Where does the Tengu go? - Mt. Mitake Day trip
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Mitake is a place I love. A quiet little village that sits on the edge of Tokyo. Easily accessible from Shinjuku by train in just 1 hour 30 minutes.
People often talk about Mount Takao but if you want a hike away from the crowds with the added bonus of a cute chair lift and dog shrine then definitely don't miss the chance to go.
Time and travel
Mount Mitake, at 929m can be climbed in just a day and it's relatively easy although steep at times. It also makes for a perfect weekend escape as it boasts a small village of Ryokans (traditional Japanese hotels). This is particularly ideal if your goal is not just to tackle Mitake, but to also see the rock garden or climb the neighbouring mountain Otake. Beware the climb to the neighbouring mountain is estimated to be a 5 hour round trip from Mitake Shrine, the rock garden on the other hand can be completed as part of a day trip.
To maximise your time on the mountain, I recommend boarding the bus just left of Mitake station, it's about a 10 minute ride or an hour and a half if you decide to walk. The bus will take you to the bottom of the cable car where you can purchase a 2 day round trip and you can also include the cute chair lift, all for just 1,320 yen. The cable car is a short journey and once you have arrived you can then take the chair lift and begin your hike.
Food and drink
If you'd prefer a sit down meal before your hike, then at the "shopping mall" there are some restaurants and cafes that serve food such as noodles and tempura. The shopping mall is also where you can buy omiyage (souvenirs). I couldn't resist buying some yuzu miso (ゆずみそ - yuzu is a Japanese citrus). Alternatively you can save exploring this street until after your hike and reward your efforts with the taste of locally made sake.
A bit of history about the Shrine
Musashi Mitake Jinjya Shrine is at the top of Mount Mitake and often nicknamed "the dog shrine" as you can bring your dog and even wash your dog at the tori gate. As you make your way up the stairs be sure to look out for the demons lurking in the stone, there are 3 in total! There are a lot of stairs on the way up but you'll find adorable benches to rest at with stone animal statues holding your seat. Mitake Shrine was founded more than 2,000 years ago, it's grand wooden decor has since been renovated like most shrines in Japan but it is identical to the original. Legend has it that the mythical, prince warrior Yamato Takeru dedicated this shrine to o-inu-sama when the god in a wolf incarnation saved him from an evil spirit. He asked the wolf to protect the land and since inu is the Japanese word for dog, the shrine became popular with dog owners. Just before the shrine there are two wolf statues guarding it's entrance.
Advice on route to take
On the map there a path marked (長い急坂) which means long, steep path. This path is okay to walk down but I would not recommend you to walk up it because as the name suggests it is steep. The waterfalls however are beautiful and the rock (Tengu Iwa) impressive so my advice is that you loop round by going down the steep long path first to see Nagaodaira waterfall, then up the red staircase to the rock. Ayahironotaki waterfall is particularly beautiful, and there is a rest station with benches that would make the perfect picnic spot.
Highlighted: my recommended route. You can pick up a map just like this one at the station.
What is the Tengu-iwa rock?
I recommend you visit the Tengu-iwa rock, named after a tengu, a long nosed red faced demon. It's said that the rock looks like a tengu facing upwards but another story says a man wandering the area once saw a woman pushed by a tengu from the top of the rock and she lost all her hair as a result. According to this story a tengu watches the rock from a tree nearby waiting to cause mischief. The waterfalls you will come across on the other hand are sacred and part of a pilgrimage. They are not too big but they are beautiful and the water is crystal clear.
So when should you visit?
The mountain is popular on the weekends with locals and dog walkers so weekdays are best. However, perhaps the busiest time and rightly so is Autumn, usually October or November to be exact, when the leaves change to oranges, reds and yellows, this is definitely when Mitake looks it's best.
On your way back to Tokyo, why not treat yourself to sake tasting at Sawanoi- Ozawa Brewery, the perfect place to admire the autumn leaves alongside the river. If you climb Mitake, let me know how it goes in the comments and if you want more of Mitake then why not try other activities in the area like Kayaking or SUP boarding on the Tama river?