Believe the hype: the hike is worth it.
Mt. Mitake aka Mitake-san, is an amazing day trip. Known as a sacred mountain it is host to miles and miles of pristine, untouched forests, mountains, and gorges. Though only about a 90 minute train and bus ride from more central Tokyo, the landscape makes you feel like you are in an entirely different country. This is a location that's been on my to-do list for a while, so when a friend organized a trip to go I jumped at the chance!
Located in the Okutama region, the western-most part of Tokyo, Mt. Mitake is part of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, covering more than 1250 square kilometers. It is home to Musashi Mitake Shrine with a surrounding village made up of over a dozen Shinto priest families that have been caring for the shrine for centuries. Similar to the more famous Mt. Koya close to Kyoto, which is a popular destination for tourists wishing to spend a night in Buddhist temple lodging, Mitake-san offers the Shinto version of this experience: You can stay in a shukubo (or Shinto priest lodging) overnight.
Just an FYI for those feeling extra adventurous.
We began our trip early in the morning. The intention was to get there, take a bus to the Mitake Cablecar, then ride up the mountainside. But after arriving at the station we decided to begin by exploring the path along Tama River. It was gorgeous, offering both shade and breezes with a fun side of raft-watching! With a little Google-mapping, the bridge you see above took us to a path that lead to secondary bus stop, and while we were all enjoying our second (or third) bottle of water, we were officially well on our way to the top!
The Mitake Tozan Railway was a nice, easy ride to the summit, and while it offered us some cool air and amazing views, it also allowed our legs to rest. We were going to be using them very soon...a lot.
Once reaching the summit the red torii gate marked the beginning of our climb. Torii are symbols that mean the area you are about to enter is under divine protection, and considering the scenery and views it made complete sense; they were incomparable. We felt completely removed from the Tokyo we live in day in, day out.
You could smell the trees, were surrounded by hushed conversation and quietude. The air was so clean, and as we began our winding ascent towards the shrine, we took our time enjoying the shaded pathway and beautiful natural scenes around us.
This is where things got a little hairy for me. Walking and running-I can do these things. No problem. Steep inclines require slower steps and some patience. But steps...oh my word steps are the devil.