Want to escape the busy city life of Tokyo without the need to venture too far? Mt Takao (also known as Takaosan) is the best choice. It is not a very tall mountain compared to those further west; but with a height of 599 meters, you can stretch yourself out and get some fresh air without straining your last bit of energy to reach the top. It is the closest hiking possibility from Tokyo. The second closest is Mt Jinba, which is connected to Mt Takao by hiking trails.
Several hiking trails go from the very foot of the mountain to the top - Trail 1, Trail 6 and the Inariyama Trail. Another two, Trail 3 and Trail 4, connect the middle of the hill to the peak. There are cable cars and chair lifts that take you from the bottom to the middle. I took the chair lift to the middle and hiked up Trail 1, the most popular one, passing through Yakuoin Buddhist temple. On the descent, I took Trail 4 from the top, then joined up with Trail 1 to reach the foot of the mountain.
I personally think the chairlift is much nicer than the cable car, in that you enjoy much more of the surroundings as you are not caged inside a cabin. The experience is more exciting as there is just the chair supporting you, with nothing beneath your feet. You can also easily turn around to take pictures.
The hike from the mid-station to the top via Trail 1 is very scenic, as stone lanterns and Buddhist figures line the road. From the highest platform of Yakuoin temple it is just a short climb to the top, where refreshment and souvenir stores are available. If the weather is good, you can even spot Mt Fuji in the distance.
Walking down from the top using Trail 4 takes around half an hour to reach the mid-station. Since this trail is in a southwest-northeast direction, it is very scenic before sunset when orange sunlight shines through the foliage. The highlight of the trail is the wooden bridge that takes you across a valley. You will exit the trail with the big gate to Yakuoin temple on your right-hand side.
Passing the cable car station, Trail 1 leads further downhill to the foot of the mountain. The section right after the chairlift station is quite steep, but as the entire length of Trail 1 is paved, it is not slippery at all. There are resting corners along the trail and halfway down, a small detour leads you to a platform where there are good views of the city below.
Those who have more time could also hike from the top of Mt Takao to Mt Jinba, which is about 18 kilometers away and takes around 3.5 hours to finish.