Friday, January 7, 2011

The True Test of Love :: Climbing Mt. Takao

Mt. Takao is located just 52 minutes from Tokyo on the Keio line. If you're in Tokyo and want to work off some of those ramen, katsu curry and cream puff calories, spend a day at Takao-san. I used to think that the -san added to the end of mountains in Japan was a cute way of showing respect to nature. "Mr. Fuji looks beautiful today!" Doesn't that just seem like a very Japanese thing to do? Well, I was wrong. It is actually the on-yomi, or Chinese reading, of the character for mountain 山. (The kun-yomi, or Japanese reading of that character is yama.

There are 7 trails to choose from and a cable car that will drop you off halfway up the mountain. On this particular day, we took the Inariyama Trail up and followed Trail #3 down. They were challenging but not impossible and served as a nice cross training day for me. There's a good combination of man-made and mother nature made steps. If you can muster up the leg muscle and are a little lucky, you'll be rewarded with a clear view of snow topped Fuji-san in the distance. In the first photo, all the way to the right, you can sort of see it/him/her. 

There are a lot of snack shacks at the peak selling food to help you refuel for your descent. One of the signature dishes in the winter time is とろろそば (tororo soba). Soba, as you probably know, are Japanese buckwheat noodles served either in hot broth or with a cold dipping sauce. The white goo on top of my soup is raw grated nagaimo yam. Japanese people love slimy food. Have you ever heard of natto, or fermented soy beans? Slimy. Super slimy okra? They love it! Well, leave it to the Japanese to find the food that most resembles mucus and turn it into a delicacy. It doesn't taste like much but was fun to eat. However, it did make the noodles extra slippery and kept falling through my chopsticks. They really make you earn it at Takao. 

There's lots to see and do on the mountain. Since the longest trail is only about a 90 minute hike, spend some time taking in the sites and attractions. There's a buddhist temple, monkey park, waterfalls, creeks and a beer garden just to name a few activities. Along your hike, you'll also come across little statues begging to be photographed. such as these little dudes in red caps and bibs and that angry fox. 

This was actually my second time climbing Takao-san. I tackled Takao-san alone the first week I arrived in Japan. Blammo was on a business trip and had also hiked it solo before I got to town. If it seems weird that we did it separately, it's not. Apparently, there's a superstition that if you climb Takao-san as a couple, you will break up. YIKES! Some people swear by it and discouraged us from doing it. Other Japanese friends had never even heard of this so-called love curse. 

Perhaps it's our New Year fortunes, but so far, Blammo and I have not parted ways and do not currently have plans to do so. (To my knowledge.) You're apparently not supposed to eat together at the McDonald's in Kichijoji either. I think we may need to test that one out now that our love has stumped good 'ol Mt. Takao. 

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