A guide to hiking in Tokyo

“I fell in love with nature when I first visited Alaska to coordinate a Northern Lights viewing trip,” says Ryoko Aosaki. As a JMGA-licensed freelance trekking guide, full-time adventurer, trip coordinator, and nature ace, Aosaki loves nothing more than spending time in nature.

Now, with decades of experience in the travel industry and guiding under her belt, Aosaki spends nearly every summer in Europe or North America as a trekking guide. During other seasons, she introduces people to the trails and hikes of Japan. If you really want to experience nature and get off the beaten track, there’s no better place than Aosaki to guide you.

“Japan is a mountainous country, and the mountains are intimately linked to our culture,” says Aosaki. “Spending time abroad immersed in different cultures reminds me how important it is to learn more about my wonderful culture here. I hope everyone who joins me will enjoy learning more about our mountains and our history, and how closely they are connected.

Mount Fuji 5th Station

When people think of Mount Fuji, they think of the summit and overlook all the other hiking trails along the mountain, like Fuji 5th Station. Ascend to the 2,200 meter point to a beautiful boardwalk that stretches through Ochudo. It is a perfect walk for beginners as there is not much incline. Around mid-October, the pines look like golden bonsai masterpieces due to strong winds and snow.

Sanjono Yu Mountain Lodge

Okutama, one of Tokyo’s water conservancy forests, is home to both man-made cedars and natural woods. After a three-hour hike over a spongy carpet of fallen leaves, deep in the stillness of the forest, you will reach a small marshy cabin. Here you can relax in a hot spring and enjoy a homemade dinner made with local ingredients. If you’re a serious hiker, you can tackle Tokyo’s tallest mountain, Mount Kumotori, in about three hours.

Kotoku Temple

Even in Tokyo, old-fashioned hilly landscapes can be found once you enter the Tama area. Perfect for a light day hike, you can walk from Musashi Itsukaichi to Tamagawa and Kotoku Temple. The quiet, historic temple grounds are covered in a yellow carpet of leaves from the two large ginkgo trees. Nearby you can explore Kongo Falls and Komine Park, so it’s perfect for a half-day hike.

Tateyama

Even though it is a little further from Tokyo, a two-day trip to Tateyama cannot be excluded from this list, as it is a great place to view the Japanese Alps. Murodo Station is 2,400 meters away. On leaving the station, a mountainous landscape awaits you. In autumn, the earth becomes a red and yellow carpet – it really is a beautiful scene. Stay at a hotel or ryokan near Murodo and enjoy a laid-back hike, or if you’re looking for a more serious adventure, you can tackle Oyama, a historic 3,000-meter mountain that can be climbed relatively easily.

Mount Shoto

When thinking of going a bit further than Mount Takao, most people think of Mount Jinba, but slightly northwest of there is the 990-meter peak of Mount Shoto. Accessible by bus from Fujino, it is ideal for a relaxed day hike. The Sanokawa area was selected as one of Japan’s Top 100 Valleys. It has a unique landscape of tea plantations and historic mud houses, and the yuzu farms come alive in fall and winter.

Kamikochi

Kamikochi is Japan’s most famous public park. The scenery here is unbeatable and from the Japanese Alps you can see the clear, rushing waters of the Azusa River. Mid-October, Japan’s white birch trees change color, and Taisho Pond reflects yellow leaves. With no change in elevation, just follow the river for a very gentle hike. Spend the night to see the morning mist of Kamikochi.

Ichinokura Valley

Ichinokurasawa of Mount Tanigawa is a sacred site for climbers. Even if you don’t climb its walls, the view of the Rocky Mountains alone is worth the trip. In autumn, the beeches take on a magnificent color under the vertical cliff of 1,200 meters. If you use JR, you will arrive at Doai Station (affectionately known as “Mole Station”), and then you will climb 500 steps.

Hakone Yusakaji Old Trail

Hakone is a famous tourist spot, but if you look a little further, you can also find quiet trails. To hike in Yusakaji, you can go to Hakone-Yumoto Station and continue to Lake Ashi. If you find the trail too long, take a shortcut and take the bus – always adjust to your desired level of difficulty. No matter how you get there, seeing Mount Fuji from the shores of Lake Ashi is sure to make you feel accomplished.

Tamara Highlands

Famous as a ski resort, the area around Tambara Highland is protected as a state-owned beech forest. It is fascinating to think that the first drop of water from the Tone River that quenches the thirst of Tokyo residents comes from the natural dam that forms from this natural forest. There are several routes, so you can choose your course according to the level of difficulty you want. Delicious apples are also grown in the Numata Interchange area, so grab one as omiyage.

To hike with Aosaki, you can contact directly or join his group adventures with Urban Heroes Tokyo:

Instagram: @wildernessryoko
Instagram: @urbanheroestokyo
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