National | AT A GLANCE

Escape Tokyo's baking heat with a cool trek up Mount Takao

by Satoko Kawasaki

Staff Photographer

Mount Takao, located in Hachioji about an hour west of central Tokyo by train, is a popular destination for day-tripping hikers.

It is surprising to know about 1,600 species of plants live on the not-so-high 599-meter mountain. They account for about 30 percent of all plant species in the country, according to the mountain’s visitor center. The blessed environment is created by a rare mixture of temperate and warm temperate forests, resulting in a treasure trove of animals and vegetation.

The number of mountain climbers has surged since the Japan edition of the Michelin Green Guide travel books rated Mount Takao as a three-star travel site in 2007. As many as 3 million people now visit the mountain every year.

There are seven routes up the mountain for hikers, including courses that offer the chance for sunbathing, and a beginner’s course complete with cable cars and lifts to help one get to the summit.

In summer, the Trail 6 is particularly popular. Most of the route is along a creek, and you can feel the cool air coming from the water. The sounds of the stream also relax the mind. If you dip your hands into the clear water, the cold makes you forget about the sizzling weather for a moment.

It takes about 90 minutes to get to the mountain’s spacious peak after traveling the narrow, up-and-down trail past waterfalls, rocks and forests, while listing to the birds.

From the top, you can look over the city of Hachioji and the sea of Yokohama beyond. If the sky is clear, you can also see Mount Fuji and the Skytree tower in central Tokyo.

Hachioji has built new facilities around the nearby Keio Line’s Takaosanguchi Station, and more are in the works due to expectations that the number of tourists will rise further. The new station building, designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma, was completed in April. A hot springs facility will be built this fall.

A new tourism facility, Takao 599 Museum, will be open on Aug. 11. It is likely to appeal to tourists by highlighting the natural environment on the mountain, informing people about local history and providing them with space to rest.

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists.

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