Takaosan — Mt Takao — offers lots of hiking and a famous temple and shrine complex within easy reach of central Tokyo, making it the most-climbed peak in Japan. In fact, an estimated 2.6 million people visit each year to see the attractions, including a Monkey Park and Wild Flower Garden, and — from June through October — what is reputed to be the highest beer garden in Tokyo.
Fall is a popular time to visit the mountain, and thousands of Tokyoites flock to see the changing 紅葉 (momiji: maple) leaves. Cooler air also offers a chance to view Mt Fuji from Takaosan’s 599-meter peak.
Unfortunately, easy access from Tokyo and the great scenery on view add up to enormous crowds. At the height of 紅葉 (koyo: autumn leaves) season, it’s not unusual to wait up to an hour for the cable car, and to be jostled by the crowds thronging to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji at the peak.
There isn’t room on one mountain for enough cafés and restaurants to handle the crowds at their peak, but the throngs are handled via typical Japanese ingenuity. For example, to avoid large crowds waiting for the lift or cable car down from the mountain, the operators distribute numbered tickets to riders, who are only permitted to queue for the ride once their group’s number has been called. Even the shops at the foot of the mountain have experience dealing with the thousands of people who flock to the mountain each day, with workers helping the customers to queue up and maintain a semblance of civility (or at least order).
Aside from the cable car and lift, there are two routes to hike up the mountain, and numerous paths to explore the peak and Yakuo-in temple, ranging from fully paved walkways to nature trails.