Is this really Tokyo? —- A trip amid the nature of Okutama
When most people say “Tokyo” they are thinking of skyscrapers, bustling entertainment districts and malls brimming with every kind of merchandise imaginable. Still, the big lake, the forest and the lush ravine you see in these pictures is also Tokyo, no matter how different from the usual images of the metropolis. This is Okutama in the western region of Tokyo.
After a train ride just shy of two hours from Shinjuku, you arrive at this place with the gigantic trees and the clear streams. You can go for a relaxing hike up the mountain, for a stroll down the canyon, for a bath at the Onsen (hot spring) or for a tour to the waterfall. All great activities but this time we opted for some forest therapy experience!
By “forest therapy” we mean the idea, already backed by some medical studies, that getting immersed in nature can be beneficial to your health. And while it may sound somewhat difficult, it’s actually very simple.
Following the guide’s instructions, you walk through the woods doing some breathing exercises – if you get tired, you can stop and refresh yourself with a cup of warm herbal tea and confections.
On our way back, an encounter with a group of monkeys!
Afterwards, some simple yoga exercises in the forest: exactly what our bodies needed to relax.
It was only a 2-3 hours experience but in the medical checkup I did afterwards the amylase (the enzyme used to measure stress) in my saliva was really low!
Basking in the starry sky
The starry night sky is hardly visible in Tokyo. But here in Okutama, it can be fully enjoyed! Jupiter can be seen through the astronomical telescope.
And there’s more to enjoy in Okutama.
Trout fishing and BBQ. Caught and barbecued right on the spot, deeeeelicious!
Or Nippara limestone cave. The only grotto of this scale in Kanto, it keeps a cool 10 degrees temperature even in the summer – truly a different world!
Or making your own soba (buckwheat noodles). Following the chef’s instructions it was very easy and, of course, in the end we got to eat our own soba accompanied by side dishes, all made using ingredients from Okutama. Experience plus meal, just 1,000 yen per person!
Cooler than the center of Tokyo, Okutama is a great place to spend some summer time – some autumn time, too, since the autumn leaves are really glorious!
JR Shinjuku Sta. -> Tachikawa Sta. -> Ome Sta. -> Okutama Sta.: about 95 minutes
On weekends and holidays, boarding the Holiday Express Okutama from Shinjuku you can get to Okutama without any transfers.
Also, on August 13, 14, 20, and 21, 2016 for one round trip/day you can board on a special (and very unusual) train with a tatami room! The space under the tables has been hollowed out so you can sit comfortably and enjoy your trip to Okutama in a way not possible anywhere else in the world!
For train-related information, call 050-2016-1603 (JR East Info line)
For activities such as the guided walk, forest therapy and yoga and starry sky watching mentioned above, reservation in advance might be required. For more information contact the Okutama Tourism Association at 0428-83-2152 or visit the website http://www.okutama.gr.jp/