm. I enjoyed the ride up.
The entry point to Anzan Sugi is a set of wooden stairs, which will take you to a small shrine. A little further and you will see the famed cedar tree, wrapped in shimenawa. (標縄; enclosing rope)
Alongside the Anzan Sugi are a few other trees that people worship for different reasons. One of them is Kosazuke Hinoki (子授檜; child-granting cypress), which people pray to for a harmonious relationship with their partner, and more importantly to have children. There’s a part of the tree that protrudes like a child’s head or an infant in fetal position, depending on how you look at it. When I was there, a man was fervently praying while touching it, so much so that I found myself rather moved. If you think about it, he climbed all the way just to pray for a child. I really hope by now he’s gotten what he wished for.
Not far away from the Kosazuke Hinoki is a pair of trees aptly called Meoto Sugi. (夫婦杉; cedar couple) The tree on the right is represents a male, the one on the left, female. There’s also a wooden plank in the space between the two trees. People wishing for love should cross the plank while touching the tree that represents the partner they wish to have. Yep, I crossed that plank touching the male cedar tree but the heavens have willed that I stay single. Haha.
As you leave the shrine and follow the trail, you’ll reach the Mitake Visitor Center and eventually, the shopping street. Plenty of curious shops are lined up in this area, some with food and others with souvenirs. It makes you wonder how the area looked in older times, with merchants selling wares to pilgrims.
Musashi Mitake Shrine
At the end of the shopping street is Musashi Mitake Shrine. (武蔵御嶽神社; Musashi Mitake Jinja) One thing that makes this shrine different from others is that it caters to humans as well as pets. There’s cleansing water specifically for pets at the chouzuba (手水場; purification trough) and there’s even omamori (お守り;protective charms) for them. I happen to see people with pets whenever I go on a hike so I think this is a pretty neat marketing strategy for the shrine.
Leaving the shrine and going further, you’ll reach another rest stop called Nagao Taira. (長尾平) Yup, another one. Like I said, this hike isn’t all that hard. The areas has wooden chairs and tables. There’s even a small shop that sells beer and other refreshments, perfect for a picnic in the mountain with friends or family.
Among the options that can make Mt. Mitake a more challenging hike is climbing to see the Tengu Rock. (天狗岩；てんぐいわ) Reaching this area of the mountain requires holding on to a chain and tree roots, which will be rewarded with the sight of a tengu statue. As much as I wanted to climb this one, I had to skip it because I wasn’t sure if my sprained foot could handle the descent.
And finally, the most popular area of the mountain is called the Rock Garden, so called for the numerous moss-covered rocks that populate the place. I visited in April, so the garden wasn’t as green as it gets in June, but it was still a lovely sight. There’s also a rest area toward the end of the garden, where I took a rest, ate rice balls and read a book. It’s a nice reading spot if you ask me. A bit of a workout required, but lovely nonetheless.
From the Rock Garden, eager hikers can continue the trail to Mt. Hinode or Mt. Odake, but an alternative option is to go back to where you started and make the descent. I opted for the latter, given that by this time, my foot was already throbbing with discomfort. Again, it’s a bad, not to mention stupid idea to hike with a sprained foot.
If you’re looking for an easy day hike in Tokyo, I’d say give Mt. Mitake a go. Whether you’re seeking alone time or you want to spend time with family or friends, Mt. Mitake offers a refreshing environment for the body and soul.