It is hard to believe but the majority of Tokyo consists of unpopulated mountains and forests. The reason for this is the extreme ruggedness of Japanese terrain and vegetation – there is just no realistic way of accessing most of the wild Japanese mountains with anything less than a helicopter, the stamina of a mountain goat or at least a well sharpened machete. The only way that I have found of really accessing nature is to follow the rivers and Western Tokyo is full of them. One of my favorite spots to avoid the summer heat in the concrete is to take the train out to Sawanoi and explore the local rivers. There are all kinds of roads and paths near the station so no matter if you want the full mountain ranger experience or just want to take granny out for a day in the greens, you will find this a good spot to start with!
Here are some of photos I took when I visited last summer, getting my feet wet in Tama River!
Summer is fast approaching and while outdoor temperatures are still tolerable even outdoors here in Tokyo, the days will soon be upon us when a lot of people will be stuck day and night to their air conditioners. The only thing I can recommend in those cases is to spend a little time and effort and try to get out of Tokyo. It is often forgotten that even Tokyo mostly consists of mountains and forests, so there is a lot of greenery around if you have the energy to find it. One of my favorites is taking the Ome line out to Sawanoi in Tokyo’s far western Town and walk along the beautiful Tama River. This far upstream it is still quite small, rapid and much cleaner than downstream, although the modern river is many hundreds of times cleaner than it was just 50-60 years ago. Today a lot of wildlife has returned to the river, enough even to support fishing of carp, trout, salmi, redfin and ayu. Not fished but still quite common in the river you may find turtles, crabs and crayfish. There was even a case a few years ago of a seal making its way up to the river, although never this far up!
In the summer the trees provide good shade, the slight breeze is usually cooled down over the broad river and there are plenty of spots where you can get down and put your feet in the cold water to cool down. Go early in the morning, bring a picknick or eat at one of the local places, and get some green in your life to substitute for all the Tokyo grey!
As summer is coming to Tokyo I thought I should share more photos of one of my favorite places for a long nature stroll in the capital – Sawanoi in Ome City in the far west of Tokyo. Quite a bit of a train journey away from Shinjuku but well worth is this hidden gem of a river valley complete with foot bridges, easy to walk paths and trails and more greenery than you can shake a stick at! Just take the Chuo line to the west towards Ome and get off at Sawanoi station.
I posted a little while ago about the Kamanofuchi Park and the Tama River in the middle of little Ome City in the far west of Tokyo. The park is now one of my favorite Tokyo parks, mostly because it doesn’t look like a park at all. The Tama river in these parts of Tokyo are at the bottom of a quite deep river narrow and there are not that many places where you can actually walk down to the river and interact with it on normal days. The water flow is usually much to rapid but every now and then the water slows down and there is a convenient widening of the river bed which makes it safe and accessible enough. At the Kamanofuchi park it is even possible to go into the water and enjoy yourself a little as long as you keep out of the more quick moving deeper parts where it is impossible to remain standing.
The water is quite good too. When I was there the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) test showed less than 3 mg/L, which is a very good score. The water was completely clear, cold and very fresh with none of that typical river smell at all. This park is easy to reach from Ome station, just walk out of the station and head south, eventually you will find one of the two bridges connecting the park with the higher level city. It is great to find places like this in the largest city in the world!