Nature

An introduction to Mt. Takao / 高尾山

Mt. Takao is only one hour to the West of Tokyo and has plenty of locals and foreigners visiting it throughout the year. The mountain stands 599m tall and despite being so close to the capital city, it boasts numerous species of plants, birds, insects, spiders, amphibians and snakes.

There are year-round seasonal festivals held at the mountain – the most famous of which is the Walking Fire Festival. Even if you miss them, you’ll be able to enjoy the six hiking routes where you’ll be able to see an abundance of wildlife and Takaosan Yakuoin Temple up close – not to mention the Takao 599 Museum, Odango stalls, and Tengu near the base of the mountain.

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Takaosanguchi Station: Takaosanguchi Station is on the Keio Line and runs directly to (and from) Shinjuku Station. Its basically at the base of the mountain. The roasted odango (a type of Japanese sweet) stall near the station is well worth a stop.

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Takao 599 Museum: This newly constructed museum is a tasteful mix between a modern art museum and a traditional natural history museum. It showcases different species of  plants, insects and mammals that are typical of Mt. Takao’s landscape. The museum attempts to make things more interactive in a number of ways. The first photograph os of the entrance of Takao 599 Museum. The second photograph is of the main hall  that houses the nature collection.

Takao 599 Museum website: http://www.takao599museum.jp

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Momi Fir (Abies Firma): This photograph was taken in Takao 599 Museum and is of Momi Fir seeds stacked in rotation and encased in acrylic glass. Momi Fir is an evergreen coniferous tree that is native to Japan and is usually found in mixed tree forests with other trees such as Hinoki (Chaemacyparis obtusa) or Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica).

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Ural Owl (Strix uralensis): Ural Owls are nocturnal owls that are found in the northern temperate regions of Asia and Europe. It is an aggressive owl that preys on insects, amphibians and small birds – it even attacks humans if threatened in presence of its brood. This photograph is of a dark taxidermy Ural Owl – a rare sight as Ural Owls are mainly white with puffy grey-brown plumage. The taxidermy Japanese Squirrel (Sciurus lis) in the feature image was displayed on the same taxidermy wall.

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Garfield of Takao: This cat was spotted near the entrance of Takao 599 Museum. Its attitude and stature is similar to Garfield’s, but there was one difference that stood out: he eats a lot of cat food rather than lasagna. While Jon appeared coo coo in Garfield minus Garfield (http://garfieldminusgarfield.net), this cat showed us that Garfield minus Jon would do just fine as an adorable chubster.

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Takao Cablecar: The Takao Cablecar offers a fun ride up (or down) the mountain – perfect for the lazies. The first photograph is a mirror reflection of the cablecar. The second photograph is the end of a tunnel as the cablecar approaches it – passengers are allowed to stand at the open window right at the front of the cablecar.

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View from Mt. Takao: This photograph was taken at the viewing deck near the cablecar station.

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Mixed tree forest: Mt. Takao has over 1,500 unique plant species, 60 of which were first discovered on the mountain. The most common tree species in Mt. Takao include:

  • Coniferous tree species such as Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica), Hinoki (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and Momi (Abies Firma)
  • Broad-leaved deciduous trees such as Japanese Beech (Fagus crenata), Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima), Lindera (Lindera obtusiloba), Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) and Magnolia (Magnolia obovata)
  • Broad-leaved evergreen trees such as Cleyera (Cleyera japonica), Litsea (Litsea coreana) and Holly Osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus).

This photograph was taken on the Omotesando Trail.

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Insect eggs on leaves: This photograph was taken near the shrine on the Jyataki Waterfall Trail – it seems to be evenly spaced insect eggs on leaves.

 

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Strawberry Geranium (Saxifraga stolonifera): The Strawberry Geranium is a perennial plant that is native to Asia but also found in other parts of the world for ornamental purposes.  This photograph is of a Strawberry Geranium flower and was taken near the shrine on the Jyataki Waterfall Trail – strangely it was only seen near the shrine and nowhere else on the trail.

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