Musashi Shrine at Mt Mitake

When Tokyo gets discussed, the only image conjured up by most visitors is concrete and people. Yet as soon as you leave the flat land conurbation, extensive hills, mountains and forests beckon. Ome in western Tokyo is one of those places where sensory overloads of central Tokyo can be left behind.

The Mitake Tozan Railway delivered us up the mountain. Now our feet take us around the Mt Mitake precinct and the revered Musashi Shrine. On a good day you can look back to the high rises of central Tokyo, Mount Tsukuba, Boso Peninsula, and the Yokohama Landmark Tower.

As usual our first stop was the Visitor Centre to grab a map. The day Veronica and I were there just a few visitors to share the wide pathways that wound up to Musashi Shrine. The stone steps leading up to the Shrine entrance were beautiful. But steep – as often is the case!

The Musashi Mitake Shrine is dedicated to the temple built by Buddhist priest Gyōki in honor of the mountain deity Zao Gongen in the year 736.

 

 

 

 

 

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Can the Mitake Tozan Railway get any steeper?

Mt Takeo is a very popular destination on the western edges of Tokyo. Maybe less popular but an immensely interesting place to visit is Mt Mitake in Ome City where your day can have three distinct elements – the Mitake Tozan Railway, Matsushima Shrine atop Mt Mitake, and the Mitake Gorge walking path along the upper reaches of the Tama River.

From Tokyo central it might take 2 hours to reach Mitake Station. The Lower station of the Mitake Tozan Railway is just 10 minutes away on a regular local bus. Weirdly though the bus stop is a couple hundred metres short of the cable car, with a very stiff uphill walk to Takimoto.

Like a backwards roller coaster, the train draws you up to Mitake-San station,  gaining 4oo metres over 1,100 metres of track. The views are spectacular. And with the usual Japan railway efficiency, the up and down trains slide past each other on the one passing loop.

Veronica and I visited during spring, with the line a blaze of colour.

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JR Metropolitan Hotel Marunouchi, worth the splurge

Fair to say that 5 Stars is punching well above my usual accommodation level when getting around Japan. 3 Star business hotels are the norm. The JR Metropolitan Hotel Marunouchi (Tokyo) has such a good reputation and is close to transport – in fact, right next to Tokyo Station. Forget the cost I say. Less inheritance for the kids.

Things are looking pretty special when Reception is on the 27th Floor. The grand foyer (is that what it is on the 27th Floor?) includes fantastic artworks and a very large model railway. And of course the usual super attentive and courteous staff.

The King Corner Room had luxurious furnishings complimented by an expansive view north and east across iconic places like Asakusa and the Tokyo Skytree, as well to the expanses of this great city.

A great place. Value for money? Yes certainly, especially for a couple of special nights at the start or end of a trip.

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Cafe Aun quiet beside the Tama River

From the riverside walking track only a small wooden gate sign lets you know that both a gallery and cafe lie on the other side. The short path leads you past kid’s bikes, a cubby house and a deflated football that tell you this is an everyday backyard

The Aun Cafe sits in the back of the house with magnificent views over the upper reaches of the Tama River, close enough to hear the constant flow of rushing water around volcanic rocks seemingly deliberately placed to create a cluster of rapids.

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Akagi-goe section of the Kumano Kodo

The loop from Hongu Taisha to Hosshinmon-oji, on to Funatama-jinja and then on to Yunomine via the Akgi-goe section of the Nakahechi route is a very popular day walk. A short distance from Funatama-jinja, the route crosses over the Otonashi-gawa. A poem from 1158 reflects the spiritual significance of this place: Although the waters of the Otonashi-gawa are shallow, crossing them washes away the depths of impurity.

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Yasu’s favourite izakaya is now mine. IZAKAYA たいと

I met Yasu at the Japan Council of Local Government Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) in Sydney a few years ago. With his posting over and a trip to Tokyo coming up for Veronica and I, some loose arrangements were made to meet up.

Without knowing much about each other, I opted for informality and the prospect of lots of food and adult beverages by suggesting that we go to Yasu’s favourite izakaya.

And what a damn fine night we had at IZAKAYA たいと (I don’t know what is says, but I gather it is an amalgam of the two operators names). When Yasu’s personal Japanese whisky bottle is bought over to the table, the prospects were good that things came only go up from there. Little did I know that Yasu has been eating at this place for 15 years!

Rounds of delicious foods were delivered, selected by by Yasu and Chie and by the operators – their special dishes for a favourite local and us blow-ins. The good range of food much was more that a typical izakaya. Great conversations about work, families, politics, golf, soccer, teaching, history and culture.

A really nice night. Thank you Yasu and Chie.

Check out a place like IZAKAYA たいと rather than the crowds and noise of Roppongi central.  https://goo.gl/maps/Ap3yeCrNZ1G2 106-0032 Tōkyō-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi, 3 Chome−4−48

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Kawayu Onsen – better second time around

There is something exotic and very reflective of the heart of Japan to stay in an old wooden ryokan, a fast flowing river in front before big hills that surround. Add to that open air hot spring baths. Kawayu Onsen is one of those places. In 2013 four of us old gents stayed in the Kameya Inn (a couple of stories about that are here)

A return trip in 2016 focused on the Kumano Hongu Taisha Spring Festival. With most of the locals involved in the festival, including our Kameya Inn hosts who close the ryokan on festival day, the much bigger and formal Midoriya Hotel became our spot.

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