Tokyo may be the largest city in the world, but this metropolis is remarkably green. Here’s how to enjoy nature in Tokyo, whether hiking and kayaking or forest bathing.
Bamboo can grow up to 30 metres tall. When flourishing in the wild, it creates its own magical canopy, sunlight dappling the grove floor when stalks sway and rays can peek through the canopy of soaring stems.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as being enveloped by this immense green wilderness. And it’s an experience you can enjoy just 90 minutes after leaving Tokyo’s Central area and venture southwest.
Going green in Tokyo
If the Tama region is the city’s green lung, then the bamboo forest in Higashiteragata Ryokuchi park is the area’s bristling mohawk. One where the unexpected quiet is only broken by birdsong and the rustle of falling leaves. It’s astounding to have this patch of Zen so close to the Japanese capital.
Even more remarkable is that it’s just a small component of the wide, open spaces – the rivers and waterfalls, the sacred mountains, the forests and gorges – that make this pocket of the city so dreamy.
Understandably, outdoor adventures here are top of any list when experiencing nature in Tokyo’s Tama region. Cycle through the Akigawa Forest, kayak the Tama River or Lake Okutama, and then hike Mount Takao or Mount Mitake, stopping for a moment of calm at Buddhist and Shinto temples, where offerings flutter on the breeze.
You’ll want to linger at Yakuoin temple, which dates all the way back to 744 AD. It sits pretty near the summit of Mount Takao and has been providing respite to pilgrims, worshippers and nature enthusiasts. There’s a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant on-site, when it comes time to refuel. Or splash out at Ukai Toriyama, where meals are served in private rooms with serene water garden views.
The crisp air, clean water, swathes of flora and lack of development also make Tama the ideal environment to enjoy forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, that Japanese concept of slowing down and reuniting with nature – opening every sense to hear the smallest sounds of your surrounds, feel the softness of the grass beneath your feet, smell the fresh rain hitting the forest floor… nature in Tokyo makes you feel good.
Proponents of shinrin-yoku have known it for years, and today scientists prove that being in the great outdoors can have benefits for the body and mind, whether reducing stress, boosting happiness endorphins, aiding concentration or lowering blood pressure.
This, and the pure beauty of the Tama region, is no doubt why so many Japanese creatives are drawn to live and work in the area. And they welcome visitors glimpsing their craft. Drop in on a washi master, making paper by hand using local fibres and techniques passed down through generations. Witness a sake brewer in action, making the national drink using crystal-clear water. Or visit a wasabi farmer, harvesting bountiful produce because, well, everything and everyone thrives in this lush part of the city.
Click here for more information on getting back to nature in Tokyo.