Okutama in autumn1/6
Photo: Wipark Kulnirandorn/DreamstimeOkutama in autumn
Sawanoi Ozawa Brewery2/6
Meiji Shrine outer forest3/6
Photo: Fermatastock/DreamstimeMeiji Jingu forest
Meiji Jingu Forest Art Festival4/6
Photo: Lim Chee Wah
Institute of Nature Study meguro5/6
Photo: Institute of Nature Study
Suzume no Oyado Ryokuchi Park6/6
Photo: Kasey Furutani

Best nature escapes in Tokyo

Venture into the great outdoors without leaving Tokyo, from a bamboo forest and nature parks to lush river valleys and more

By Kasey Furutani
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It might seem like the grass is greener in other prefectures – think of the temple-lined hills of Kamakura, Hakone’s onsens or the majestic Mt Fuji – but there are plenty of hidden pockets of nature in Tokyo. The city was once a vast, sprawling landscape of trees and fields before it became a business playground filled with suited salarymen and deluxe department stores, but you can still find some quiet nature spots, even close to bustling train stations. 

Here are some of the best nature escapes in Tokyo, from lush valleys to hiking trails. 

Recommended: The best day and weekend hikes in Tokyo 

Okutama

Things to do

About 90 minutes away from Shinjuku but still in Tokyo prefecture, Okutama is a lush natural paradise. A part of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park, there’s plenty to do in the region, whether you’re into trekking or swimming.

Start the day early by hiking Mt Mitake – hillier and less well paved than its cousin Mt Takao – or if you’re adventurous, try watersports like rafting or canyoning. Settle in for a locally-brewed craft beer at Beer Café Vertere, or sip sake al fresco at Sawanoi Ozawa Brewery, then complete your perfect day in Tokyo’s backyard by watching the sun set and soothing your hard-worked muscles at the outdoor onsen Moegi no Yu.

Meiji Shrine outer forest
Meiji Shrine outer forest
Photo: Fermatastock/Dreamstime

Meiji Jingu Forest

Past the always-bustling Harajuku Station and beyond Yoyogi Park is the forest of Meiji Jingu, a surprisingly tranquil area surrounding the large Shinto shrine. Enter the sacred forest through the gargantuan torii gate and you’ll find over 230 different varieties of trees from all over Japan.

Unlike a manicured park, the Meiji Jingu Forest features sprawling greenery and thick, shady canopy, perfect for when you need a hit of fresh air in the middle of the big city. Look out for sculptures hidden between the trees as part of the Meiji Jingu Forest Festival of Art, which runs into 2021.

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Mt Takao

Things to do Takaosan

The closest spot of pure nature near Tokyo, Mt Takao is easily accessible via the Chuo or Keio lines in about an hour from Shinjuku Station. Arrive early in the morning to avoid potential crowds – mostly sprite older folks – and choose from one of ten hiking trails to conquer, which will take 30 to 90 minutes and range in difficulty.

Avid trekkers can extend their hike to Mt Jinba, which will take about six hours one way, so it's not for the faint of heart. Prefer the outdoors without exercise? Skip the hike and ride the funicular to the peak to spend the evening drinking al fresco at the all-you-can-eat-and-drink beer garden

Todoroki Valley

Things to do Noge

If you don’t have the time to venture out to western Tokyo, Todoroki Valley is not far from the shopping hub of Futako-Tamagawa; it's about 20 minutes from Shibuya Station. Pack a bento and spend the afternoon strolling leisurely along the tree-lined ravine, which connects to the Tama River.

The valley feels like a world away from the bustling city; it’s much cooler underneath the trees and the babbling brooks will distract you from the stress of everyday life. Be sure to stop by Todoroki Fudosan, a grand temple near the end of the 1km route.

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Institute of Nature Study
Institute of Nature Study
Photo: Institute of Nature Study

Nature Study Institute & Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Shirokanedai

The largest forest in Tokyo’s city centre, this nature reserve in the middle of Meguro is a welcoming retreat. The 20-hectare reserve has three different botanical gardens, although they are less sculpted and more wild, making you feel like you’re in the mountains.

The reserve’s goal is to preserve as much of natural Tokyo as possible, so you’ll find the watercolour-like grasslands of the Musashino Plain alongside tree-lined trails that turn fiery shades of red and orange in autumn. Mainly used for research, the Institute for Nature Study is open for anyone interested in nature or just a quiet morning outdoors.

Jindai Botanical Gardens
Jindai Botanical Gardens
Photo: Yoshihiro Iimura

Jindaiji Temple and Botanical Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Chofu

Located in the suburbs of western Tokyo, a visit to Jindaiji temple and the surrounding Jindai Botanical Gardens is like walking into a time capsule and ending up in Edo-period Japan.

Stroll along the cobblestone paths lined with viridescent maple trees and explore the temple grounds surrounded by forest. Grab lunch at the small shopping street filled with stalls selling soy sauce-covered dango and traditional candies and sweets, or take a break at one of the many soba restaurants and enjoy handmade buckwheat noodles.

Save your energy for the nearby botanical gardens, which boast over 400 different types and 5,200 seasonal varieties of flowers.

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Suzume no Oyado Ryokuchi Park
Suzume no Oyado Ryokuchi Park
Photo: Kasey Furutani

Suzume no Oyado Ryokuchi Park

You’ll find this lush bamboo grove not in Kamakura, not in Kyoto, but tucked away in the suburbs of Toritsu-Daigaku. This unassuming park, hidden between homes but only about ten minutes from the station, is filled with bamboo trees and benches, so you can enjoy the rustling leaves and cooler temperatures.

Unlike Tokyo’s more crowded parks, Suzume no Oyado Ryokuchi Park rarely gets busy, so you can spend a couple of undisturbed hours reading a good book or catching up with a friend underneath the soothing bamboo canopy. Just remember to bring bug spray. 

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