Japan is known for its numerous beautiful mountains. If you're looking to take a break from the concrete jungle that is Tokyo, then look no further. We have selected five of the most captivating mountains, that will each act as an excellent day trip away from the crowded cities, or a romantic weekend getaway:
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Mt. Takao is popular as a mountain which can be accessed easily from the city center. At an altitude of 599m, it is located within a national park and boasts beauty throughout all four seasons. Starting with its flora and fauna such as prized birds and giant flying squirrels, you can camp and hold BBQs there; the area is under strict protection with measures such as not being allowed to bring in any vehicles. There are trekking courses on the mountain that fit your stamina and schedule, a cable car and easy hiking trails which use a lift. Plus, there is a monkey park where you can see cute Japanese macaques, Yaso Park where about 300 varieties of mountain wildflowers bloom, and a café/restaurant called Kitchen Musasabi where you can have a meal while viewing the landscape from 500m up. There is plenty to enjoy on Mt. Takao.
Mt. Takao has a strong image of being a holiday resort, but long ago in the year 744, the mountain was opened as sacred ground for Shugendo with its high number of miracles. Yakuoin Temple, located halfway up the mountain, is worshiped as a prayer temple protecting the entire Kanto region. The monks practice within the nature of Mt. Takao, and for any person who wishes, he/she has the opportunity to take part in meditation under a waterfall at Biwa Waterfall and Hebitaki Falls on the mountain. And on Mt. Takao, the legend of the Tengu to ward off misfortune and invite happiness is believed by many people. At Yakuoin, you can enjoy a healthy vegetarian meal using seasonal ingredients. We hope you can experience the joy of the blessings of nature on Mt. Takao.
The view of Mt. Fuji from the top of Mt. Takao is a wonderful place which has been selected as one of the Top 100 Scenes to View Mt. Fuji in the Kanto Region. The view of the setting sun behind Mt. Fuji, especially on the fine days of December, has been called “Diamond Fuji”, and the sight of the sun seemingly being absorbed into the crater of Mt. Fuji is magical and dramatic.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Mount Takao
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Mount Takao
- Tours of Mount Takao
(image by flickr.com)
Mt. Mitake which is located in the lush nature of Chichibu-Tama Kai National Park is popular with many hikers as a mountain which is great for day trips from the metropolis of Tokyo. At a height of 929m, Mt. Mitake has long been worshiped as a sacred mountain. It has also been considered to be a treasure trove of wild birds, insects and plant life, and from late July to August, there is the spectacle of wild grass and false anemone blooming all at once. It is also the natural habitat of the Japanese giant flying squirrel, so even now, that abundance of nature has been preserved.
Hiking is the way to enjoy yourself at Mt. Mitake. As a mountain that can be enjoyed by children and elderly alike, a number of courses is available. Among them, “Rock Garden” is a popular spot that has a beautiful scenery composed of woods, moss, clear streams, waterfalls and rocks of various shapes. By putting yourself in the midst of nature, you can relax by receiving the energy of nature from the mountain.
Reportedly built in 91 BC, Zao Gongen which was worshiped for peace and security in the Kanto region was enshrined in the shrine in the 8th century, and from that point, it developed as a sacred place for mountain worship. The Shindai-no-Keyaki (Ancient Zelkova Tree) on the path to the shrine is reputed to be 1000 years old, a Natural Monument that has a lot of history to tell, and the red main building of the shrine is lovely with an amazing view from the summit of the mountain. At the shrine repository, there is a National Treasure in the form of armor and valuable artifacts that have been designated as Important Cultural Properties on display. Also, since a dog has been enshrined there, there are many visitors who pray at the shrine for the health of their beloved dogs. In the vicinity, there are up to 20 temple guesthouses known as shukubou where visitors can spend the night and are offered vegetarian dishes. Staying at a shukubou is a profound experience that can only be found in Japan. Furthermore, visitors can try ascetic practices at the shrine such as sitting under a waterfall and mountain hiking if they are interested.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Mount Mitake
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Mount Mitake
- Tours of Mount Mitake
(image by flickr.com)
Mt. Yoshino which is a World Heritage site enshrining its cherry trees has a superb April scenery when it is covered in cherry blossoms. You can enjoy some elegant trekking while viewing the mountain, flowers and old temples.
In spring, the mountain is covered in cherry blossoms just like a pale pink fog. Walking on the mountain trails, you can enjoy trekking while feeling some of that spring energy. A Mt. Yoshino spring overflows with flowers, and while walking on the mountain, it is the ultimate flower-viewing site of note where you can enjoy the superb scene of cherry blossoms.
The sakura of Mt. Yoshino have had a close relationship with mountain worship from ancient times. During the Heian Era 1300 years ago, the mountain was opened as a sacred place for Shugendo (asceticism) with images of Bodhisattva carved into the cherry trees and enshrined as the principal object of worship in the shrines, so that the belief of cherry trees as sacred trees developed. For that reason, numerous cherry trees have been planted as seedlings being offered during memorial services for the dead.
Mt. Yoshino which has been worshiped as a utopia for the gods has not only charmed the devotees to religious practice but also the powers-that-be. The military commander Hideyoshi Toyotomi of the Warring States Era brought over a total of 5000 people in 1594 to participate in flower viewing, and there are legends such as that of the tragic Yoshitsune Minamoto in the late Heian Era. Many valuable buildings remain from those times; Kinpusen-ji Zao Hall, Yoshimizu Shrine, Yoshino Mikumari Shrine and Kinpu Shrine have been registered as World Heritage sites, and all of the shrines and temples that are scattered throughout the natural mountain have a beautiful and ancient aroma. In tandem with the nature on the mountain, a trip where you can fully enjoy first-class works of ancient Japanese art is exceptional. It’s also fun to choose homespun local food and souvenirs along the paths to the shrines. April is the peak time to see the cherry blossoms on Mt. Yoshino. But with its reputation as a famous site for flowers from long ago, it can also be enjoyed during seasons other than spring. There is the fall foliage and the snowscapes during winter, and it’s especially during the quiet seasons that a certain mystique can be felt.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Mount Yoshino
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Mount Yoshino
- Tours of Mount Yoshino
(image by flickr.com)
From Mt. Inasa’s observation deck, known as having one of the top 3 night views in Japan and in the world, you can view the beautiful nightscape of Nagasaki Harbor. The highlight is the huge 360-degree panoramic view.
Along with Mt. Hakodate in Hakodate and Mt. Rokko in Kobe, Nagasaki has one of Japan’s top three night views, and such a view from Mt. Inasa’s observation deck is well known. Furthermore in 2012, it was selected as one of the world’s new top 3 night views along with Hong Kong and Monaco. The view seen from Mt. Inasa is called the $10 million night view, and from the cylindrical-shaped View Tower which is covered all around in glass at the top of the mountain (alt. 333m), you can look at a 360-degree panoramic view. With the underground floor and the two levels above ground totally encased in glass, you can experience the night view at your own pace even in rainy weather, and the scenery from the open roof is spectacular. The afternoon scenery has a different feel, and with the Urakami River flowing through the city and plenty of undulating topography, your eyes can take in Nagasaki Harbor and Nagasaki itself, and if the weather is good, you can also see as far as the Goto Islands, Unzen and Amakusa. For those who want to see both types of scenery, coming just before sunset is recommended. There is also a restaurant on the observation deck where you can enjoy a meal and a drink while viewing the night scene.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Mount Inasa
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Mount Inasa
- Tours of Mount Inasa
(image by flickr.com)
An 848m mountain on the border of Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures, it’s a place of picturesque scenery where Lake Biwa can be seen below to the east and all of Kyoto to the west.
There is a 9-minute scenic route by Eizan Cable which is the pride of Japan that traverses 561m in altitude starting from Kyoto’s Yase-Hieizanguchi Station. The cherry blossoms of spring, the fresh green leaves of summer and the fall colors are beautiful. You can get a panoramic view of Kyoto from the plaza at Hieizan Station and also experience the olden custom of writing wishes on unglazed dishes and throwing them into the valley below. While looking down onto Kyoto, the ropeway will take you up to the top of the mountain in 3 minutes. At the Garden Museum Hiei at the top, there are works by French Impressionists re-created on porcelain panels. Along with the scenic view of Kyoto and Lake Biwa, you can enjoy the flora of the four seasons and the paintings as well as the Hana-no-Ashiyu foot bath. From the Tsutsujigaoka Observation Platform, you can see the mountain range of Kyoto-Ohara, and early in the summer, the azaleas are out in full bloom in the plaza. You can reach the World Heritage site of Enryaku-ji Temple by taking a bus from the mountain top in 5 minutes or 30 minutes on foot. After touring the temple, we recommend taking the Sakamoto cable car, the longest one of its type in Japan and head for Sakamoto Station in Shiga Prefecture.
Founded on the top of Mt. Hiei in 788 by the monk Saichou, Enryaku-ji Temple consists of 3 areas: the East Pagoda, the West Pagoda and Yokokawa. There is a main hall in each area and the temple grounds at 500 hectares are known to be a large sacred site of Buddhism which led it to be registered as a World Heritage site. Don’t miss Konponchu-do Hall (a National Treasure), the East Pagoda with the Amida Hall, and the West Pagoda with the Shaka-do Hall which is the oldest building on the mountain.