Monday, November 06, 2006

Trekking on Mt. Takao – Japan

Vipin (an Indian friend) and me had plan to have a trekking experience in Japan; for a long time we have been thinking of Mt. Fuji but we could never make it. After a long search on the internet we found the mountains in Kanto region, filtered the results with a constraint for easy reach from Tokyo that gave the target Mount Takaosan. I also read about the autumn season and the maple leaves of the Takaosan Temple. I was really impressed by many articles on the internet about other's experience with the Mt. Takao.

Last Saturday morning we took the train from Shinjuku station in Keio line which operates trains to Takaosanguchi station. The Keio line starts in Shinjuku as a subway and soon after one or two minutes it comes out of the subway tunnel and runs on the open rails. Hence I liked the train which showcase me the Tokyo suburbs. Takaosanguchi station is just below the Mt. Takao. The trekking trial starts exactly from the station entrance. There is a large size red colored dori (Traditional Japanese arch seen on the temple entrance) erected outside the station in Takaosanguchi.

Mount Takao is not a tall mountain. But walking on the trekking route provides lots of fun as we moved in to the wild and steep path. There were three different mountain climb routes started immediately after the station entrance. There were two more routes that are braches for the main route. I got to know these information from the broachers put outside the station. It has lot of information about the attractions but you should know Japanese to understand. I used my intelligence to find the important things by looking at the pictures provided. There are totally six different routes which takes us to the top of the mountain. After carefully reading and seeing the broachers (most of them were in Japanese, hence I was requiring help from others to understand the route) we have selected the route which goes with thickest nature way touching the Takaosan temple. Actually it doesn’t go via. the temple but a few meters away from the temple the path takes a wild route. We can enjoy the core of the nature, the dark green forests while your wet breath fills the air. Another main reason to select this route is that I have seen a rob bridge (hanging bridge) shown on the broachers on this route, which attracted me largely.

The route which we have selected seems to be bit steeper than of other routes, however for the convenient of elderly and fun lovers the local authorities have arranged a Cable car and Chair car provisions to go up to Takaosan Temple. The cost for one way travel is 470yens and for two way its 900yens per person. I liked the Chair car stuff a lot, 2 people in a chair that hang and move on a cable assisted with giant winches to climb the mountain halfway. As we decided to trek on the mountain, we didn’t choose the cable stuffs. The trekking experience in the wild forest was a thrilling experience, many places you can see the path goes very narrow. One side of the path slides deep into the mountain with thickest forest. The path was bit slippery due to the moisture and really a dangerous movement in couple of places. But to my surprise lots of Japanese with kids have came on the same trekking route which we have selected.

I have seen even the elderly women and men eagerly trekking alongside with us. During our walk we reached the hanging Bridge and took some pictures over there, looking at the surrounding of the bride gave us fun as it built on top of a wild water canal. Though it connecting a valley and on top of a canal but the season is autumn and there was not much of water in it. A thin line of natural mineral water flows in the canal with chal chal chal sound. I think this is the same canal which ends in the bottom of the mountain as small water falls; it was just before the chair car station bottom of the mountain.

In some areas of the path, we could get beautiful Ariel view of Tokyo, I didn’t forget to bring my binocular it helped me in this trip. In many places the local body has installed information boards about the animals, birds and insects found on the particular area of trekking path. Unfortunately it was not useful to me as every single letter was in Japanese. It would have been better if they put some English information to promote and encourage tourism and tourist respectively. While walking over the wildest mountain we met couple of people, importantly an old Japanese group of ladies who offered us chocolate candies. They discussed with us in minimal English about our work etc. I have not missed to take a picture with them : -) After a while we have reached an area which turns intersection with three more other paths, from there the travel to the mountain peak is joined and mixed with all the people. I also noticed during my walk that every 50 meters of the routes were installed with some statues of local gods and Buddha. Also I noticed the Japanese have some holy tree and stuffs like that inside the forest.

Later about 4:00pm we have reached the mountain top, as expected nothing was there on the top, but it was crowded. The west side of the top was getting ready for observatory I guess. There was a machine which does some civil construction work to provide barricade. I forget to tell, till the mountain top the automobile are able to reach, but not those of general public but of the local authority’s vehicles. We have seen the sun set from the mountain top and started getting down. While going down our aim to visit the Takaosan Temple. Hence we moved towards the route on our target Takaosan Temple. Soon after few minutes walk we have reached the first level of the Takaosan temple. I think it has four levels, each level is having a temple for different god/goddess. From the top, the first level temple is relatively small and going down you will see bigger sized temples. Actually now the sky became too dark stopping me to take pictures, as I have not carrying my tripod I was really felt too much disappointed. During my trails taking pictures in the 1st level I met a Brazilian lady who was so kind and chat with us for few minutes. I didn’t forget to give her my email id and website address to invite her to my site and friendship.

The temple in second level is really good one with lots of wooden sculpture and pain work. All of these temples were painted with red color and the carvings with multi color paintings. This temple is a must see spot in the Mt. Takao; unfortunately I lost the light before reaching the temple. I wish the temple authorities provide good lighting in the evening to highlight the temple. Finally I reached the main Takaosan temple which is in giant size and brown in color, the entrance facing towards downwards of my trekking path had two god statues with angry face. I have seen similar stuffs in Asakusa and other temple visits in Japan. When I was trying to use the tiny flash to take pictures of the temple, there was guy who came near to me asking me not to take pictures. It was strange to me, as he stopped only me but others.

Now the entire environment turned dark and moon on straight line of my eyes. It was good walking on the pavement towards downside of the hill, in some locations I heard the wild monkey fighting sound and some ku ku ku ku.. Kiiiirriichhh Kiiiirrrrich noise. After a little walk we reached the cable car mountain station, As it turned dark I decided not to walk anymore and decided opted to take he cable chair facility. So I could hang on the chair while moving down top of the forest in sitting position. Unfortunate awaited to disappoint me again, the cable car staff has conveyed me that the cable chair facility ends before 5:00pm, when he said that piece of information to me the time was already 5:30pm. Hence we had left with no option to choose only the cable car. It was nice too traveling on the step modeled cable car. It reached real quick to the bottom of the mountain.

We walked towards the Takao station and had 20mins time before the Rapid train departure, so decided to walk on the local roads to see anything interesting to us. Luckily we found a Trick Art Museum which exhibits lots of art work that trick to fool you of thinking the images are original people. Those were really cool to enjoy, they charge a minimal of 200yen as entrance fee to get in but lots of the pictures are visible from the road itself.

After few minutes of watching, I have ended my trekking day on Mt. Takao and railed on Keio back to Shinjuku. From where I took my subway Oedo Line back to my Apartment.
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