The Chichibu-Tama National Park is a 1250-km2 expanse of mountains, forests, river sources and rural towns and villages, around the convergence of Tokyo's western extent with Saitama, Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures. These mountains offer many of the more serious hiking experiences within easy reach of Tokyo proper.
Mt. Mitake (Mitake-san, 御岳山) is a popular 929m peak at the edge of this region, in Tokyo's outer district of Ōme. A cable car provides access to the mountain village and prominent shrine, from where paths into forested ridges and gorges connect to surrounding peaks. One of these, Mt. Ōdake (Odake-san,大岳山), lies across the district border between Oku-Tama, Tokyo's largest and westermost district, and Hinohara immediately south, and at 1267m commands a view spanning from Kanagawa, via Mt. Fuji, to the heart of the Kanto region's formidable mountainous hinterland.
The area's paths are well-signposted throughout and easy to follow. There are several routes between these two peaks, of varying difficulties, but the one detailed here proceeds through the Mitake-san "Rock Garden", a forested ravine of splendid moss-covered rock formations and waterfalls. Gradients are fair, though there are a number of steep, sustained ups and downs, especially in that ravine and just before the Ōdake summit. While not nearly as murderous as the likes of North Takao, the basic hiking essentials (enough water/food, good footwear, a map and compass, good timing and awareness, and a reasonable level of fitness) are highly recommended.
Maps are available at the Mitake Station information centre (especially of the happy-Japanese-cartoons variety; though closed on Mondays), but obtaining a survey map of the Oku-Tama area in advance (e.g. No.23 in the Mapple series) is suggested too.
Mitake-san – Ōdake-san
Length: Approx. 11km (for the Rock Garden route; shorter paths available)
Hiking Time: Approx. 6 hours
Height: Begins at Mitake upper cable car station, approx. 915m. Rock Garden route requires a descent of approx 1-200m, followed by a climb back up. The summit of Ōdake is at 1267m, its approach posing the steepest climb.
Access (from central Tokyo):
1) Go to Mitake Station (御岳駅) (Chuo Line or alternatives to Tachikawa Station, then JR Ōme Line to Mitake – make sure your train is on the main line for Oku-Tama, and not the branch-off to Musashi-Itsukaichi!). Depending on where you start, this will take approx. 1h30-2hrs and cost approx. 1000 yen (one-way).
2) A bus just outside the station goes to Ke-buru Shita (bottom of cable car, ケーブル下) in 10 minutes for 270 yen (one-way). Timetable here (out from Mitake) and here (back to Mitake) – from left to right, columns are weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays/public holidays.
3) The cable car runs approx. every 15 minutes: a ride either way is 6 mins. and costs 570 yen (two-way ticket for 1090 yen). The hike starts and ends at the top.
1) Mitake-san Village and Shrine
2) Rock Garden