Takao – Tokyo’s mystical mountain


I climbed Mount Takao near Tokyo yesterday for a photoessay I’m working on. These are statues of “tengu” goblin, which the mountain is famous for. There are two kinds: one with green and with a beak, and one with a red face and long nose.

They both have a reputation for causing trouble – but only to people who deserve it.

Here’s a less than tempting souvenir snack!

tengu snot

Mount Takao is a popular day trip from Tokyo – only about an hour from Shinjuku but feels like its the middle of the countryside. It’s a truly magical place with temples, shrines and links to several religions.

There’s a Shingon temple half way up called Yakuouin. It’s Buddhist, but they have some connection with Shugendo which is an ancient Japanese mountain religion. Shugendo practioners seem to spend a lot of time climbing mountains, blowing conches and meditating under waterfalls. (You can actually join the Shungendo guys at their regular waterfall dousing if you want – I might have to go and take pictures of that!)

Every time I go to Takao I end up captivated by the statues. This chap was hiding in the grass. I only noticed that a leaf was resting on his hand when I got home.

buddha statue

People place coins on the statues to pray. I wonder what the bug was wishing for?

jizo statue

Unbelievably (or perhaps all too believeably) the Tokyo government are planning to put a tunnel through Takao! Details are here. Perhaps the tengu could do something about that!

3 Responses to “Takao – Tokyo’s mystical mountain”

  1. Shane says:

    Love the photos Tony! I will have to make the trip up there in the new year as your description makes in sound very enticing.

  2. Honor says:

    Nice pics. I love the area round Takao and it’s especially beautiful right now with the leaves changing color.

  3. tony says:

    Thanks. Takao is such a cool place. I think I’ve been there 5 or 6 times but I always discover some little shrine or tea shop tucked away around a corner.

    I’ve got to got and take pictures in the snow some time – and when the leaves are completely red too!

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