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Autumn at Mitake-san again

Mitake-san is a mountain in western Tokyo Prefecture with a grand, old Shinto shrine on top.  It’s become sort of the place in the hills that I head towards when I’m not imaginative to head anywhere else.  Tried and trusted, there is a network of pathways through the forest, taking in a few mountain tops, and leading down the valley to the Tama River.  I headed up with my Swedish friends for a day of autumn in the hills.

The Rock Garden

Tama River at Mitake:  Nov 2008Tama River at Mitake: Oct 2009

Mitake-san is most easily reached by catching the JR Ome Line to Mitake, which is around 4 or 5 stations short of Okutama.  Last time I was at Mitake, it was November last year (first photo), well into the koyou (or autumn colours).  This year (second photo), I was a few weeks early for the best colours.  Both the above photos are taken from the same bridge over the river – that’s why it was so easy to catch the same view.

I was back again a few weeks later, walking up to Mitake-san from Itsukaichi, then over the other side and down to Okutama.  By then, the colours were starting to finish.

From Mitake, there’s a bus to the bottom of the Mitake cable car.  On weekends, especially in autumn, this bus is quite full.  We decided to walk, and soon paid for this decision with a steady intake of diesel fumes coming from trucks using the main road up the valley.  The funicular railway takes about 6 minutes, has a maximum incline of 25 degrees, and is full of people heading up the mountain to go sightseeing, hiking, or even mountain bike riding.

The Mitake-san cablecar

From the top of the cable car, it’s a 20 minute walk to the top of Mitake-san, mostly through the village below the summit.  This village exists to service all the tourists and visitors, with many guest houses and pensions.  It would be a good weekend away by cable car.

Before: Mitake-san thatched roofAfter: No more thatched roof

In the village, there are some old style buildings with beautiful thatched roofs.  One of them was a grand old structure close to the pathway, and had moss growing from the thatch – last year, that is.  Have a look at the above “before” and “now” photos.  How disappointing that not only has the wonderful thatched roof gone, but so has most of the building underneath.  I only hope that there are plans to rebuild.

Next stop was the shrine on the summit.  According to my guidebook, the current building was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu to face east over, and protect, Edo (then the new capital).  I assume that means protecting Edo from the spirits.

Mitake-san Jinja

There was some good autumn colours around the shrines on Mitake-san.  Apparently, there has been a jinja on top of Mitake-san since around 65AD (or thereabouts, I guess).

Mitake-san Jinja

After paying our dues at the jinja, the hiking for the day began.  We headed down a steep gully to Nanayo-no-taki, a photogenic waterfall.

Nanoya Fals

Then it was following the stream up the gully through the “Rock Garden”.  The pathway through here has been well put together, to make all the creek crossings look like natural stepping stones.  There are mossy cascades,  autumn colours.

The Rock Garden

The next waterfall up the gully is called Ayahiro-no-taki.  Imagine this in a few weeks when the maples turn red and orange.

Rock Garden

Our goal was the summit of Otake-san, a mountain that is 1,266 metres, and sometimes has a view of Fuji-san in the distance.  I did see Fuji-san from up here once, but alas, not this time.

Summit of Otake-san and the non-existent Mt Fuji view

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