Day hike from Tokyo: Sidelining Okutama

hatonosu gorge
[Visited on February 30th, 2022]

During the first state of emergency in Tokyo, at the beginning of the pandemic, people started rediscovering Tokyo prefecture (technically Tokyo metropolis). At that point, people realized that Tokyo does have a lot of mountains and nature reserves, with most prominent that of lake Okutama. Suddenly, the normally comfortable trains and buses in Ome city became crowded with first time hikers and families with children.

The Okutamao Bridge, viewed from the train

Apart from the lake itself, the whole Ome line next to it is abundant with hiking destinations. A lot of times I started heading to the lake, but found myself spending more time at the areas before it. Soon, the daylight was so scarce that I had to leave the lake part for another time. This time again, I decided to hike the surroundings and basically move parallel to the train lines towards the lake. This hike is quick, just 10 km without any big elevation gains. Let’s start from Kori station (古里駅).

Kori station on JR Ome line

Okutama is an artificial lake at the west side of Tokyo and the origin of one of it’s biggest rivers, the Tamagawa. The train tracks run in the valley created by the river, alongside Tamagawa. A notable feature in the landscape are the numerous bridges connecting the river banks. Most of the time, small villages are located on the west bank, while the east side is untouched and suitable for exploring the nature.

View from Mansei bridge
Ignore the dungeons, that’s how all horror anime start

First, we cross Mansei bridge to reach the east side of the river. There are various theories about the origins of the name of the river. While it is now written as 多摩川, some said that the original writing referred to holy demons [霊魂], abundant waters [渟り] or its jewel-like beauty [玉石]. The river itself, closer to its delta, forms the natural border that separates Toko from Kanagawa prefecture.

View of Kori village

From the other side, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the village. Since the day was humid with sudden rain showers, I was lucky enough to discover the most dazzling tree ever. Its leaves had faller already and dew droplets were decorating its branches. It was like one of those decorative trees that are artificially covered with glitter, but this one was glittering on its own. The juxtaposition of the tree next to the house with the mouldy thatched roof makes the composition all the more interesting.

The tree that captured my mind
Morning dew
This sign does not say to attack the bears, just to drive them away with noise

I followed the car road and eventually reached the path entrance. Remember to have a bear bell or a small radio with you, to avoid any uncomfortable encounters with a large bear. Right next to it, there is a waterfall, Ue no Taki (上の滝). I remembered it differently, and thought that I could reach closer to it, but apparently not any more. From there, the elevation started, all the way to the observation deck at Matsunoki ridge (松ノ木尾根 東屋). There is a protected area with benches and a clear view towards Hatonosu village and Masakadoo bridge. There is also a path from here that continues all the way to Mt. Mitake, but it was closed for repairs when I visited.

View from Matsunoki ridge to Hatonosu village and the Masakadoo bridge
Hatonosu canyon
Unzen bridge

Finally, we can get closer to the river and walk inside Hatonosu canyon. Here we cross Unzen bridge to the other side, where you can find a few coffee shops and other establishments. It looks like a place that used to be bustling with life but is gradually falling in disrepair. For example, the path takes you inside what used to be a large hotel facility, but is now completely abandoned. In order to reach there, we first have to cross yet another bridge, Hatonosu bridge. It is located right next to cafe-gallery Poppo, which for some reason always brings me the chills.

The entrance of cafe Poppo
A small bridge you takes you to a shrine
The abandoned hotel

Lake Okutama was created in 1957, with the construction of Ogochi dam. It was an ambitious and highly important infrastructure project, considering that now it is the biggest water source for the city of Tokyo. Apart from that, it is the optimal location for swimming in the gorge, BBQ at the riverside and canyoning. From here on, I followed the stone road (岩の道) and reached the rest area above. However, technically this part was not passable, due to some damage on the bridges, so check in advance is you are planning to head there.

More views of Hatonosu canyon
From this side it looks like one of those old Chinese paintings on hanging scrolls.
The water around here is pretty deep and fast

Continue moving, and soon you’ll meet the Shiromaru dam (白丸ダム). On the other side of the dam, there are a lot of canoeing companies to try. A small lake is formed at Shiromary and on a clear day it has one of the bluest blue colours. Yet another bridge, Kazumakyō Bridge, and you find yourself at a grill house in the middle of the forest. While I was tempted to stay, I moved on to reach Okutama.

The village of Okutama
A poster for OPT (Okutama’s Pika pika Toilet), a project for sparkling clean public toilets next to the hiking path

That’s we stopped the hike, so we did not reach the lake, alas, once again. There are a lot of hot spring options around here, but sadly Moegi no Yu was closed on that day. Instead, we went further into the village and visited a much humbler bathhouse at Mikawaya Ryokan. I can’t say that I regret it, because I had the entire bath completely for myself.

The hot spring bath at Mikaway Ryokan

You can check out today’s route at Alltrails. Stay tuned for the next post, it’s probably going to be about Unazawa waterfalls, again around Okutama area.

The route from Kori station to Okutama station

Read more:

Day hike from Tokyo: Mt. Otake

I always come across the sign that leads to Mt Otake, but I’m usually short on time with the sunset looming. This time, I decided to hike my way from Mitake (御岳山) to Otake (大岳山).

Keep reading

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