Coming to Japan for the first time and immersing yourself into big crazy cities like Osaka and Tokyo for the first time can be super fun and exciting. Sometimes though, a few days stuck in a cycle of long days exploring multi-level shopping centres, ducking in and out of numerous ramen and sushi restaurants and generally being amongst (extremely) large crowds can get a little taxing on the energy.
When you hit one of those days and feel like you’re in a slump, a day trip out to a natural oasis is one of the best things you can do. Luckily for those staying in Tokyo, there are plenty of options to choose from.
One such option that’s considered quite a local gem by the locals is Okutama.
Located just slightly west of Tokyo, it’s less than 2-hours away by train, and is a world of difference from the bright flashing neon lights and skyscrapers you’re accustomed to seeing in Tokyo. If you’re seeking some solace in nature’s luscious greenery, the calm gush of waters, and lots of sunshine and fresh air, then Okutama will deliver. It’s a place that’s got many diverse activities to keep families, couples, and even solo travellers entertained for a day, so read on as we run through this fun-filled list with you.
How to Get To Okutama?
The best way to get to Okutama is to leave from Shinjuku Station. You will need to catch the Chuo Line and the Ome Line through Ome Station to Okutama Station. The train comes every 40-minutes, and cost 1,100 yen. The train ride will take just over 90-minutes. If you’re traveling on the weekend and during national holidays, there is a special Holiday Express Okutama train that is a shorter direct train ride.
For those coming during August, you’re in for a treat. During the second or third week of August, if you reserve your seat aboard the Ozashiki Train, you will be seated on Japanese tatami mats instead of regular train seats. It’s a rather expensive experience, but worth it.
For those who don’t want to hassle of organising an entire day trip alone, you can book tours that will take you to the highlights of this wonderful little precinct.
A bit of a nature buff? This ‘Wasabi Farm and Nature Tour in the Mountains of Okutama’ might be right up your alley. Spend half a day with an Australian wasabi farmer as he educates you about the surrounding forest and the relevant issues wasabi growers are facing today.
You’ll also get the chance to taste some super fresh wasabi! This tour starts at 1:30pm so you can still explore on your own a bit before ending the day in the best way. If you’re interested, click here to learn more about and book the tour.
If you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, why not try white water rafting, or using ‘duckys’ in the water, or even shower climbing along the gorgeous Tama River? If you can’t decide, why not try two activities? With this particular tour, you can choose to start in the morning or afternoon for one activity for half a day, or you can choose to do two activities for the full day. There’s even an optional add-on for a BBQ set up at the end of the day!
Where to Stay?
If you’re looking to stay outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, why not try a quaint mountainside ryokan that’s close to Okutama? Nobori, located in Ome, is a traditional inn that’s brimming with history and character. It offers private guest rooms that are spacious and clean, and the atmosphere of the ryokan is superbly tranquil and relaxing. A Japanese breakfast is provided.
Why Guests Love It: Make sure you don’t skip breakfast, they’re quite inventive with their menu here. If you’re hiking nearby, remember to go for a soak in the relaxing onsen afterwards! The location is also perfect for those planning to hike Mount Mitake.
Book It Now: Nobori Ryokan
For a completely unique experience, book a room at this traditional Japanese lodging facility. The host’s family has been residing in this area for more than 400 years, so you will learn much about their interesting history. It offers traditional Japanese bedding, with tatami flooring and futon bedding.
There is free Wi-Fi offered throughout the accommodation, so fear not! Relax in the onsen after a day of exploring the nearby mountains, and, for an extra charge, you can head out to a nearby waterfall in the morning to train sitting underneath the water.
Why Guests Love It: There are western-style bathrooms and toilets so this was a big relief for many guests. In November, the local walks nearby are absolutely stunning, offering great views of the momiji.
Book It Now: Shukubo Komadori-Sanso
Let’s now discover together the 7 best things to do in Okutama!
1. Nippara Limestone Cave
This 250-million-year-old limestone cave was actually only (relatively) recently discovered in 1962 – and what a discovery it was. It now sits as the biggest cave of its kind in Japan, and offers visitors a chance to explore the mystery of nature underground. The moment you enter the cave, you’ll feel that temperature drop to about 11 degrees Celsius, which is what it remains for almost the entire time.
The windy trail goes up and down at random times, making the trip a bit more exciting than just one straight road. Once you get deeper inside (800m deep!), it’ll feel surreal when you’re amongst the silence of the cave and staring at stalagmites and stalactites adorning the walls of the cave. It’s also well-lit with brightly coloured lights so it’s quite spectacular!
- Address: Japan, 〒198-0211 Tokyo, Nishitama District, Tokyo, Okutama, Nippara
- Access: From JR Okutama Station, take the Nishi-Tokyo Bus via Shonyudo to the very last stop. This will take 30-minutes.
- Hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm
- Cost: 700 yen
2. Hatonosu Ravine
The Hatonosu Ravine (aka Hanotosu Valley) is a gorgeous natural landmark that draws gasps of awe for its pure beauty. It’s often described as the most beautiful place in Okutama, and once you lay eyes on it, you’ll know why. This spot is particularly popular during autumn and winter, when the bright red koyo leaves frame the water bank and the snow-covered trees present a unique photo opportunity. Whilst you’d be tempted to stay in the one spot to keep taking photos, there is also a 2km long trail that leads around the ravine, letting you explore different views of the gorge and savour the beauty.
- Address: Tanazawa, Okutama, Nishitama District, Tokyo, Tokyo 198-0106, Japan
- Access: Start at Hatonosu Station (2 stops away from Okutama), cross the ravine before following the path upstream.
3. Relax at Lake Okutama
Lake Okutama is actually quite famous amongst Tokyo locals for being an easy and always beautiful getaway from the concrete jungle. The dam is spectacular to what water, as from there, you’ll be able to see the luscious greenery that surrounds the lake in summertime, the cherry blossoms creating a wave of pink hues in spring, and the flyaway crusty golden leaves in autumn. There is a 12km trail course that goes from the dam all around the lake’s best photo photos that even takes you through two floating bridges.
- Address: Lake Okutama
- Access: From JR Okutama Station, take the Nishi-Tokyo Bus via Okutamaike or Kamosawa-nishi or Kosuge no Yu, and alight at Okutamaike.
4. Okutama Onsen Moegi
After reading about the hikes and the trails and the adventure water sports you can do here, doesn’t a soak in a hot onsen pool sound inviting? Located right next to Okutama Station is the Okutamaonsen Moegi Hot Springs, a famous hot spring that Tokyoites escape to from the city when they just need a short and relaxing day of rest and rejuvenation.
It’s actually very traditional here, with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and forests for the guests. There are outdoors baths, indoor baths, and even foot baths for those who feel a bit shy, or who just want ailment for their aching feet.
- Address: 119-1 Hikawa, Okutama, Nishitama District, Tokyo, 198-0212, Japan
- Access: From JR Okutama Station, it’s a 10-minute walk.
- Hours: 9:30am – 8:00pm
- Price: 780yen for 2 hours (or 100 yen if you just want to use the foot bath)
5. Seek Thrills at Tama River
We mentioned this earlier as one of the tours you can book, but again, we’d like to really drive in the fact that Tama River is the perfect place for adventurers to really quench that thirst for an epic water adventure. More specifically, the white-water rafting activity here is one of the most popular in the area.
However, for an experience you’ll likely never forget, check out the ‘shower climbing’, or waterfall climbing, activity at Tama River. During this time, you’ll get to climb waterfalls that are 2-3m tall, swim between narrow canyons, and slide down some rocks. For those who have never done this before, don’t worry, it’s aimed at beginners!
To find out more about this and read about the other adventurous water sports on offer, click on this link here.
6. Hikawa International Trout Fishing Spot
How about fishing for your own lunch? I mean, work hard to play hard, right? The Hikawa International Trout Fishing Area (aka Hikawa International Trout Fishing Area), is literally 5-minutes away on foot from Okutama Station, and it is here that you can experience fishing in the wilderness.
Join others as you stand along the riverbank with a rod to fish in the calm stream – but don’t let the tranquillity fool you, it’s full of snappy fish! All you need to do is head to the centre and rent a rod and some bait. Once you’ve caught a trout, head to the barbeque house nearby where the staff will prepare and cook it for you so you can eat it right away!
- Address: 397-1 Hikawa, Okutama, Nishitama District, Tokyo 198-0212, Japan
- Access: It is a 5-minute walk from Okutama Station.
- Hours: March – November: 8:00am – 9:00pm, December-February: 9:30am – 3:00pm
- Price: 1 Day: 3,200yen, Half Day: 1,700 yen (up until 5:00pm)
7. Make Soba Noodles at Yama No Furusato Mura
Yama No Furusato Mura is a nature park facility in Okutama that’s very popular with campers. However, you can still visit this facility as a day-tripper to participate in a range of activities, one of them being making soba noodles from scratch.
At the Yama no Furusato Mura Craft Centre, you can participate in a class that allows you to make your own soba noodles, all the way from mixing your own buckwheat flour to cutting the final noodle form. Experienced staff are on hand to assist you the entire time. Once you’re done, you can relax and dine on your own noodles.
- Address: 1740 Kawano, Okutama, Nishitama District, Tokyo, Tokyo 198-0225, Japan
- Access: From Okutama Station, take the bus to Ogouchi Jinja Mae bus stop. Cross the floating bridge, and then take the lake shore trail along Lake Okutama for about 40-minutes. There is a free shuttle bus, but you will need to contact them in advance to book a seat. Please call 0428-86-2551 to reserve a seat.
- Hours: 9:30am-11:30am, 1:00pm-2:30pm
- Price: 500 yen per person
- How to Book: You will need to book 3 days in advance. Please call 0428-86-2556.
Okutama is a wonderful little town that offers such a great variety of activities to participate in. From super adventurous sports for the thrill-seekers to traditional onsens for those looking for R&R, to soba noodle-making classes for those who want an educational experience, to fishing for your own lunch for those who want to be a bit hands-on. It’s a great little getaway that’s still relatively unknown amongst foreigners, so we urge you to get in early and see what this great place has to offer!
If you are looking for more gateways from Tokyo, you can also check out this article: Weekend Trips From Tokyo.