Do you ever just get ridiculously confident and think, “yeah, even though I’m physically pretty inactive and most of the exercise I do nowadays involves going to and from seminars, I’m going to climb a mountain!”
…That’s the thought process that got me to Mt. Takao on Wednesday the 2nd May. It’s situated roundabout the midpoint between Mt Fuji and Tokyo (and despite the distance from Tokyo, it’s pretty cheap to get to).
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Just outside the station is a massive board with a map detailing the 6 routes that you can use to hike the mountain and what you’ll be able to come across depending on what route you use. Naturally, the longest route was route #1, which covered all the major attractions – a 3 hour journey overall up and down. (Of course, we wanted to see all the attractions.)
Dango with a view
Thing is, on the solo trip I took back in February (I can’t even believe that it’s been almost 3 months), I did a LOT of walking. There was so much I wanted to see, and so many steep hills to climb to do so, and I ended every day with a pair of incredibly sore feet and aching muscles. I came to Mt Takao with the mindset that, since I was able to do that for almost 2 weeks, a mountain would be a piece of cake. Of course, because 1) that was almost 3 months ago, and 2) I’m nowhere near that active anymore with uni having started again, the mountain was NOT having it. There I was, incredibly sweaty, looking like someone had dumped a bucket of water on me, feeling short of breath – while girls with PLATFORM HEELS and outfits far too intense for the humidity of that day walked past me looking like the mountain was just a trip down to the shops.
We were quick to notice that we stood out, not only because we were sweaty foreigners but because we were part of the few actually climbing the mountain in the sea of people coming down, looking fresh, calm and collected. Turns out what most locals/visitors do at Mt Takao is take the chairlift to the top, and then enjoy the easy stroll on the way down.
No matter what method/route you choose in going up the mountain, as someone who doesn’t regularly climb mountains, even if you choose route 1 you’ll be absolutely fine. There are some incredibly steep parts, but it’s all doable and you’ll feel absolutely amazing when you reach the summit and get to enjoy the beautiful view up top. (Also, the half way point has tons of food, so I treated myself to a soy-glazed dango (sweet rice balls on a stick) while enjoying the horizon.)
When going through route 1, you’ll come across the monkey park, which also holds a daily competition where you get to vote on the most handsome monkey. (“But they all look exactly the same”, said a Japanese man next to me when we were both looking at the board.) I’ve been to two monkey related places in Japan; The Nagano Snow Monkey park and Kyoto’s Monkey Mountain. Both places have the monkeys roaming freely next to you as you walk – but this monkey park here was more of a sanctuary, where the monkeys are kept in a (pretty big) enclosure and you get to watch them from above. Bearing in mind my other experiences with monkeys in Japan, it was slightly disappointing, but all in all I’d definitely say worth the visit if you go to Mt. Takao just to see invigorated by how mischievous and fun-loving the monkeys are.
Miami? Or Kasai Rinkai?
We followed up Mt. Takao with a visit on Friday (4th May) to Kasai Rinkai park, a huge mass of greenery just across from the Disney Resorts (Far east of Tokyo, basically Chiba). Given that it was the Friday of Golden Week and the weather was absolutely beautiful, going to somewhere like Yoyogi park in the already crowded Shibuya would be insane – so off to parts less traversed. Of course, we had a picnic, just sans the pimms and plus warm orange juice, lemons, and £1 wine from 7/11. It worked. Somehow.
My offering to the picnic was the aforementioned wine and orange juice, some rice crackers and an experiment (aubergine and vegan mayo rolls. It worked.) I was also reminded that I’m just an incredibly lazy person when it comes to some things – ie. It’s so easy to make hummus and guacamole (Tamsin brought out two massive tubs of both) but I genuinely just can’t be bothered to make them, even though I make vegan cheese on the regular which is a more cumbersome process. I’ve kinda been making my own weird “deconstructed” version of guacamole, which is literally just scooping out the insides of an avocado and pouring some lemon juice and pepper on it. Even when the other ingredients aren’t there, lemon and avocado are a killer combination.
Anyway, to sum up that story, picnics are beautiful, food is beautiful, the sun is beautiful, Kasai Rinkai park is beautiful (and you can’t actually hear Disneyland from the park, which is surprising but also good).
Finally, on the 6th May (Sunday), there was the Tokyo pride parade. Did I march in the parade? Yes! Am I in a lot of people’s home videos? Yes! Could I only join the parade if I dressed in a shirt supporting Alfa Romeo? Yes! The parade started at Yoyogi park, traversed through Shibuya, all the way through to Harajuku, and then back up into Yoyogi park. There’s something so weirdly enjoyable about being able to walk on the roads and being prioritised over traffic. People absolutely loved the parade from the streets – we’d be getting high fives, people would come out of their shops in support – the best support was from the LUSH in Harajuku however, where employees were dressed in LUSH products and bouncing around in the upstairs window.
It was an incredibly fun day, even though I was incredibly tired out by 5pm not only from walking in the parade but from the scorching sun.
That was last week – now I’m back at university full time, with my final break being over. I feel like I’ve been saying this to people every single day, but it’s just so incredibly strange that I’ve been here for over 8 months. I have just under 12 weeks left. How did this happen? How did time fly by so fast? Even though 12 weeks is a long time, I feel struck, like I haven’t done enough (even though I most certainly have done all I wanted and more). Panic is a weird feeling, and maybe one day I’ll understand it a little more.
What comes next, though? I’ve mentioned before that this semester is filled with a little less fun and a little more work. I have a few things lined up though that I could write about on this blog – in 2 weeks, DisneySea, then 2 weeks after the Ghibli Museum, then after that, POTENTIALLY, Mt. Fuji. Still a work in progress, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.