Mt Takao with children, Mt Takao cable car, Autumn Leaves Mt Takao and Mt Takao New Year Information

Mt Takao, Hachioji, Tokyo

Saitama with kids author

The first time I went to Mt Takao with my four kids, they were all under seven years old. The youngest had just turned one.  I did the trip sans husband, but thankfully with my best friend, Japanese food writer Fiona Uyema, and her 2 children. I had chosen to take Fiona there, who was visiting from Ireland, after reading a very good write up about the Autumn Leaves in the area. We were very glad we made the trip. And I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the trip was to manage, even with small children.

Mt Takao Autumn Leaves

When we visited it was bang smack in the middle of prime viewing season of Mt Takao Autumn Leaves, which generally is early November. I didn’t know it at the time, but the day we chose to go had been reported on the news as the best day to see the fall colors at Mt Takao. I think half of Tokyo got in their cars and came to witness the leaves at their best. The area was extremely busy, we even had to queue to take the exit of the highway. However, it was worth it. The scenery is stunning.

Mt Takao Autumn Leaves MT Takao with children

One way to get up the mountain is on foot. There are a number of different trails you can do, so you can plan according to your children’s ages. 599 Museum supplies good information in English on the trails. Despite being a mountain area, the top of Mt Takao is actually quite easy to navigate with a stroller / buggy. However, if you want to hike the mountain trail, a buggy / stroller is  not advisable.  Also, there are places at the top of the mountain that you will need to park your stroller if you want to explore further.

Speaking of: there are two things that I would point out as potential difficulties with small children. One is that as you are on top of a mountain with a steep decline on one side. It can be quite unnerving if the kids walk close to the edge as the pavement has limited barriers at the side. Obviously, I told them not to, but… well they’re kids, even if they do listen, they forget and they can’t quite sense danger like a Mother can.

Two; you have to queue for everything if you go at one of the prime visiting times; tickets, trains, toilets, food… everything. On the way back down if you want to get the last cable car, which goes around 5.30 pm, you need to start queuing up to an hour in advance. Also, another thing to take note off is that it is a couple of degrees colder at 599 meters. When we visited in November we needed winter jackets as the sun started to go down.

Mt Takao Cable Car

MT Takao Autumn leaves Mt Takao cable car
Image from SONY JAPAN

Another way to get up (and down) the mountain is the cable car. It is an easy, quick and fun way (and most fun for the kids) to get up or down Takaosan. Plus you can bring strollers / buggies. Even if it is very crowded, they don’t ask you to fold up your buggy, or at least they didn’t ask me – they told me to leave it open. It maybe that they took pity on me trying to flock my herd, fold a buggy and hold a one year old simultaneously! For older children you can also use the chair lifts.

Things to do at Mt Takao with Children

Despite the crowds and the potential danger, I think Mt Takao is an ideal place to bring young children, even babies, for a mountain visit. It is also a great place to introduce young children to hiking. There is a lot to do in the area, especially close to the cable car and train stations. At the bottom, near Kiyotaki Cable Car Station there is the relatively new 599 Museum, nearby and very close to Keio Takao Line Takaosanguchi station there is Keio Takao Hot Springs and a Trick Art Museum. Up the top, near the Takaosan cable car station there is a monkey park.

Food on Takaosan

There are also lots of eateries, power spots and view points near this station.  Near the Takaosan cable car station at the top of the mountain is Kasumi, a popular spot with hikers for a quick bite to eat. They have 2 popular traditional type Japanese treats; Mifuku dango and Tenguyaki. Mifuku dango is a type of charcoaled dango, cooked in a circle around an open charcoal grill (pictured). One dango costs 310 yen. The Tenguyaki is a type of waffle with sweetened black soybean paste inside. A tengu is a legendary long nose goblin that is an intricate part of Japanese religion.  One tenguyaki costs 140 yen.  They sell ice-cream here too, including a Fly Honeysuckle flavoured ice-cream (pictured).

Mt Takao food

Takaosan through the seasons

Takao-san is popular all year round, but it has boom periods which are mainly New Year’s, Cherry Blossom season, peak of summer (to escape the heat) and Autumn leaves season. Another thing that draws people to Mt Takao is that sometimes you can see Diamond Fuji from the Momiji viewing deck of Mt Takao, an opportunity is coming up this month in fact.  Diamond Fuji is estimated to be viewable around 4.15 pm on December 17th and possibly a day or two either side of that.

MT Takao New Year Information

Regarding Takaosan New Year, it is hard to believe, but people hike up Mt Takao (or take the cable car) on New Year’s eve or very early New Year’s morning in the dark and bitter cold.  Accordingly, the cable car runs through the night.  In fact the cable car runs from 8 am on December 31st until 6.30 pm on January 1st to accommodate the throes of visitors on one of the popular New Year’s pilgrimages in the Greater Tokyo area.

There are three main incentives to do this in a regular year:

  1.  to see the first sunrise of the year, which is generally around 6.48 am. The Geikosai “the festival to welcome the light” is performed at Yakuo-in, the temple atop of Mt Takao.
  2.  you can see Mt Fuji for the first time in the year (weather permitting of course) and
  3. to witness the fire rituals that are carried out at regular intervals by the temple priests.

Please note that in 2020 – 2021 part of the mountain will be closed from 5 pm December 31st 2020 to 7 am on January 1st 2021. The decision was made and announced by the Metropolitan Environment Bureau on December 8th. However, they changed the details on the 9th and only part of the mountain will be closed now. At this moment in time, Yakuoin are planning for their usual New Year celebrations.

You can read more about the fire rituals and Geikosai on my Japan Travel article here.

Mt Takao New Year people line up to pay homage
People queuing for Hatsumode, first homage of the year, at Yakuoin

This temple also follows the traditional custom of gonging the Temples Gong 108 times to dispel evil. The Keio Takao San hot spring is open over New Year’s, but from January 1st to 3rd they charge an extra 200 yen, so 1,200 yen per person.

Mt Takao Access Information

Mt Takao is very accessible by car from Saitama and Tokyo, if you are on the Ken-O expressway. From Tokyo it is quite convenient by train, but unfortunately from Saitama the train is a bit more tricky. By both car and train it takes less than an hour to get to Mt Takao from Tokyo. From Western Saitama it takes about an hour by car or train. The station you use to access Mt Takao is Takaosanguchi on the Keio Takao Line. On weekends and holidays two trains on the Toei Shinjuku Line also continue on to Takaosanguchi station. The exit on the Ken-O expressway is Takaosan. The Mt Takao cable car website has full information on how to access Mt Takao.

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