Okutama: Exploring Tokyo’s Hidden Natural Paradise

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Okutama: Exploring Tokyo’s Hidden Natural Paradise

One of the largest metropolises in the world, being in the center of Tokyo can often feel like you're a world away from the grasps of nature. However Tokyo is much more than just the metropolitan area, to the west of the city you'll find a region full of dramatic mountains, deep sloping valleys and rural towns, a far cry from the bright, flashing lights of Shinjuku. Okutama Lake is nestled in the mountains right on the edge of Tokyo and despite its highly rural location, it's actually quite easy to get to, a short journey from Okutama station on the Ome Line.

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Okutama: Exploring Tokyo’s Hidden Natural Paradise

What to Do There

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Okutama rarely disappoints, the region is full of natural wonders, be it waterfalls, trickling streams, hills and mountains to hike up or old mysterious forests to explore. If you're looking for somewhere close to Tokyo to explore the surrounding natural landscape for a couple of days, Okutama is perfect. While you can go here for a day trip it's best to spend a couple of days leisurely exploring the area.

There are a number of mountains nearby popular for hiking such as Mount Takanosu and Mount Gozen, many of which provide stunning views out to Mt Fuji if you're lucky that the weather is clear and not cloudy.

After spending some time hiking around the surrounding area, there are a number of hot springs you'll find around Okutama town and the lake. One of the more famous is Moegi No Yu, a short walk from the station, you'll find a number of different baths here including an outside bath.

Mount Mitake

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Along with Mount Takao, Mitake is another popular mountain hike on the outskirts of Tokyo that's frequented by city dwellers wanting to escape the confinements of the crowded city. Being slightly closer to the city and next to Mitake Station, the mountain is much more popular as a hike then places around Okutama Lake where trails often stay fairly empty throughout most of the year. Mitake is often busy throughout the year, especially during the fall season. It does make for a lovely hike however while on the way to Okutama as the train will pass Mitake Station on the way there.

Around the Lake

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Okutama Lake has a number of picturesque spots for enjoying the surrounding scenery. Apart from taking hikes around the mountains that tower around the lake, you can walk around the lake itself and stroll along Mugiyamauki, a floating bridge that crosses the lake. If you're looking for a great view of the lake without doing some heavy mountain climbing, head to the observation point at Sasuzawayama, which takes about an hour to climb up but still offers beautiful views.

How to Get There

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Unless you're heading there from somewhere further west of the center, you'll want to head to Shinjuku station first and take the Chuo Line to Ome. From Tachikawa the line will actually change to the Ome Line, but will still be the same train. From Ome station you'll still stay on the same line but take a local train towards Okutama Station. If you want to get to the lake from Okutama town you can take a bus, either the 09, 11 or 14 buses which all go to the lake in about 20 minutes. Or you can opt to walk there through the beautiful valley scenery which takes about two hours.

Where to Stay

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If you really want to appreciate the beautiful landscape around here, make sure to stay over for at least one night. There's a number of great traditional Japanese inns or ryokan that you can stay at around the town or some hidden away within the valleys if you're looking for something more secluded. Arasawaya Inn is a no frills ryokan right within the town that offers private hot springs, decent food and good service at a reasonable price.

For those that want a closer experience with the natural environment here, there's also a number of camping sites around Okutama that'll let you pitch up a tent. You can rent one from places within Tokyo if you don't have a tent of your own.

What to Eat There

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The area around Okutama is famous for growing wasabi, the real root and not the bright green horseradish paste you'll often find at cheaper restaurants. As you might expect many of the dishes you'll find around here feature freshly grated wasabi such as wasabi udon, something that's well worth trying while you're in the local area. Kamameshi Nakai is a renowned restaurant a few bus stops from Kawai Station that serves up some delicious clay-pot rice. Despite it's fairly out of the way location, it's often quite busy as one of the most popular restaurants in the area.

Conclusion

Despite it's fairly easy-to-get-to location from the center of Tokyo, Okutama is a low-key tourism destination perfect for someone wanting to escape the crowds and get in touch with nature. It's fairly empty most of the year, however more people usually flock to the area during the autumn when the fall leaves turn a beautiful shade of colors. While most city dwellers tend to head to the better known hiking spots of Mount Takao and Mitake, Okutama usually gets a steady trickle of visitors during this time too.

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