Along the Tama river a couple of hours west out of Tokyo, Mount Mitake is both a sacred Buddhist mountain and a beautiful place to go hiking, an escape from the city into nature. There are a number of places to stay at the top, one of which is Komadori Sanso, 'Robin Mountain Lodge'; originally opened in 1776 as a lodge for pilgrims, it's now a friendly, restful place for hikers, devotees and travelers alike to spend a night or two.
I was greeted when I arrived by proprieter Baba-san, a friendly, chatty man who speaks passable English, and who went out of his way to make my friends and I feel welcome and comfortable. We spent the afternoon at a geisha entertainment event then returned to the lodge for dinner, an exquisite Japanese meal with plenty of small dishes (I didn't count); there was grilled fish and melt-in-the-mouth sashimi, fresh vegetables and light, tasty tempura, pickles and soups, and a couple of dishes I couldn't identify but which were delicious nonetheless, all accompanied by drinks which were constantly replenished by the attentive staff. We were eating in a big dining room together with the other guests, so we all ended up mingling and chatting with each other, and enjoying an impromptu performance by a man with a handheld karaoke machine.
All the rooms are Japanese style, with tatami floors and wooden walls and fittings, and it's fun to imagine all the different people that have stayed in these same rooms over the past 200 years. All have views of the lushly forested mountain, and some have balconies so you can sit outside to enjoy the scenery, though it was covered with constant mist both days I was there. None are en-suite; there are shared showers and separate public baths for men and women with bathtubs made of cypress wood, which can also be used privately in the evenings.
Rates for the night start at just ¥4500 per person, while the dinner costs only ¥2000 - an absolute bargain, though you might want to keep track of how much you drink if you have an early start the next day - and breakfast is ¥800 for Western or ¥1000 for Japanese. I'm already thinking of a hiking trip up to Mitake-san to see the autumn leaves, possibly another of the geisha events, and when I do that I'll certainly be staying at Komadori Sanso.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.