Distance: 12.9 km
Elevation change: 60 metres
Highest point: 172 metres
Start: Seibu-Kyujo-mae Station
Finish: Seibu-Kyujo-mae Station
A Green Oasis in Tokyo’s Outer Suburbs
I’ll go out on a limb and say this is possibly the best 4-hour hike within 30 km of downtown Tokyo. The Sayama Hills measure 11 km lengthwise and 4 km across making it one of the most important natural environments in the Tokyo Metropolis. I’ve done the hike twice, most recently this past week during a brief interlude of sunny skies. It loops counterclockwise beginning and ending at Seibu-Kyujo-mae Station next to the Seibu Lions baseball stadium in Tokorozawa, Saitama. Access to the station is by either the Seibu Sayama Line from Nishi-Tokorozawa or via the rubber-tyred and aptly nicknamed Leo Liner from Seibu-Yuenchi.
After exiting the station head towards the Family Mart, cross and follow the road downhill. Turn left at the first street and snake your way around to the Saitama Prefectural Nature Park 県立狭山自然公園 which encompasses the embankment of the Yamaguchi Reservoir aka Sayama Lake. The far end of the dam wall is a good spot to view Fujisan and adjoins a small grassy park dotted with picnic tables. Continue through the park until you reach a minor road. Follow this road uphill as it hugs the northern perimeter of Sayama Lake. A little way along you’ll pass a tiny shrine and a gate closed to vehicles daily between 09:30-16:00.
This side of the lake sees far fewer visitors, apart from the odd mountain biker and amateur birder. Most of the hike until this point is a mixture of sealed and gravel roads but gradually narrows to a vehicular trail as you approach the ‘nature walk’ junction. This section of vehicular trail is around 2 kilometres in length, fenced on both sides, gated, and restricted to walkers. The surrounding mixed species-woodland is managed by the Tokyo Bureau of Waterworks as a water catchment. Around the halfway point finds the Nawatake Bridge 縄竹橋 which crosses the crystal-clear Kanahori Stream 金堀沢. In 2003 the original bamboo bridge was demolished and replaced with a less appealing concrete one.
The southern end of the nature walk borders the Noyamakita-Rokudoyama Park, one of the largest parks run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Exit the gate turn left and follow a popular walking path which eventually leads back to Tama Lake. After 10 minutes you’ll reach an open three-way intersection known as Yakiba 焼場 meaning crematory where a Roku-jizo 六地蔵 memorialises local residents who died during a dysentery epidemic in 1897. A little further along there are several inviting rest spots with rough-hewn benches along with a children adventure playground and the nearby Katakuri onsen.
Once you reach route 55 turn left and it’s a 3.5 km walk back to Seibu-Kyujo-mae Station. If you have time check out the vivid red Yamaguchi Kannon especially in the spring as there are several cherry blossoms scattered amid the temple grounds.