Climbing Mount Odake is the most convenient day hike from Tokyo aside from Mount Takao. As such, the trail can be crowded, but the trek offers more natural wonders than its shorter neighbor to the south.
One of the three famous peaks of Okutama, Odake-san (1,267m) is the tallest mountain in Tokyo Prefecture. The journey begins at Mitake Station about an hour and a half from Shinjuku by train.
At Mitake station, head out the only exit and turn right. The bus stop is not too far down the road on the opposite side of the street. Catch a Nishi Tokyo Bus to Cable Shita, where you will find the Takimoto Station of the Mitake Tozan Railway. From there it is a six-minute cable car ride to the summit of Mount Mitake (929m).
Worship Like the Samurai
The quaint village of Mitakesan offers a few shops run by the friendly locals where you can load up on cans of Asahi and skewered sweetfish. The highlight of the village is the Musashi-Mitake Shrine. Popular with samurai, the shrine, particularly picturesque in the autumn, is believed to have been a center of worship for over 2,000 years.
Finding the path to Mount Odake can be difficult as all signs in Mitakesan are in Japanese. The correct path is on the left side of the last staircase leading up to the shrine. If you reach the horse statue, you’ve gone too far.
You will soon find yourself deep in the wilderness. The path splits at a giant boulder called Tengu-iwa. Use the provided chains to climb to the top of the sacred rock.
Straight out of the Hundred Acre Wood
From Tengu-iwa, the left path leads to a side hike to Nanayo Falls. The right path is the beginning of the natural rock garden. The rock garden is a stretch of moss covered rocks that follow along a gurgling stream straight out of a storybook.
At the end of the rock garden is a large picnic area that can be crowded even on weekdays. Going past this scenic spot brings you to Ayahiro Falls. About 10m tall, the thin waterfall is considered a sacred Shinto place.
Reaching the Summit
From here the trail leads nowhere but up. An easy to moderate hike overall, this section can be a bit strenuous for the inexperienced or the hungover. After about 45 minutes you will reach an abandoned home for the tending monks. This is the last push to the summit of Odake.
Rock steps lead most of the way, and the steps became steeper and taller as you near the top. There are some points where the supplied guide rope is necessary for support.
On sunny days the summit provides clear views of Mount Fuji and the surrounding mountains. The summit can be crowded with picnickers, but there are plenty of nice rocks to perch on to take in the scenery.
Cool Down in Mountain Waters
The summit of Mount Odake can be reached in about two hours, and round-trip (including cable car and bus ride) can take over five hours.
Instead of turning back to Mitake, hikers can also head down the opposite side of Mount Odake. Within 90 minutes you will reach Okutama where you can cool down in the Tama River and hit up the onsen. The hiking distance from Mitakesan to Okutama is 10.5km.
From Shinjuku catch the JR Chuo line to Tachikawa. Change to the JR Ome line towards Okutama and get off at Mitake.
Take the Holiday Rapid Okutama train direct from Shinjuku (6:46am, 7:44am and 8:19am) to Mitake on Saturday, Sunday and national holidays.