Relax and Unwind at these Secluded Spots
With a population exceeding 13 million residents, the Tokyo Metropolis easily ranks as the most populous of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Area wise it lies third from the bottom, resulting in a limited amount of personal space for the average Tokyoite. Whilst this may invoke an image of a living hell – for anyone regularly commuting across town it surely does – the inner-city congestion is tempered with restful suburban green belts and areas of pristine nature on the city’s outer edges. Collectively these expanses of greenery offer a welcome respite from the bustle of the city as well as a place to escape to and explore on weekends.
Away back this blog touched on some lesser known places to visit in the Kanto region, this time we are confining our search exclusively to the Tokyo metropolitan boundary. The locations have been divided into eight categories (filterable), such as waterfalls, lakes, forests, campsites etc. but also includes some curious architectural anomalies on the city fringes. Okutama Town in the far western portion of Tokyo features most prominently with ten attractions, followed by Hachioji City and Hinohara Village both with three points of interest. Some places are well trodden while others see only the occasional passerby. Importantly, the majority of spots are either free or have a modest entrance fee which is another great reason to go out and enjoy them for yourself.
Koganei Park is the second largest park in Tokyo after Shown Kinen Park. A popular park for viewing plum and cherry trees and also hosts the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum.
This former military airbase is the largest park in Tokyo. Whilst there is a modest entrance fee (410 yen for adults), Showa Park has excellent facilities including an 11-kilometre bike trail and hiring a bicycle or tandem is a nice way to spend a leisurely afternoon.
The Tamagawa Josui is a 24.2 km long nature trail which stretches from Suginami Ward to Fussa City. It was originally constructed to supply water from the Tama River to Edo. The channel includes a diverse ecology and is a great place to enjoy some greenery in the city.
The 40-metre Hyakuhiro Waterfall is located in a remote corner of Okutama near the Nippara limestone cave. Give yourself plenty of time as a return hike will set you back upwards of 3 hours.
The 60-metre-high Hossawa Falls has been designated as one of the ‘One Hundred Waterfalls of Japan’. The falls are an easy 10-minute walk from the bus stop following a well-worn path.
The Odake Falls are 1.2 kilometres up the road from the Odake Cave with the last 300 metres veering off a hiking trail. The cascades are 30 metres high and given their seclusion means a good chance to enjoy them in peace.
There are few more beautiful places in Okutama than the Unasawa Valley. Along the Unasawa Creek finds three noteworthy waterfalls including the impressive Mitsugama Falls which holds its own amongst Tokyo’s finest.
Tama Lake is set amongst expansive parklands in Higashiyamato City in western Tokyo. Encircling the lake is an 11.2 km bicycle path and the adjacent but less visited Sayama Lake is a popular spot for mountain biking.
As the largest reservoir in Japan, Lake Okutama is an important source of drinking water for Tokyoites. Enjoy nature walks including the 9 km “Mukashi-michi” trail that stretches from Okutama Station to Lake Okutama.
On the outer edge of Tokyo finds Nippara Cave one of the best karst limestone caves in Japan. The cave extends over some 1,270 metres of which 800 metres is accessible to the public and takes around 40 minutes to fully explore.
A smaller limestone cave worth checking out is the Odake Cave along the way to the Odake Falls. The 300-metre-long cave was discovered in 1961 and to this day remains with the same family. The opening hours are irregular so best to check in advance.
On the Tokyo / Kanagawa prefectural border finds Mount Jinba which is famed for a white concrete horse courtesy of the Keio (railway) Corporation. The mountain has panoramic views and is significantly less crowded than nearby Mount Takao.
This seldom visited peace pagoda on Mount Odera overlooks Lake Okutama. Hiking up to the pagoda takes around an hour and provides scenic views over the lake and surrounding valley.
Situated along a scenic stretch of the Tamagawa River only 10 minutes’ walk from Hatonosu Station is the longest fish ladder in Japan. Shiromaru Dam fish ladder drops some 27 meters over its 330-metre length and is accessible by means of an enormous spiral staircase.
While somewhat misleading as the site of the former Hachioji Castle now lies in ruins, it remains one of the better castles to visit in the Tokyo area. Along with the ruins the sprawling grounds mean there is plenty of forested and open areas to enjoy a picnic.
The Tokyo Citizen’s Forest created in 1995 is a good example of a sustainably managed recreational area near Tokyo. The popular 20-minute walk to the Otaki Waterfall is one of Japan’s growing number Forest Therapy Roads. With a little more time it’s possible to make a longer hike to nearby Mount Mito.
This remarkable tree in Okutama traces its ancestry back around 600 years ago, though some have estimated its age closer to 1,000 years. Either way, the Kurasawa Japanese Cypress is the largest of its kind in Tokyo and was designated as a natural monument by Okutama Town in 1983.
Mount Kumotori claims the highest point in the Tokyo metropolitan area at 2,017 metres (6,617 ft). Hiking to the summit is generally undertaken over two days with a stopover at the Kumotori mountain lodge. Views from the summit are quite spectacular on clear days.
The popular Mitake Tozan Cable has a high vertical rise of 424 metres saving a good hour of walking time. The cable cars correspond to the arriving buses from Mitake Station. Be prepared for hefty crowds during weekends and public holidays.
A fun and romantic alternative to riding the Takao Tozan Cable is the nearby chairlift which takes a leisurely 12 minutes to ride up Mount Takao.
The Hikawa campground is located a short 5-minute walk from Okutama Station, around 2 hours travel from central Tokyo. Like many popular camping areas in the Kanto Region it sees plenty of day trippers. Meals can be had in the cafe or cooked in the designated BBQ areas.
Resting beside Lake Okutama is the Yamano Furusatomura Camping Ground, a perfect spot for nature starved Tokyoites looking to unwind. There are 25 well-spaced campsites, along with an undercover kitchen / BBQ area and plenty of outdoor picnic tables.
The Jonanjima Seaside Park in Ota Ward is one of two camping grounds located within the special 23 wards of Tokyo. Along with a BBQ area, the artificial Tsubasa Beach and boardwalk its proximity to Haneda Airport makes it a perfect place to checkout low flying aircraft.
On the opposing side of the Tokyo Gate Bridge finds another downtown campground at Wakasu-koen Park. This artificial island is largely comprised of a golf course though there is plenty of open space and shared fireplaces to BBQ to your hearts content.
The Ochizawa Youth Center Campground sits on an attractive forested easement in Machida City. Nearby is Machida’s highest peak Mount Kusado about an hour’s hike away.