In this hidden Tokyo spot, you’ll think you’ve somehow ended up on the other side of Japan, but an hour and a half train ride from Shinjuku (snag a Japan rail pass!) will land you in the serene mountain area of Okutama, still within Tokyo’s city-limits.
Follow the Okutama Mukashi Michi, the old road, that leads to Lake Okutama. The path hugs the Tama River, a green-tinted perfectly clear river. Work up the courage to cross over the two suspension bridges that lead you over. The first one sways immediately when you step onto it; it can only handle three people on it at a time. I made it halfway across, got the picture and tip-toed back to solid ground. The second suspension bridge can handle five people at once and doesn’t sway quite as much, so if you bailed on the first one, like I did, you can handle the second one. The bridges are only there to offer a view of the river and ravine from above, so if bridges and heights aren’t your thing, not to worry, they’re not actually part of the hike.
The only neon you’ll spot here is in the fall, with the ginkgo and maple trees showing off their yellow and red hues. The road passes through picturesque villages with houses set into the mountainside. Most homes here include an impressive hillside farm, and you can spot wasabi growing (a ridiculously temperamental process, which is why most of the wasabi we eat is actually horseradish dyed green).
Be sure to have a handful of small coins on you before you depart Okutama Station. Most farms sell small bags of whatever is growing in season for a few hundred yen, on the honor system with a jar to drop your coin in. After the hike, hang out at Port Okutama, a restaurant above the train station, for a beer or a meal before heading back on the train. Your glutes are gonna feel those hills you just hiked — better make it two beers.
Map of Okutama
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Neon lights everywhere, drunk salarymen stumbling in the streets, squishing yourself on the trains overflowing with hurried commuters, robots, steaming bowls of ramen, robots serving ramen — this is how everyone in the world views Tokyo — except those who’ve been there and found things to do in Tokyo outside of the city. Yep, Tokyo’s […]