Discover a Different Side of Tokyo in the Mountains of Ome
Central Tokyo may be famous for its modern cityscape of concrete buildings and neon lights, but venture into the outer reaches of the Tokyo metropolitan area, and you’ll be more likely to find flying squirrels than convenience stores. The city extends far to the west and into the mountains of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, where small villages, mystical mountain shrines, and fauna-filled forests welcome city dwellers longing to get back to nature.
Of the many summits to visit, Mount Mitake is a great one to start with because of its accessibility, cultural significance, and visitor-friendly facilities. The mountain is easy to reach from central Tokyo—approximately two hours from Shinjuku via the Chuo and Ome JR Lines which takes you to Mitake Station. The mountain itself is serviced by the impressively steep Mitake Tozan Cable Car Line located right by the Cable-shita bus stop 10 minutes by bus from Mitake Station. The modern cable car slices through the verdant mountainside, allowing visitors to access the summit area without breaking a sweat.
Admire the sacred Musashi Mitake Shrine
Long an important spiritual site for followers of the Shinto religion, Mount Mitake is considered to be one of the most sacred mountains in the Kanto region. Near its summit stands Musashi Mitake Shrine, whose vermilion buildings offer a stunning contrast to the surrounding forest.
For centuries the shrine has been a popular destination for pilgrims as well historical figures, with many famous samurai donating treasured objects to the shrine. It is said that even Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of Edo (modern Tokyo) and one of Japan’s most significant historical figures, was so fond of the shrine that he had the main building of the shrine renovated by the shogunate government.
As you wander the grounds, don’t be surprised if your fellow shrine visitors include a few dogs brought by their owners. The shrine, with its many oguchi no magami (deified wolves), is popular with dog owners, who bring their precious pets along when coming to pray.
Marvel at Mount Mitake’s abundant nature
Delight in the clear air of the mountain on one of the trails that wind around the summit area. Visitors of all ages are sure to find a hike to match their ability—from an easy stroll around the shrine to a strenuous climb to other peaks nearby. Highlights include waterfalls, towering trees, mossy rock gardens, and incredible panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. You’ll even catch sight of central Tokyo, its skyscrapers rising in the distance.
English information on the area can be found at the Mitake Visitor Center, located near Mitake Tozan’s Mitakesan Station. Along the way from the cable car station to the shrine, visitors will find many restaurants where they can enjoy local delicacies, such as handmade soba noodles served with walnut dipping sauce, wild-deer curry, and mountain vegetables.
Fully immerse yourself in Mount Mitake’s wonders with an overnight stay
The small settlement, dotted with thatched-roof structures, that lies between Mitakesan Station and Musashi Mitake Shrine boasts an assortment of traditional lodgings and eateries, some of which have served visiting pilgrims for centuries. You need not be on a sacred journey, however, to stay the night and immerse yourself in Mount Mitake’s natural and spiritual wonders.
A night spent on Mount Mitake offers a variety of pleasures, from relaxing with the stunning nighttime vistas as you enjoy a dinner of fresh mountain vegetables, to bathing in piping hot springs that soothe sore muscles after a day of hiking. A variety of accommodations are available, including traditional pilgrim’s lodgings. However, for those looking for a combination of comfort and tradition, there are a number of inns with Western-style beds available.
Making an offering during the morning services
Perhaps the biggest perk of staying the night in a local lodging is the chance to take part in the “nikkusai” morning services at Musashi Mitake Shrine, a ceremony where an offering of food is made to the gods, and prayers dedicated to peace and prosperity. This is an incredible opportunity available only to those who make a reservation through a local inn. Make an offering in the quiet of early morning, and relish the tranquility of the mountains and the peace it brings your soul. Be sure to check “nikkusai” service attendance availability in advance when you book in at your chosen inn.
Delight in the gifts of the Tama River
As you descend the mountain, don’t be fooled into thinking the gems of the region are all behind you. The Mitake Valley, with its crystal-clear waters and stunning scenery, brims with delights.
The Ozawa Brewery seen through the rich foliage
The sparkling waters of the Tama River provide visitors with more than just fish for a hearty lunch. Tama River water is also an all-important ingredient in the region’s Sawanoi sake, which is brewed at the Ozawa Brewery on the banks of the river. Visit the brewery for a tour, followed by a drink in its riverside garden, Sawanoien, where you can relax as the river flows lazily by. Click here to learn more about the tours available at Ozawa Brewery.
Tokyo is a metropolis of many faces, each one worthy of in-depth exploration. A trip to its westernmost region allows you to savor the quieter side of the city, discover the serenity of its mountains, and experience a different aspect of its culture. Next time you’re in need of a holiday, escape the hustle and bustle of the city—without ever leaving the city limits.
Mitake Visitor Center
38-5 Mitake, Ome-shi, Tokyo 198-0175
Business Hours: 9:00–16:30
Holidays: Mondays (When Monday is a public holiday, the center will be open on Monday and closed on Tuesday.) and December 29–January 3
https://www.ces-net.jp/mitakevc/index.html (Japanese only)
Musashi Mitake Shrine
176 Mitake, Ome-shi, Tokyo 198-0175
http://musashimitakejinja.jp/ (Japanese only)
2-770 Sawai, Ome-shi, Tokyo 198-0172
Business Hours: 8:00–17:00
This article was written by Helen A. Langford-MatsuiBack