At less than 2 hours from the heart of the bustling Tokyo is situated the magnificent Mitake Mountain, the most renowned sightseeing spot in the Okutama region that clings to the upstream of Tama-gawa River. The area around the mountain is covered with abundant nature providing habitats and shelters for wild life and plants; Mitake has never failed to impress hikers and campers from all over the country. The mountain is so close that ones can make unhurried day trip from the city.
Up on the Mountain
From Mitake station, take the bus to the cable car station. The cable car will bring you to the upper station, close to the peak. Along the well- maintained, easy to walk path to the summit, you will spot something to entertain your sight including the 1,000 year old Kamishiro Keyaki tree (23m high, 8.2m wide) and the main shrine of Mitake Jinja.
During holidays and weekends the line for the bus and the cable car can be ridiculously long, hence, from the second visit I decided to stay at the foot of the mountain and enjoy the scenic view along the Tama-gawa River instead.
A Visit in Autumn
My last visit to the mountain was in mid-November last year, when gigantic ginkgo and maple trees (Japanese momiji 紅葉) produced a riot of color. There was a large beautiful maple tree for my family to sit under, and watch people.
There was plenty of landscape painting artists, fishing enthusiasts and campers at the foot of Mitake. Dotted in the fast flowing Tama-gawa river was colorful boats loaded with travelers who felt like boosting their adrenaline to the most, arranging a boat ride with the licensed operator in the area. (Depending on preference and fitness level, the options included adventurous boats and canoes.) Along the way, some docked the heavy flat-bottomed rubber boat for taking photos and rock jumping, even there was no easy way to climb up the wet slippery rocks and the river looked too shallow to make a jump pay off. They eventually made it and were unaffected by what seemed like a two story drop.
Aside from the chorus of laughter and scream aroused by the boats hitting the rock, the area around Mitake was less noisy than I had anticipated. Also, even the river was primarily used for pleasure and packed with tourists throughout the year, it was spotlessly clean. All the rubbish was carefully monitored to be removed out of the area.
Dining along the River
Local campers loved carrying their own lunch. The most common ones that I found were easy and convenient onigiri (rice balls) or bento. For serious campers with high pile of photography equipment and camping gears, the lunch could be anything from beef barbecue to freshly-made oden, a Japanese staple winter food. Some wrapped the beer cans with a plastic bag, secured with rocks and left the drink to cool in the stream.
My family decided to dine at one of the restaurants besides the river. The best part of dining here was we didn't have to fight for the best view as almost all of the restaurants provided the customers with the breathtaking riverfront view.
My lunch choice was hot soba noodles with deep fried tofu skin ( Kitsune soba きつね蕎麦). The noodles were cooked to perfection, the amber- color soup was flavorful yet incredibly light, the mountain vegetable (Sansai 山菜) was fresh and crisp with natural sweetness.
Then the skewed Ayu (アユ, 鮎, 年魚, 香魚 or sweetfish) was arrived at our table. It was sprinkled with coarse sea salt lightly throughout. The fish was fat and its skin shone like silver in the firelight, but there was no time to examine it closely, for my son made a jump and caught it between his jaws, and in a few moment it was entirely disappeared.
Why I’d Return
The convenient setting, the plentiful dining options and the wonderful nature make Mt. Mitake a seamless destination to spend a vacation. I won’t have any reason not to come back.
How to Get There
It’s easy breezy to get to Mitake Mountain on weekends and public holidays. From Shinjuku station, take the Holiday Express Okutama straight to Mitake station. (The ride takes about 90 minutes)
1. From central Tokyo, e.g. Shinjuku or Tokyo Station, take JR Chuo Line to Ome Station (75 minutes from Shinjuku).Otherwise, a transfer is required at Tachikawa (40 minutes from Shinjuku).
2. At Ome Station, change to JR Ome Line and ride as far as Mitake Station (20 minutes). The whole trip from Shinjuku to JR Mitake Station costs 920 yen one way.
3. Once at Mitake Station, get out of the station and take a very short walk down the road to the left then take the bus bound for Takimoto (滝本) to the cable car lower station (10 minutes, 290 yen one way, about 2 buses/hour). The cable car lifts you to close to the summit of Mt. Mitake (1,110 yen round trip, about 3 departures/hour)