Mount Mitake (御岳山, Mitakesan) is one of the many highlights of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, which covers more than 1250 square kilometers of forested mountains, hills, gorges and some rural towns in the prefectures of Yamanashi, Saitama, Nagano and Tokyo.
Besides a popular shrine, Mount Mitake offers various walking and hiking opportunities in virtually unspoiled nature. Located in the Okutama region, the westernmost part of Tokyo, the mountain can be reached in less than two hours from central Tokyo, making it a popular escape for people looking for a break from the city.
From the upper station of the Mitake Cablecar it is a 20-30 minute walk to the Musashi-Mitake Shrine on the mountain's summit (929 meters). On your way, you will pass a small village with many Japanese style inns and souvenir shops, which have been catering to visitors and pilgrims to Mount Mitake for centuries. It is believed that Musashi-Mitake Shrine has been serving as a center of mountain worship for almost 2000 years.
From the shrine, you have hiking options to neighboring peaks and valleys. Among the most beautiful destinations is the so called "Rock Garden", which, in fact, is a narrow, forested valley with a picturesque stream, lots of moss-covered stones and two nearby waterfalls. It takes less than an hour to reach the valley from the shrine.
If you want to walk some more, it is another 40-60 minutes from the Rock Garden to the peak of Mount Otake (1267 meters), from where you can enjoy nice views of the surrounding forest-covered mountains on clear days. Some passages are quite steep but do not require any advanced mountaineering tools. Sturdy shoes, however, are recommended.
Detailed hiking maps showing the extensive network of hiking trails in the Okutama region are available at the Mitake Visitor Center located halfway between the upper cablecar station and the shrine.
Because Mount Mitake has been and still is a popular destination for pilgrims, there are many lodgings in the village, minshuku in particular, that serve pilgrims as well as regular tourists. Meals are simple and traditional, consisting mainly of locally sourced vegetables, although most also offer fish and meat today.
Rooms are usually traditional-style tatami rooms, and bathing facilities are shared. Some lodgings also offer excursions to experience takigyo, a centuries old ascetic practice of standing or sitting in meditation beneath a waterfall.
From central Tokyo, e.g. Shinjuku or Tokyo Station, take the frequently departing, orange JR Chuo Line to Ome Station (75 minutes from Shinjuku). A few trains go all the way to Ome. Otherwise, a transfer of trains is required at Tachikawa (40 minutes from Shinjuku).
At Ome Station, change to another orange train on the JR Ome Line (usually waiting on the opposite platform of the arriving train) and ride as far as Mitake Station (20 minutes). The whole trip from Shinjuku to JR Mitake Station costs 940 yen one way and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and Tokyo Wide Pass.
Once at Mitake Station, take the bus to the lower station of the Mitake cablecar (10 minutes, 290 yen one way, about 2 buses/hour). The cablecar lifts you to close to the summit of Mount Mitake (1130 yen roundtrip, about 3 departures/hour).