A hike and a delicious meal in a traditional Japanese setting make for a perfect outing.
When in Japan, cities like Tokyo and Osaka are must-see places—but they’re not all the country has to offer. Though Japan is known for the neon magnificence of its cities, sometimes you just want to get out of the concrete jungle and enjoy some of what nature has to offer. Fortunately, opportunities to enjoy nature abound just beyond Tokyo’s urban core.
Mt. Takao, just outside central Tokyo, offers not just the opportunity to take in a hike, but also to enjoy some delicious sustenance thanks to the restaurants located nearby. For the lover of grilled cuisine, Ukai Toriyama—the Chinese characters in whose name mean “chicken” and “mountain”—specializes in charcoal grilling and features grilled chicken and beef prix-fixe courses that also offer a variety of seasonal vegetable dishes. You can enjoy whatever course you choose in a private room with a tatami-lined floor and shoji paper screens. Ukai Toriyama also boasts a 20,000-square-metre Japanese garden and sukiya-zukuri architecture, a style of Japanese architecture based on traditional Japanese tea houses and emphasizing the use of natural materials.
But if kaiseki is more your speed, head over to Ukai Chikutei. Meaning “kaiseki restaurant overlooking a bamboo forest,” the name Chikutei is a nod to the traditional architecture of the restaurant. Kaiseki refers to a type of Japanese cuisine where a variety of dishes are served on a tray to each person dining. The menu is skillfully prepared and focuses on communicating the subtleties of the four seasons through food. Kaiseki dishes vary with the seasons and include both cooked fish and sashimi courses with exquisitely prepared seasonal vegetable courses. Ukai Chikutei also offers a hojono-ma room, a special room where diners can be seated at a counter and watch the chef prepare each course first-hand.
Mt. Takao is located in Hachioji, and is easily accessed by train from Shinjuku or Tokyo Station. It’s a popular destination for Tokyoites who are looking for a quick hike or dose of nature as respite from the daily grind. The altitude is also much lower than Mt. Fuji, with an average time to the summit of about 90 minutes. For an even quicker hike, visitors can take the funicular railway that carries passengers halfway up. Either way, visitors are bound to work up an appetite for which Ukai Toriyama and Ukai Chikutei are ideally placed.
Both restaurants boast not only fantastic seasonal menus, but the chance to relax and enjoy your meal in a traditional Japanese setting, from the architecture down to the tatami, while surrounded by serene Japanese gardens. The area boasts beautiful natural scenery from cherry blossom season through to the changing of the leaves in autumn. The dinner menus from both restaurants are a more expensive option, but for those budget-conscious travellers who want to take part in this distinctly cultural Japanese dining experience, there is a more budget-friendly lunch course available, perfect after a morning hike up Mt. Takao. For traditional and serene Japanese dining, regardless of whether you choose Ukai Toriyama or Ukai Chikutei, you will find an experience not to be missed.