Getting out of Tokyo

Popular media often characterizes Tokyo as a mess of endless neon and concrete. I’ve also described it this way in the past, but getting out of the city is actually surprisingly easy. From Shinjuku, one of the city’s most densely developed areas, a forty minute train ride on the Chuo Line leads to Hachioji, an area bordering Tokyo’s local mountains. Last weekend three friends and I spent a day venturing through Mt. Takao and Mt. Jinba.

This image shows a view of Tokyo, looking West from Shinjuku.
A view from Shinjuku of Tokyo’s adjacent mountains.

We left our dormitory early in the morning, and caught a train bound for the base of Mt. Takao. Long train rides provide a sense of Tokyo’s immense scale. There is a visual rhythm to the city’s urban development; we watched skyscrapers blend into houses, which turned into rice paddies, before becoming skyscrapers again. This pattern repeated about five times before we reached our destination.

This image shows a map of Tokyo's Chuo train line.
It only takes about 40 minutes on the Chuo Line to reach the Tokyo’s outskirts from the inner-city. [source]
To our surprise, even the base of the mountain was covered in snow from a few days earlier. As we climbed, we were greeted with idyllic scenes of snow-dusted trees and a Shinto shrine nestled in one of the mountain’s ravines.


This image shows a small, snow-covered Shinto shrine. It features a pointed roof with a gold ornament on top.
A shinto shrine in the woods.

An hour-long hike brought us to the top of Mt. Takao, where we saw incredible views of its surrounding mountains, including Mt. Fuji to the south-west. It was still early, so we decided to walk to the next mountain, Mt. Jinba.

This image shows a view of forested mountains from the top of Mount Takao. Mount Fuji can be seen in the distance in the right side of the image.
Looking south-west from the top of Mt. Takao. The snowy peak of Mt. Fuji can be seen in the distance in the right side of the image.

The path to the top of Mt. Jinba was much more treacherous than that of Mt. Takao; we lost count of how many times we slipped. We also realized about halfway through that we should have brought snow shoes, but we were too far in to head back. Altogether the hike to Jinba-san took about four hours, and the views were well worth the time and struggle.


This image shows a westward view from the top of Mt. Jinba. Sunbeams breaking through dark clouds cast a golden light on mountains in the distance.
Looking west from the top of Mt. Jinba.
This image shows a view of Tokyo from the top of Mt. Jinba on a sunny day.
A view of Tokyo from the top of Mt. Jinba.

Slipping Walking down Jinba-san in the snow was even more treacherous than the trip up, but we made it somehow. We ended our hike by grabbing some warm soup at a restaurant at the base of the mountain.

This image shows snow-covered steps surrounded by trees. It is part of the path leading to the top of Mt. Jinba.
Part of the trail we took on our way down.
The base of Mt. Jinba.
This image shows a steaming bowl of zenzai, red bean soup, with a piece of mochi, rice cake, inside.
We finished our hike with a warm bowl zenzai (red bean soup) with mochi (rice cake).

Climbing Mt. Takao and Mt. Jinba was a great way to take a break from the city for a few hours. Despite being packed with urban development, Tokyo also offers a number of natural amenities: the east side of the city features beaches, and the west end is full of forests and mountain trails, such as that of Mt. Takao. Tokyo’s extensive train network allows for easy access to these areas from nearly any part of the city.

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