Hiking Mt. Mitake (御岳山)

It’s time for the next post, this time on the subject of Mt. Mitake, on which I was hiking together with two friends. The mountain belongs to Tokyo prefecture (it takes only about an hour from Shinjuku station to get there by train), but it felt like we were really far away from the city!

But first things first: After arriving at Mitake train station we first checked the local map to find our way to the mountain, which is located in a mountain range in the west of Tokyo. The way up lead us along mountain rivers, narrow valleys and through lush green forests, making us quickly forget just how close we were to outskirts of Japan’s largest mega city.

Further up the mountain we reached the rope way train station, where we would take the train to skip the steepest bit of the way and enjoy the beautiful view from the train windows. The weather was beautiful on that day and we weren’t the only travelers – by far! The train was packed with people who wanted to get up to the top and everyone seemed to be in a good mood, including us 🙂

On the top of Mt. Mitake there is a small village with narrow, winding roads, traditional houses and beautiful scenic views. It’s definitely worth it to take your time up there to stroll around for a bit, take a look at the souvenir shops and enjoy a drink or some meal.

At the end of the village we got to the Musashi Mitake srhine, one of the most revered shrines of the Kanto region, as it sits on top of the blessed Mt. Mitake. It is said to have been built in the year 736 and became an important base for worship. When Japan was united under Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shrine was rebuilt to face towards Tokyo, the new capital of the realm. Directly next to the shrine stands the treasure hall, which houses many offerings made by important families in Japanese history, including two national treasures (one of those is the Akaito-oroshi Oyoroi, one of the oldest complete armor sets in Japan – the picture didn’t turn out any good however, so you’ll have to look it up yourself) and a number of cultural properties.

With the shrine behind us we entered the pristine forests on the slopes of Mt. Mitake again. Our way led us downwards to the Nanayonotaki falls, which are the biggest waterfalls on the mountain. The water in the small bassin below was still really chilly and felt very refreshing, which was also quite helpful as the way led us upwards again, over labyrinthine entagled roots to the Tengu rock, which is supposed to be a lair of Tengu – fabled beings from Japanese mythology.

The way led us further up again, while we were following the small river that had been feeding the waterfall we saw some time ago. The river was lined with rocks, overgrown with moss, marking the area as the Mitake Rock Garden. So far away from the village only few other people passed us by and we had the beautiful scenery to ourselves most of the time. The air smelt fresh and spicy, totally different from the air in the canyons between Tokyo’s skycrapers.

However, we couldn’t stay in this green paradise forever, as the city was calling us back with its many duties and charms awaiting us. However, there was still some time to finish the day off with some ramen soup close to the station – what a fine ending!

I hope you enjoyed this article! Leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like to add or ask about! The next article should follow soon 😉

A Walk in Kagurazaka (神楽坂)

Here we are again – this time from Kagurazaka in Tokyo, a former entertainment district just outside the castle walls of Edo. Nowadays the area is known for its many shops, bars and restaurants, so when a good friend of mine asked if I’d like to spend an afternoon there I didn’t need to think twice.

Kagurazaka has a main road leading down a slope to the remnants of the inner castle moat, which is frequented by young couples and families who go on a small paddling tour there. The moat is also lined by restaurants, where one can enjoy a drink or a whole meal and enjoy the beautiful urban scenery.

Iidabashi Moat

Iidabashi Moat

Walking up the main street from the moat you’ll find many small shops and restaurants and with the easy-going atmosphere of the place it’s a lot of fun to check all of them out. With the restaurants – like everywhere in Japan – it’s enough to just look at the outside displays to get your mouth all watery.

But not just the main street is worth to spend time at – the many narrow alleys to its side are equally interesting. Some of them even hide traditional houses and an atmosphere that’s hard to find in modern and hectic Tokyo: a feeling of tranquility. Should you happen to come to Kagurazaka, make sure to take your time to explore the area!

If you’re into a bit of sightseeing too, you could check out the Akagi shrine. The shrine was already built in the Edo period, but has recently been renovated. Its new design looks a lot more modern than you would expect a shrine to look, combining glass and wood to give it a really distinct appearance. However, you’ll still find all of the usual signifiers of shintoist shrines too.

That’s enough for now. The next post will feature my recent trip to Hiroshima prefecture to meet some good friends after a long time. I hope you enjoyed the read. If there’s anything you’d like to ask just leave a comment!

Trip to Tokyo (東京)

Back from the grave! It took me some time, but I was able to reactivate my blog for my currently ongoing trip to Tokyo, where I work as a sort of short-term trainee at the German Goethe-Institut until the beginning of July. Shame on me for not working on this earlier, but I’ll try to catch up as quickly as possible – promise!

But first things first: my temporary residence is in Chiba prefecture, where I’m staying at a host family for a very reasonable price. I didn’t think about the long commute every day when I booked the place though… that’s one and a half hours every morning and evening gone. But at least I’m avoiding the main rush hour by starting work a bit later. Below you can see my modest appartment in the quiet (as in: nothing going on here at all) commuter neighbourhood of Makuharihongo as well as the train station.

The Goethe-Institut Tokyo is located in Tokyos Akasaka ward, quit central and also close to Shibuya and Shinjuku. The area is a big conglomeration of office buildings, in between which the building of the institute (which is shared with other German institutions) looks relatively small. Nevertheless, the interior is really spacey and it’s a cool place to work at. I could have even re-decorated my office, but I didn’t really bother for a few weeks only.

That’s it for a first look. Next up will be a few short travel episodes. Stay tuned and leave a comment!

Some Tokyo-ing with Caro

I haven’t been able to post a lot of updates in the last days, so here’s at least a small one for now. On Thursday and Friday I met with Caroline in Tokyo, who’s a friend from Hamburg and was able to make a short stop in Japan on her way back from another journey. We had a great time exploring some of the city together and enjoyed some nice shopping (100 Yen-shops ftw.!), as well as tasty Japanese food. Thanks for meeting up! And also thanks to Haruka and Yuko for taking the time to go out with us 🙂

Walking around in Chiyoda, Tokyo

Nothing big today, just a few pictures from a midday walk around the National Diet Library in Tokyo’s Chiyoda area.