One seemingly sunny July Thursday a friend and I decided to tackle another one of Tokyo’s famous mountains – Mt Mitake. Arriving at Mitake Station in the early morning, we were greeted by a yodel-inducing scene which wouldn’t look out of place in The Sound of Music.
With a river of clear-blue water and Mt Mitake in the background, it was firmly placed in my mind that Japan is definitely the most beautiful country I have visited (other than South Africa itself).
Slightly taller than Mt Takao, Mitake-san stands about 929 metres high with a shrine that sits on the mountain’s summit. Mitake is only about two hours away from central Tokyo and is another great spot for anyone trying to briefly escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
For the adamant hiker, you can take a lovely walk along the river at Mitake Station before taking a somewhat challenging hike up to the summit. For the not-so adamant hiker, you can just as easily take a readily available cable car to the top before heading out on one of the many trails.
Being not-so adamant hikers, my friend and I decided that it would be better to take the steep ride on the cable car. The view going up was stunning. With blue and purple hydrangeas in full bloom, and the summer rains making the scenery a brilliant green, the view from the top was truly picturesque.
The walk to the summit from the cable car is rather relaxing, and after passing plenty of ryokans, restaurants, and souvenir stores, you will come across plenty of wolf statues that guard the shrine at the top of the mountain.
Instead of the regular statues of dogs or foxes protecting the Musashi-Mitake Shrine, there are a set of wolves keeping watch. This is because of an old tale about Yamato Takeru (an Imperial prince of Emperor Keiko).
The story goes that Yamato got lost near Mitake-san on a journey to conquer the east. At this time, he came across a mysterious wolf that led him to safety. Feeling grateful, Yamato ordered this wolf to watch over Mitake-san as a god and protect it from unwanted dangers.
If you’re not interested in man-made structures on mountain tops, there are plenty of natural wonders for you to behold. Along with a visit to the shrine, we also decided to visit the local waterfall and rock garden. For this part, you can choose to either take a long winding path down to the waterfall and back up to the rock garden, or you can take a more direct route and go down and up a much steeper path.
Not wanting to waste any time, we took the steeper path down to the waterfall. Although the waterfall is not as breath-taking as many others I have seen, it was still refreshing to drink the clear waters streaming down.
The hike back up to the rock garden was not so bad… but then horror struck.
Before reaching the rock garden, the skies opened up and down came the rain. And I mean rain. As the path we were walking on quickly turned into a rapidly flowing river, we made our way back to find shelter from the rain. However, we were too far out and by the time we could take shelter under a ramshackle shed, we were drenched to the bone.
But as the rain cleared up, a beautiful sight met our eyes: light fluffy clouds were hanging low on the mountainside – giving an eerie, yet picturesque, atmosphere. This gave me a sense of what Yamato Takeru must have been feeling when he got lost on the mountainside.
Overall, Mt Mitake is a great mountain to visit. Slightly more challenging than Mt Takao, I recommend hiking Mitake-San during the early summer season so that you can see all the beautiful flowers and hydrangeas that speckle the bright green mountainside.