Takao-san Guchi

Today was one of those beautiful, clear, sunny Autumn days that you get here so we decided to go out for lunch to Mt Takao and enjoy some of the Autumn leaves. It was actually still a bit early for the full Autumn colours but it was probably for the best – the crowds were bad enough as it was!

This is the ropeway station. The queue was about 1-hour long so we decided not to bother:

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Still, there were some nice early flashes of colour:

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Some jizo statues near the station (had the ISO up a little too high here):

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Leaves on a pond:

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Down by the river:

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We had a delicious lunch of tempura and soba noodles at this restaurant. One of the tempura was made with dried persimmon which we’d never seen before. If you look closely the restaurant has been built around a tree that protudes from the roof:

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The inside, with tree:

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Foliage near the station:

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Mt Takao

On the western edge of Tokyo city there is an oasis of greenery amoung the grey: Mt Takao. A sacred mountain for over 1000 years, it’s amazing that an area with a network of hiking trails through wooded slopes lies within metropolitan Tokyo. It was awarded 3-stars in the Japan Michelin guide and apparently holds the Guinness record for the most climbed mountain in the world.

Unfortunately, when we went last weekend, it seemed they all decided to come at once. As the cable-car more resembled Shinjuku station, we joined the crowds shuffling up the hill:

Luckily, there were some jizo statues to keep watch over everyone:

Now that the haze of summer has started to clear, there are some great views back over Tokyo along the way:

On the way to the top of the mountain is the temple Yakuoin.  The sacred deities associated with the temple are tengus which have either long noses or beaks:

I’m not sure who this little guy is:

The main hall of Yakuoin:

The temple is richly decorated and colourful:

Temple priest. They blow horns made of giant conch shells that echo around the mountain:

Around a smaller out-building of the temple are a series of small jizo statues. If you can manage to place a 5-yen coin on the heads of all of them you will have good luck:

Although it can get a bit tricky:

Of course, the real reason for the hordes of walkers is the autumn leaves (and the fact it was on TV that week). They really are quite spectacular:

And another view from the top across Tokyo:

Shuzenji Onsen

In the middle of Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo is the onsen town of Shuzenji, named after a temple founded 1200 years ago by Kobo Daishi (Kukai). He also reputedly founded the oldest hot-spring in the town by striking a rock with an iron bar. It was a getaway favoured by artists and intellectuals in the 19th century including Natsume Soseki. Soseki came to Shuzenji to recover from a bout of gastric ulcers. The first food he had after his long illness was rice porridge, called kayu, which moved him to write the haiku:

The taste of kayu
My insides drip with spring

Shuzenji though now exists mainly to service busloads of tourists.

Entrance to Shuzenji Temple, founded in 807 AD:

Ryokan hotels line the river:

Although it doesn’t have much to recommend it apart from the onsens, it can be a pleasant place to stroll around in the Autumn with a small bamboo forest:

Chuzenji-ko

Further up in the mountains above Nikko, about an hour by bus, is Chuzenji-ko lake. The area is relatively not overdeveloped and, being higher up (1269m), it is wonderfully cool in summer. But the best time to visit if possible is October when the spectacular autumn colours come out. These photos were taken with an old Nikon point-and-shoot in 2004 (I think) so perhaps not the best quality.

The lake has its inevitable ‘attractions’:

The highlight of the lake is the almost 100 metre Kegon Falls:

It’s also possible to take an elevator down to the base of the falls:

There are also some nice walks around the lake. Just past the main village is Futarasan Shrine:

While around on the other side is Chuzenji Shrine, from which comes the name of the lake:

View of Chuzenji-ko lake from Chuzenji shrine:

Many years ago, the area was apparently popular with foreign embassies as summer residences. This was the former Italian residence which features beautiful wood panelling:

The colours are spectacular as the sun descends and gives the lake a glistening golden shimmer: