Beautiful nature and exciting adventure awaits just a short train ride from central Tokyo. Finish your day with a visit to one of Tokyo’s most loved sake breweries.
If you are keen to escape the crowds in downtown Shibuya or Shinjuku, head west to Tokyo’s largest municipality, Okutama. Bordering Saitama prefecture to the north and Yamanashi prefecture to the west, this hikers’ paradise is home to Tokyo’s highest peak, Mount Kumotori, at 2,017 meters, as well as Mount Mito, known for its many large beech trees, and Mount Kawanori, with the picturesque Hyakuhiro Waterfall. Also in Okutama are the Nippara Limestone Caves, with 800 meters of winding pathways waiting to be explored, and the quiet Lake Okutama, an important water source for the Tokyo metropolis. Walking around the splendid nature of Okutama, it is hard to believe that you are still within Tokyo city limits. The contrast to the urban sprawl of the city center suggests a different place altogether, but this diversity is precisely what makes Tokyo so exciting.
From spring to autumn, additional fun can be had right on the Tama River that starts from Lake Okutama and continues all the way to Tokyo Bay near Haneda Airport. Several tour operators offer both kayaking and wild-water rafting tours that make for adventurous outings in these lush natural surroundings. After a thorough briefing on your chosen activity the fun starts as soon as the boats hit the water. On a hot and humid summer day, what better way to escape the heat of downtown Tokyo than shooting across wild rapids, feeling their cool spray on your face? Options for lunch and suggested sightseeing nearby are typically offered as well, but check with the various tour operators for details.
Heading back to Tokyo, make sure to schedule a stopover at the nearby Ome district. Like Okutama, Ome is famous for its plentiful nature, and also offers hiking and other outdoor activities. Ome has the added appeal of being home to one of Tokyo’s most well-known producers of sake, the Ozawa Sake Brewery. Since 1702, the brewery has made good use of the area’s pristine water. Its Sawanoi label is enjoyed by nihonshu connoisseurs throughout Japan and is often used as a byname for the brewery itself.
Join the free daily tours of the brewery that give a good understanding of the fascinating brewing process of the Japanese national drink, and then pay a visit to the on-site kikizake tasting bar to sample the many varieties available. The tours are usually conducted in Japanese only, but check the website for dates as English tours are also sometimes provided.
Ozawa brewery also runs the lovely Mamagotoya tofu restaurant offering upscale ryotei-style menus with ample use of tofu and yuba tofu skin–healthy, protein-rich delights that are made using the same pure water featured in the production of their sake.