The past couple of weekends I have been hiking in various places throughout Japan with my friends. This weekend I went to Mt. Takao on the outskirts of the Tokyo Prefecture. It was a pretty easy climb, but very crowded. One of the problems with hiking in Japan is that if it’s a weekend, the trail will be crowded. Even on the train to the trail you can easily tell who is going hiking and there are a lot of them. It can be a problem when the trail at some points is literally backed up with foot traffic.
We started the hike at about 10:30 AM and slowly made our ascent. Right from the beginning, it was gorgeous. We passed by a buddhist altar in a cave and a Shinto shrine with a waterfall. The hike was a steady ascent and soon we found ourselves at the top. We saw a crowd of people near the look out point and were struck with one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen in Japan. It was a bunch of rolling mountains and in the distance, Mt. Fuji. The picture above really does not do it justice. It was beyond beautiful. The problem was, again, it was very crowded and we had to fight through the crowd to get a decent shot of the view.
Perhaps that is one of the greatest drawbacks about living in Tokyo–you miss nature. While the urban sprawl is lively and convenient, you miss the beauty and the calm serene of nature. That’s why many Japanese tend to want to get out of the crazy city life and just enjoy nature for a weekend. If you ever come to Tokyo and stay for an extended period, trust me, you are going to want to get out of the city environment.
Hiking is the perfect way to explore a country. You get a sense of what ancient Japan looked like, according to my professor, while in these areas. I figured out why the ancient Japanese did not travel so much and why there used to be (unfortunately, it’s slowly dying) so many dialects. One of the highlights of one trip up in Akita was when I was hiking with a couple of Japanese friends and I was invited to one of my friends’ grandparents house. It was a huge honor. It was funny that the other student could not understand the Akita dialect in the slightest. So the other student had to translate for him and he translated it to me. Unfortunately these local dialects are dying and with it, some of the unique cultural aspects that came along with it. All in all, hiking in Japan is awesome. If you ever get the chance, pick a place to hike in Japan and just go. You’ll love what you see.