Imagine sitting on a mountaintop with breathtaking views overlooking a vast green forest. You sip your freshly brewed coffee while birds are chirping all around you. A gentle breeze blows into this open space—a welcome breath of fresh air during these stressful pandemic times.
This “outdoor kitchen/restaurant” with spectacular views is on top of Mt. Iwatakeishi (793m) in Ome, Tokyo. It’s part of the Okutama Mountain Range and is the highest of three mountains collectively known as Takamizusanzan (高水三山—literally translated as “the three mountains of Takamizu”). The trailhead is conveniently located just a few minutes north of the Mitake Station on the JR Ome Line. There are vending machines where you can pick up some last minute drinks and a public restroom (there won’t be any for another three hours).
Don’t be discouraged by the steep first 15 minutes of the hike. The trail will start to flatten out as you make your way up the mountain. After reaching a small wooden shrine, take the left fork up to the top of the 756-meter Mt. Sougaku (惣岳山). You can also skip this first peak and forego bagging the “three peaks” by going right and taking the detour route that winds around the mountain instead of up and over it.
The “peak” of this first mountain is flat and spacious but completely surrounded by a forest.There is an old wooden shrine called the Aoi Okumiya Jinja (the “rear” shrine of the main Aoi Shrine at the foot of the mountain). Upon first glance, this shrine, surrounded by an old rusty fence, looks quite derelict, but upon closer examination there are elaborate wood carvings engraved on this once magnificent structure.
The short climb down Mt. Sougaku is steep and rocky. Go slowly and be careful not to drop rocks onto hikers below. Once you reach the bottom, the trail flattens out onto a nice easy trail that takes you towards the second mountain—Mt. Iwatakeishi. It’s another 40-minute hike with the final approach up a steep rocky climb. Once you reach the top, you’ll be immediately rewarded to jaw-dropping views of the Oku-musashi Mountains.
The peak of Mt. Iwadakeishi is a flat area suitable for setting up your portable outdoor kitchen. There are a few wooden benches but you can also just layout your picnic sheet facing any direction to take in the spectacular 360-degree views.
The easiest and quickest descent is to take the same route down. If you prefer a different route, you can hike towards the third mountain—Mt. Takamizu—and stop by the beautiful Takamizu Shrine. The descending trail from the shrine gets quite steep with big wooden stairs. Once you reach the trailhead exit, proceed down the long paved road until you see a big red bridge overhead. Just before the bridge take a right turn up a narrow paved road and cross the train tracks to reach Ikusabata Station on the JR Ome Line.
Take the JR Ome Line from Tachikawa to Mitake Station. Stop by the tourist office and pick up some hiking maps. Turn left at the traffic lights. Walk up a set of stairs and follow the signs. The trailhead is located just north of the train tracks on the left-hand side of a building.
Time: 4 hrs. 25 min. / Distance: 8.8 km.
Iwadakeishi Trailhead — Mt. Sougaku (2 hrs.) — Mt. Iwadakeishi (40 min.) — Mt. Takamizu (35 min.) — Takamizu Trailhead (45 min.) — Ikusabata Station (25 min.)
The above times are estimated hiking times that will vary depending on trail conditions and fitness level. Remember to add in additional time (at least an hour) for your outdoor kitchen lunch!
When cooking in an “outdoor kitchen” especially on top of a mountain, resources such as fuel and water will most likely limited so it’s important to try to keep everything simple and cooking times as short as possible. A lightweight non-stick frying pan is highly recommended to prevent burning and save on cleaning time.
Sauteed Nanohana (Canola Flower)
Fresh Nanohana (canola flower), salt & pepper, oil
Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the nanohana. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fresh nanohana are popular springtime vegetables with a slightly bitter taste. If you can’t find nanohana, substitute with any type of fresh greens you prefer (e.g. spinach, asparagus, etc.)
Fried Mozzarella Cheese Balls
Fresh mozzarella cheese balls, butter, salt & pepper
Heat the butter in a frying pan and sauté the cheese balls until partially melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Beef, salt & pepper, herbs
Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook steak to your preference. Add salt and pepper and herbs to taste. Cut into bite size pieces and enjoy!
Sauteed Eringi Mushrooms in Soy Sauce & Butter
Fresh eringi mushrooms, butter, soy sauce, salt & pepper
Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the eringi mushrooms. Add butter, soy sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Eringi mushrooms are firm in texture and go well with steak. Another option is to use a mix of mushrooms such as enoki, eringi, maitake and shimeji.
Easy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potato mix, olives, garlic butter (garlic butter sold in a tube is convenient to carry around), parsley, salt & pepper
Add water to the mashed potato mix and stir until you reach your desired texture. Add garlic butter, salt and pepper and olives to taste. Sprinkle on some parsley for that final touch.
Lettuce leaves, Caesar salad dressing, Parmesan cheese
Wash the lettuce leaves at home to save water. Mix together salad and dressing. Sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese.
Outdoor Cooking Essentials
Cooking Utensils: Frying pan (preferably non-stick), spatula, tongs, outdoor cooking stove and fuel
Cutlery: Plates, bowls, spoon, fork and/or chopsticks