Friday, 21 December 2012

Autumn Colours 3 - North Takao Ridge

After the South Takao Ridge, we now have its counterpart on the north side. The photographs in here come from two separate December hikes, catching the back end of 2012's autumn.

Again, you can find instructions and details here if you'd like to attempt this one yourself. This is among the best so far for splendid views, as north Takao is packed with deciduous woodland with fewer of the south's evergreen plantations, and frequent openings provide panoramas in both directions. To the north, Tokyo's sprawl subsides into spreading Oku-Tama mountainscapes, while the south offers the main ridge's colourful slopes and some impressive views of Mt. Fuji.

Be warned. This is a serious trek, and a jump up in challenge from the south or main ridge. Though you will not go higher than 731m, almost the entire route consists in steep climbs or descents, alternating unrelenting. The ridge is far less travelled than Takao itself, and there are few escape routes should you run into trouble once on it. Treat this walk with respect: go at a decent level of fitness, and bring a map and a compass as well as sufficient food and water. There are no toilets, so be sure to bear a toilet roll. And especially in winter, start walking as early as possible, to make sure you make it down before darkness sets in around 4:30-5pm; a flashlight is recommended just in case.

The paths are in good condition, not too rocky and often soft. Signposting is good, despite a few spots of confusion.

North Takao Ridge
Length: Approx. 14km. However, it will feel like a lot longer.
Hiking Time: Allow at least 7-8 hours.
Height: After the first hour-and-a-half's ascent to 556m (starting at 211m), the main section is an arduous 6km up and down a long series of peaks. Eventually the ridge merges into the Takao-Jinba ridge at Mt. Dōdokoro (堂所山), the walk's highest point at 731m. From there a sustained descent returns you to the road at 237m, with a final half-hour of flat pavement to Sagami Lake.

1) Go to Takao Station (高尾) on the Chuo or Keio Line, and go out of the North Exit.
2) From the bus terminal there, many buses go to the Hachioji Cemetery entrance (Hachioji reien-mae, 八王子霊園前) where the walk starts, including buses 1, 2 and 11. It only takes about 6 minutes to get there.
3) The walk ends at Sagami Lake and Sagamiko Station (相模湖駅), one stop past Takao Station on the Chuo Line.

Friday, 14 December 2012


Not all of Japan was flattened in World War II. In Saitama Prefecture, Tokyo's neighbour to the north, the city of Kawagoe came through relatively unscathed, and to this day offers glimpses into the region's Edo-period heritage (1603-1868 CE).

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Autumn Colours 2 - South Takao Ridge

Following Sengenrei, here is some information on another nice autumn hike. Mt. Takao is one of the most popular and crowded mountains in the Tokyo metropolis: making it an all the more welcoming surprise that the southern ridge is comparatively secluded, tranquil and dense with foliage.

This route is longer and more rigorous than Sengenrei, with much more in the way of steep climbs and descents along an undulating ridge. At reasonable fitness however it should not be too challenging.

For those concerned, it is possible to skip about a third of the route here covered. The description here begins with Mt. Takao and Mt. Shiroyama, as previously featured, then swerves away to the south ridge. But if time, energy or stamina are limited, a short bus ride goes from the start point straight to the south ridge's ascent, cutting an hour or two and some of the steepest sections from the walk.

The south ridge follows the border between Tokyo Metropolis and Kanagawa Prefecture, to the north and south respectively. Though much of it is enveloped in woods and plantations, these occasionally break to provide great views over either. On a clear day, Mt. Fuji watches from the horizon.

South Takao Ridge
Length: Approx. 14km (9km if only doing the ridge itself)
Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Height: Takao is 599m high, with easy options available for ascending it. Some gentle ups and downs follow the ridge to Shiroyama at 670m. From there to the south ridge requires a steep descent into the valley and ascent to get back up from it. The peaks of the ridge itself are about 450-500m high, with varying ups and downs between them.
1) Go to Takaosanguchi Station (高尾山口駅) (Chuo Line to Takao Station, then Keiō Takao Line one stop). You can start the hike from there, or...
2) Take a 15-minute bus ride from the station to Ōdarumi (大垂水) bus stop, if you are cutting out the Takao-Shiroyama section and only doing the South Takao Ridge.