Mt. Takao is located 50km to the west of the central Tokyo so you can reach its skirt by one-hour train ride from Tokyo Shinjuku Station. Its green environment has been well preserved, thus making a very popular hiking area today. Back in the Edo Era, Mt.Takao was worshiped as a sacred mountain by people in Edo (Old Tokyo).
The location is said to be on a boundary of the northern limit of subtropical zone and the beginning of warm temperate zone so its forests are a mix of ever-green broad-leaved trees and deciduous broad-leaved trees which signify each flora. This environment fosters diversity in wildlife and creates unique natural scenes like pale pink color of cherry blossoms in spring or red and yellow colors of maple trees in autumn against ever-green leaves, marking beautiful contrasts. These are reasons why Mt.Takao has been designated “Green Michelin”.
Sacred Mountain & TENGU
Mt.Takao had long been worshiped by people as a sacred mountain, which is why its forests and nature were well protected from human intervention. The Yakuo-in Temple on Mt.Takao was established in the 8th century as a base for Buddhism in eastern Japan on an Emperor’s order and restored in the 14th century as a sacred site of the Esoteric Buddhism which got fusion with the Mountain Asceticism. Photos are “Tengu” placed just in front of the Iizuna Gongen-do Hall. The Iizuna Gongen has been enshrined as a principal Shinto deity who is believed to be the manifestation of Fudo Myo-o, the venerable status specific to the Esoteric Buddhism (I assume you’ve been confused with a mixture of Shintoism and Buddhism … It’s called the syncretism, a religious view unique to Japan). One Tengu on the photo is a long-nosed being, the other a crow-billed being. They are believed to live on sacred mountains, act as the messengers of deities and Buddhas who dwell there, and protect the good. Their fans are capable to create strong winds to sweep away misfortune and invite good fortune. With wings, they can fly freely. If you encountered something supernatural during your trip to Mt.Takao, it must have been done by Tengu!
There are several hiking trails, many of which take you about two hours from a railway station on the skirt to the top of Mt.Takao (599m). If you don’t have confidence in your physical strength, you may want to ride on a cable-car which lifts you up to the altitude of 472m, leaving only the gap of 127m to the top. If it’s fine, you’ll be able to view Mt.Fuji.
Shojin Ryori, Buddhist vegetarian cuisine
Besides your joy of indulging in nature, you may want to experience “Shoin Ryori”, Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. It is served at a Buddhist facility on the property of the Yakuo-in Temple. The photo was taken when I myself enjoyed “Soba Gozen” which refers to meals with Soba buckwheat noodles. Needless to say, there is no animal meat used for the Buddhist precept against killing but actually the dishes were very tasty (and low fat).
Plan a visit to Mt.Takao
If you schedule to stay in Tokyo, why don’t you extend your legs and make one-day trip to Mt.Takao? I can be of help as a National interpreter guide (certified by Japan Travel Agency) and/or trekking guide (certified by Japan Mountain Guide Association).
By Jin Shibata
Let’s cross fingers for days with no worry about COVID-19 coming before long!