So you’ve climbed Mount Takao and now you’re looking for a walking trail or hike that’s less crowded. Because, let’s face it, even the view of Mount Fuji from the top of Takao-san is marred by the hundreds of heads you have to look beyond. The first thing you need to know before you brave a hike or walking trail that’s not overrun by tourists is that it will probably not be very well signposted. Also, the map they give you at the station will probably be in Japanese only. And there are bears in the forest.
On a recent outing to the Otama trail (Okutama City, 90 minutes from Shinjuku), we got thoroughly lost and ended up on a random path through the forest in the wrong direction with only a few more hours of daylight to go. Luckily we encountered a Japanese hiker who, when we told her where we were trying to get to, looked at us agape and declared, ‘Danger!’ That was enough to make us turn around and retrace our steps, which meant in the end, we never actually finished the trail. (It’s about eight kilometres long so, if you don’t get lost, it should only take about 2.5 hours to reach the end.)
Solutions to these problems? Do some thorough research on the trail before you go, so you know exactly how to get there and what to expect. Start early and take a fully charged phone with you – Google Maps does help. And, especially if you are alone, hang a little bell on your backpack – as long as the bears know you are coming, they are likely to leave you alone. For the Otama trail, specifically, if you’re getting off at Kori Station (Ome line), note that the entrance to the trail is a bit of a walk from the station – turn right onto the main road as you come out of the station and continue along the road for at least 10 minutes until you reach a bridge; cross the bridge and you’ll see a sign for the trail. At times, the signs are unclear so make sure you stick close to the Tama River.
Although we didn’t see any bears, we did see waterfalls and fishermen and breathtaking valley views:
Check out our guide to Tokyo’s top day hikes for more hikes and information on the Otama trail.