As you exit the cable car from Takimoto Station and take in the view of the surrounding Musashino Plain, it is clear why the local samurai made Mt. Mitake a place of worship and training.
Mitake Shrine, located at the top of an enormous flight of stone stairs on Mt. Mitake, dates back nearly 1,200 years. It is a popular destination for hikers looking for a cultural experience, some fresh air and exercise while hiking a few kilometers in the forest without having to spend half the morning on a train or in a car getting there. The annual summer festival is held on the third Sunday of June (June 15 this year) and features a traditional lion dance and Kagura performances. It is free to the public.
You can extend the hike all the way to Tsurutsuru Onsen (about two-and-a-half hours from the shrine) where you can enjoy a bath and catch a bus to Musashi-Itsukaichi Station.
The Mitake Rock Garden is another area especially good in summer. As you near the top of the shrine, look for a small dirt path off to the left for Nagao-daira and “The Mitake Rock Garden.” There are some benches here, and it is a good place for a picnic and to check out the map for information on the trails.
Plan two or three hours for a round trip through the rock garden and only take the first trail (which descends to Nanano Waterfall) if you don’t mind slippery rocks and stairs.
There are three holiday rapid trains for Okutama leaving from Shinjuku each Saturday, Sunday and holiday mornings (¥890 one way; please check a train guide for current times). Be careful you ride in the front of the train heading in the direction of Tachikawa as the train separates in Haijima, with the back of the train going to Musashi-Itsukaichi. It should be noted there are no reserved seats, no restroom or vending machines on the trains. Mitake is a few stations before reaching Okutama.
After exiting Mitake Station, cross the street and walk 50 meters to your left to the bus that will take you to the cable car. From the cable car, walk to the left and pass under a torii gate that will take you on a one-kilometer pathway to Mitake Village.
Train Information (English): www.jorudan.co.jp/english/
Mitake Shrine: (0428) 78-8500
Japan Adventures Monthly Hiking Tours
Dates: April 19, May 31, June 14, July 12