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TOKYO

Escaping the city center for mountains of fun and spring festivities

by Mike Hamilton

Staff Writer

Mount Takao’s close proximity to and easy access from central Tokyo makes it a popular green oasis to which many city folk escape on the weekends. It attracts some 2.6 million visitors every year, and this coming weekend should pull in the crowds, as Takao’s Yakuoin Yukuji Temple will be seeing in the spring with its annual Grand Festival.

The main attraction is a 1-km long procession — a colorful display including mock-Samurai warriors, marching bands, and large crowds of children dressed in technicolored traditional attire. From noon, there will also be shishimai lion dances and ladder acrobatic shows, performed by the old Edo Fire Brigade.

This festival,however, need only be a simple excuse to escape the hum-drum state of Tokyo. With plenty of hiking routes around Takao, you can take a break from the crowded festivities and enjoy the fresh spring air. Why not finish off the day by sipping a cold beer at one of the numerous outdoor eateries on the mountaintop.

The Grand Festival and parade takes place on April 17. It’s a 20-min. cable-car ride (¥500) from Takaosan-guchi Station (Keio Takao Line). The parade starts at 11 a.m., and it is free to watch. For more information, visit www.takaotozan.co.jp.