Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi tour of Tama in West Tokyo


Getting around Tokyo can be daunting, especially if you don’t speak Japanese, all the train lines can be really confusing. And even more so if you are traveling with your family in a group with little ones and the elderly.

When I was invited to join a Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi tour, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s autumn season, and I’ll soon be needing this as family members start visiting me in Tokyo! We’ll be exploring the west side of Tokyo where the nature is beautiful with plenty of historical and cultural spots along the way. It’s the perfect route to go to escape the overwhelming busy city center of Tokyo.

The major spots we’re visiting are:
  • Mt. Takao – the most popular and easy to hike mountain with a stunning view of Mt.Fuji
  • Ozawa Brewery – sake brewery tour and tasting plus lunch by Tama river
  • Entakuzan Houkouji – 600 year old temple with the 2nd largest buddha statue in Japan
  • Ookunitama Shrine- famous shrine lined with beautiful lanterns

The tour takes about 9-10 hours, and the driver will pick you up at the hotel you are staying at within Tokyo.

Upon arriving at my pickup spot, my driver Mr. Nishimura greeted me with enthusiasm. He spoke great English and even some Chinese! The taxi was a super comfortable van which could fit 6 passengers in total and the ride was very comfortable.


Midway through our drive to the first stop, we took a break at a highway rest stop to grab some coffee and breakfast. There were also a wide selection of souvenir you can buy for friends and family back home! It was during that time when Mr. Nishimura took out an English map of Mt.Takao and explained to us the trail we were taking up and down the mountain. He actually stopped by Mt.Takao yesterday to get a copy of this map and also asked the staff there on what trail they recommended. This just really shows his commitment to provide top-notch service to his customers.

Mt.Takao – A leisurely hike to see Mt.Fuji
Arriving at Mt.Takao, we started by taking the tram up. It’s the steepest tram in Japan, starting at 30 degrees angle. We took the most scenic trail 1 up which took us past Yakuo-in Temple. This temple has a lot of Tengu “heavenly dog” statues all around guarding this temple. At the very top of the Mt.Takao, which is 599m, you can see Mt.Fuji sitting majestically in the distance. It is especially beautiful during late autumn and winter when it has a white snow cap.

The hike isn’t difficult at all, you see a lot of elderly people and even kids hiking here. There’s plenty of rest stops and lots of food, vending machines, and toilets along the way. On the way down, we took trail 4 which was mostly forest and had a suspension bridge midway through for a change of scenery. Don’t forget to grab some Tenguyaki at the cable car station before heading back down.




Ozawa Sake Brewery and dining by Tama River
Aside from gorgeous mountain ranges, the west side of Tokyo is also the upstream of one of the most important rivers in Tokyo – Tama River. The significance in that is that in order to brew sake, you need a pristine water source. And that is why Ozawa Sake Brewery was established in this area. When you visit, you can tour the inside of the brewery and see the various tanks and understand the brewing process. You can even see the horizontal well they dug to get to the source of the water. Throughout this process, our driver Mr. Nishimura w as listening closely and translating everything for me. I was blown away by how well he could translate the technical words about the brewing process, and when he didn’t know he whipped out a little digital dictionary from his pocket to quickly look it up! Talk about a man who is dedicated to learning!

And of course you get to have a taste of their sake, and an English menu is available as well. You get to take home one of their sake glasses as a souvenir. On it is an icon of a crab, and the brewery staff explained that they used the crab as a symbol of how clean the water is here. After tasting, you can grab a seat at the outdoor terrace just below for a delicious meal right by the river.


 



Entakuzan Houkouji and its 18m tall Buddha Statue
A short drive later, we arrived at Houkouji. This spot was not on my radar prior to this trip, so I was really glad to have had a chance to visit it. It is a 600 year old temple and you could feel the sacred feeling walking up the entrance where tall cedar trees lined the sides of the staircase leading towards the temple. We were given special permission to get onto the raised tatami floor of the temple mail hall to get up close and see the statues inside.

Further up the hill, across a beautiful field of silvergrass is the giant buddha statue. There is no missing it, you can see it all the way from the temple main hall. It is in fact the second largest buddha statue in Japan. The entrance gate has a small gift shop to purchase omamori (good luck talismans), goshuin (official temple seal dated for proof of visit), ema (wooden plaque for wishes) and other items. Other than seeing the buddha up close, you can also go inside the base which has a little prayer hall as well as a display of 3 sizes of the buddha’s “hair”. Because the statue is so big, the further the “hair” is from the ground, the smaller it will look. So to make it all look even, they used 3 different sizes of these hair swirls to maintain a balanced look.

 


Ookunitama Jinja and its impressive lanterns
Our final stop is Ookunitama Jinja Shrine. This is a familiar place for me, since I recently just visited their “Ichi no Tori” market (a festival for business prosperity in November). It was so nice seeing the place during the sunset and quiet as most people were still just leaving work. The temple grounds were serene, contrasting with the lively scene I had witness during my last visit.

 


As we drove back to Tokyo city center, the sun had set and Tokyo lit up in the dark night sky. Driving into the city is a whole different experience as you can see all the buildings and signs light up.

While we bid goodbye, the driver handed me a special omamori from Houkokuji temple. It was a talisman to give you “peace of mind” and to have zen and calm in your heart no matter where you go. It was such a lovely gift and I will always look back on this lovely one-day taxi tour with a grateful heart and smile on my face.





This Article is Supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government

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