Mount Takao Autumn Leaves
Japanese love to feel and see the changing of the seasons, and the two major seasonal indicators are the cherry blossom viewing in the spring and in autumn, the viewing of autumn leaves. It’s even a major part of every day conversation – people will ask about this years autumn leave viewing season, get recommendations on where to go and when to visit what places. It is a chance for many near-urban communities and nature reserves to drum up business as city people venture out en masse to sample the fresh mountain air. Nature has also guaranteed a certain fairness in the game of getting the most tourist visitors – the famous areas for cherry blossom viewing gets no visitors during the autumn leave viewing season, and vice versa. Even pine trees, that aren’t very popular for viewing in any season at least has a certain economical value so it all evens out.
I and what felt like most everyone else living in Tokyo visited Mount Takao in Tokyo’s western Hachioji City last weekend to get our dose of autumn beauty, and although there is both a cable car and a lift system to ferry people past the difficult part of the walk the lines were hour long so I did like so many other well equipped people and walked all the way up the mountain, about all 3.8km, which is an easy thing on flat terrain but slightly more strenuous at a steep angle. Still, there were plenty of people with small children or elderly grandparents in tow! Japanese have always loved the outdoors and you’ll see many well kitted up people and even quite a few in their ordinary office clothes – like me. Mount Takao has a lot of fantastic Japanese Cedars that look unbelievably massive. Many of these are so old that they have started decomposing from the bottom while the top is as vigorous as ever, and the best ones are even fenced in to stop people from wearing them out by getting to close. There’s supposedly quite a lot of wildlife over here but in all the times I have visited I have never seen anything bigger than a butterfly or a hawk, but I would love to catch one of the little Maimaikaburi beetles, the “little hunters of Mount Takao” who prey on snails and worms. Warning signs tell us that it is very advisable not to look them too close in the eye since they can squirt noxious stuff that is very painful to get in your eyes. The walk up the mountain is made interesting by the many statues nestled in the side of the mountain, popular with tourists and pilgrims alike.
Mount Takao is easily accesible from Shinjuku on the Keio line, to Takaosanguchi station (高尾山口駅), and the walk to the cable car and lift stations are lined with excellent soba restaurants. If you have the health and the opportunity I recommend walking up the mountain at least once, although the lift is pretty fun too. If you want to take it easy or are worried about your health I recommend the cable car especially off seasons when it is not so crowded.
I still find it insanely difficult to get decent shots of nature stuff, but I am getting more practice this season. More photos to come!