A hike up Mount Takao for a beautiful sunset

man walking Mount Takao trail
Hiking on one of Mount Takao's trails.

In 2019, my mate Derek told me he would hike up Mount Takao and asked me along.  He wanted to experience some of Tokyo’s nature and see the stars.  It sounded like a good idea because I hadn’t been there for a few years.  And there was another reason. I had never seen its sunset. 

Even though it was December and early winter, I decided to go. And with the weather forecast being sunny, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was a great day, and the sunset was amazing.

Mount Takao Tengu
Many tengu are on the mountain.

We got the Keio Line from Shinjuku to Takaosanguchi, the closest station to the mountain. The train trip took about fifty minutes. After a soba lunch, we headed off to find our trail.

There are ten on Mount Takao, and we chose number one. According to the internet, it was beginner-friendly and had good views. We found a few parts very steep, though.

small buddha statues
Temple jizo statues.

It was a good climb, and we enjoyed it. Yes, some parts left us a little short of breath, but nothing was impossible. There were so many jizo statues and small shrines along the way. We wondered what life might have been like in the old days.

The climb took less than two hours, even with my stopping to take photos. We were happy to breathe fresh air. And being a weekday, it was nice to be somewhere with few people. Compared to downtown Tokyo street, Mount Takao was mostly empty of people. Those that we met gave us a friendly: “Konnichiwa.” Derek got his wish.

It was great to reach the top. Walking around the temples and shrines was good fun, as we got some nice shots of the buildings and tengu.  There was a lot to explore. And many stairs depending on which turn you take, which can be hard on the legs.

Around the temples, there were more people. They had come by different trails and the cable car. No one seemed to be heading to the top of Takao.

Once we got to the summit, we saw why few people were there. Clouds covered Mount Fuji. But we wouldn’t give up so easily. We had a goal. Things might change. And they did! I’m glad we waited.

As we stood there, the cloud cover thinned out. Eventually, Fuji’s summit poked its head out. Soon enough, half was uncovered, and it was easy to see that strong winds were pushing the clouds around. And as the sun continued to set, the colors of the scene changed. There were many different yellows and oranges. It was stunning.

Fuji put on a great display. Before the sun finally went down, some clouds formed a dragon-like shape. They coiled around the peak. It reminded me of the painting by Hokusai. For us, it was a great way to enjoy that last bit of sunlight.

Mount Takao Tokyo view
Looking towards central Tokyo.

And when the light finally faded, what of the stars? Well, they were underwhelming, to be honest. A few points of light appeared, but not too many nor too strongly. Maybe it was due to light pollution. We couldn’t debate much as the train was waiting!

The trip back from the top to the cable car was an experience. It was night, and there were no lights on the path. We had one torch and one iPhone to guide us.

Furthermore, the path wasn’t all paved. And it was pretty steep in some areas. It wasn’t the best situation.

Derek on Mount Takao
Derek at the mountain's summit.

As we got further down, we hit more troubles. Some areas near the temples were locked, and we stumbled around them. Still, we got to the cable car in one piece. A few people who enjoyed the mountain’s beer garden joined us.

We had a great time that day. The hike up was enjoyable, as was the time at the peak (clouds included). If I had to make any complaints about Takao, it was that some of the trees and bushes were too high. That interfered with some views. It would be a good idea if someone trimmed them.

Mount Fuji sunset
Our Mount Fuji sunset.

The other thing that would be nice is illumination along the paths near the peak. It would make things safer. Lights would bring more people. Still, as it is, Mount Takao is a great place to spend some time with friends and enjoy fabulous sunsets. I recommend it!

Are there any problems for photographers at Mount Takao?

No, nothing. You can take your tripods and bags. Just be aware that some paths can be difficult so keep your weight limit in mind. Also, keep in mind that trains can be crowded in spring and autumn.

Where is Mount Takao?

It’s in Tokyo’s west, about an hour’s train ride from Shinjuku. Get off at Takaosanguchi. You can hike up the mountain or get the cable car from there.

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