Ogouchi Reservoir Okutama1/4
Photo: Pixta/Macha
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Photo: JOOKO3/Pixta
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Photo: 2019 Moegi no Yu
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Photo: 2020 BIGSMILE CO., LTD.

Best things to do in Okutama

Escape the bustling city and unwind in Okutama, a natural paradise in Western Tokyo

By Tabea Greuner and Youka Nagase
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Early summer calls for nature walks, hiking adventures and water sports, and you can do all that without leaving Tokyo. Plan a day trip to the lush forests of Okutama – this natural attraction is part of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park and it's only 90 minutes by train from Shinjuku Station (stop at either Mitake or Okutama station). Come here to clear your mind and recharge by enjoying the stunning scenery around Lake Okutama, hiking Mt Mitake, or soaking in an outdoor onsen (hot spring).

Recommended: Read our guide on how to go out safely in Tokyo

Ogouchi Reservoir Okutama
Ogouchi Reservoir Okutama
Photo: Pixta/Macha

Walk on water at the Ogouchi Reservoir

Start your Okutama adventure by visiting the Ogouchi Reservoir. Surrounded by mountains and verdant forests, the man-made Lake Okutama was created back in 1957 when the Ogouchi Dam went up across the Tama River.

Hop on the bus from Okutama Station and get off at Ogouchi Shrine, directly in front of the lake’s Mugiyama floating bridge. The distinctive crossing makes for a great photo spot with the dark blue water on either side and the lush greenery in the background. Take in the scenery and then walk back towards the interactive Water and Green Museum, located between the bridge and Okutama Station. Here you can gain a deeper insight into the history of Okutama, the native wildlife and the Ogouchi Reservoir. The on-site restaurant even serves an Instagram-worthy Ogouchi Dam-inspired curry dish.

Okutama-machi, Nishitama-gun (Okutama Station).

Mt Mitake
Mt Mitake
Photo: JOOKO3/Pixta

Conquer Mount Mitake

Things to do Ome

Hiking fans will love this lush mountain close to Mitake Station. If you’re reasonably fit, the walk to the summit is roughly 90 minutes, or you can take the Mitake Tozan cable car, which drops you off 20-30 minutes’ walk from the top.

The ancient Musashi Mitake Shrine graces the peak of Mt Mitake, and whichever route you take you’ll pass through the tiny Mitakesan village, home to a few souvenir shops and old minshuku (Japanese-style inns) that have been serving both pilgrims and tourists for decades. Stop by the combined guest- and teahouse Higashibaba for some traditional Japanese sweets or a light meal. One of the oldest minshuku on the mountain, this striking wooden building with its thatched roof has been designated an Intangible Cultural Property of Tokyo.

The Musashi Mitake Shrine greets you at the summit along with gorgeous panoramic views of the Kanto area. A 90-minute hiking trail, which starts and ends at the shrine and loops around the mountain, takes you through the dense forest. On your way you’ll pass the Nagaodaira Observatory as well as the Ayahiro Falls and a rock garden with impressive moss-covered stone formations

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Big Smile Rafting
Big Smile Rafting
Photo: 2020 BIGSMILE CO., LTD.

Ride the rapids on the Tama River

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River rafting is one of Okutama’s most popular water sports and the Tama River has 4.5 kilometres of ideal rafting conditions. Don’t worry if you’re a newbie – the staff at Big Smile Rafting will explain everything from safety procedures to paddling styles. During the three-hour ride, you and your team will conquer white-water and rapid currents and, if you’re feeling extra brave, dive off rocks into the water. Once you’ve conquered the river, you’ll be driven back to where you started, and the staff will share photos taken during the trip.

*Big Smile Rafting reopens on July 1; reservations for July onwards are possible from June 15

Moegi no Yu
Moegi no Yu
Photo: 2019 Moegi no Yu

Soak away your troubles at Moegi no Yu

Health and beauty Spas Tama area

For some serious relaxation, Moegi no Yu is just a 10-minute walk from Okutama Station. The water at this hot spring bath is sourced from one of Japan’s oldest rock strata, a Palaeozoic layer deep under the Okutama area. The water contains metaboric acid and fluorine, and is said to soothe neuralgia, muscle and joint pain, stiff shoulders, bruises, sprains and more.

Enjoy views of Okutama’s mountains and forests from the indoor bath, while the rotenburo (open-air bath) gives you a clear view of the Tama River winding its way through the valley. Don’t have time for a full dip? Try the communal ashiyu (foot bath) for just ¥100.

If you feel peckish after soaking in the healing water, head to the on-site restaurant serving local Okutama dishes. We recommend the nekkara udon, a very spicy bowl of noodles made with bonito flakes and local wasabi.

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Canyoning in Okutama
Canyoning in Okutama
Photo: Canyons

Slide down waterfalls

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White-water rafting? Been there, done that, and so last decade. Adrenaline junkies can now immerse themselves in the water with only a helmet and a life jacket by canyoning, a relatively new adventure sport that uses natural canyons as a real-life adventure park.

Tour operator Canyons offers the two-hour Big Holy Canyon tour, where you’ll slide down waterfalls up to 25m tall, zip-line down rivers and jump off precipices from a height of six metres, all in the middle of Okutama’s lush nature.

Looking for a bigger rush? Combine it with a packrafting tour and speed down the white water of the Tama River. However, if you prefer to ease into something less strenuous, opt for the relatively milder Holy Canyon tour – the jumps aren’t so tall and you’ll have time to chill in the river.

Hikawa International Trout Fishing
Hikawa International Trout Fishing
Photo: Hikawa International Trout Fishing

Fish for Nippara trout

Sport and fitness Fishing Tama area

The Tama isn’t the only river running through Okutama. The nearby Nippara River, close to Okutama Station, is the place to go to cast a line. At Hikawa International Trout Fishing, you can catch trout by rod or – if you’re fast enough – by hand before enjoying a barbecue with your day’s catch. You can rent all the equipment you need on site and the experienced staff will help you with angling, and they even gut the fish for you (¥50 per fish) before you skewer and grill it.

A one-day pass allows you to catch and eat as many fish as you like. If you’d rather a meal cooked by someone else, there’s also a café on site offering homemade soba, curry dishes, a selection of sweets and free coffee.

*Grilling the fish on site is temporarily prohibited

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Nippara Limestone Cave
Nippara Limestone Cave
Photo: Keisuke Tanigwa

Nippara Limestone Cave

Things to do Walks and tours Tama area

Sure, it’s way out in the middle of nowhere, a two-hour trip from Shinjuku, but this eerie limestone cavern is perfect for escaping Tokyo’s suffocating summer heat: the temperature inside is a steady 11 degrees Celsius. Around 800m deep, the caves were formed over millions of years and were once a centre for Japanese mountain cults – fittingly enough for an otherworldly realm far removed from the sleepy countryside up above. The paths inside the cave are well lit and clearly marked but often wet, so make sure to wear sturdy shoes. Bringing your own bento is also recommended as there are hardly any eateries in the area.

Beer Cafe VERTERE
Beer Cafe VERTERE
Photo: Time Out Tokyo

Sip on a perfectly chilled craft beer in nature

Bars and pubs Craft beer pubs Tama area

Step out of Okutama Station and you'll soon come across this traditional Japanese house with a pretty garden. There's a river in the valley just in front of the building – the perfect view to drink in along with Beer Café Vertere's home-brewed craft beers. They've got their own hop field a 20-minute drive away too, so it's all very local. Choose from five options on tap, including a fruity session IPA and a light golden ale.

Having a glass in the garden while listening to the sound of the river and admiring the surrounding trees will make your clock tick slower. Those visiting Okutama for rafting or hiking will want to keep Vertere in mind – even if it's only for a quick break while waiting for the train home.

*Throughout June, Beer Café Vertere is only open on Saturdays and Sundays

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See how sake is made and finish with a tasting

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With over 300 years of history, Sawanoi is a local sake brewery where you can learn about the culture and production process of Japan's national drink while sampling some top tipples. Located in the lush Okutama region, the brewery features a large garden overlooking the Tama River, with an open-air area where you can order bowls of noodles and sake tasting sets to enjoy as you bask in the tranquil nature. Tours are offered in English, but you'll need to reserve via the website. 

*Note that the brewery and tasting bar is temporarily closed, and tours are currently suspended.

Okutama
Okutama
Photo: Youka Nagase

Dip your feet in the cool water of Hatonosu Ravine

Enjoy the view of Tokyo's clearest and bluest river from a 40m-tall cliff, or dip your feet in the cold water after a long hike in the surrounding forest. Walk further upstream for the Shiromaru Dam, which is a great location to spot schools of fish jumping over the Kazuma gorge river.

Tanazawa, Okutama, Nishitama-gun (Hatonosu Station)

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Woodland Therapy
Woodland Therapy
Photo: Okutama Town

Destress with Okutama Forest Therapy

Head over to Yama no Furusato-mura to participate in a wellness programme called Okutama Forest Therapy, which aims to offer some much-needed relief to your tired body and soul through the healing power of nature. The session starts around lunchtime, where you get to make your own soba noodles and then enjoy a delicious Japanese meal accompanied by side dishes cooked with local ingredients by the resident soba master.

After your meal, choose from five walking trails that take you through the beautiful forests of Okutama, followed by therapeutic activities like woodland yoga and stargazing. If you're still feeling cynical about forest therapy, you can have your stress levels measured before and after the sessions for comparison (though admittedly, the device used to ‘measure’ stress won't do much to persuade the cynics).

1740 Kawano, Okutama, Nishitama-gun.

*The programme is temporarily suspended

Gravity Kayak Okutama
Gravity Kayak Okutama
Photo: Gravity Kayak/Facebook

Get active on water

Sport and fitness Ome

Immersing yourself in nature can certainly be relaxing, but who is to say you can’t also get active. If you're feeling adventurous, visit Canoe School Gravity in Okutama – it's a short walk from Sawai or Shiromaru Station – to participate in water activities like rafting, hydrospeed, canyoning and river SUP (Stand Up Paddle board).

*Canoe School Gravity reopens on June 14

The latest reopening announcements in Tokyo

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