Tokyo camping adventure.
What to do in Tokyo? Camping? ‘No way’, you say. Not only in Tokyo, but also in nature? Believe me, it’s true.
While working for the Board of Education in our local prefecture in Japan, it was part of our job to welcome the new teachers once they arrived and help them acclimatise to life in Japan. This happened over the summer school break which was between July and August.
We were to welcome a new teacher from Canada and we thought what better way to get to know them than to go camping. I’d never been camping anywhere in Japan before, but one of my colleagues had been to numerous places and suggested a place not too far from where we were in the Tokyo region called ‘Okutama’. I must admit, I was a little unexcited about the prospect of camping in ‘Tokyo’, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
Okutama is located in Western Tokyo and is the largest municipality in Tokyo. It is also known for having the highest mountain in the prefecture, Mount Kumotori.
We packed our gear and after about an hour and a half train journey we arrived at Okutama Station. One of the things I love about Japan is that in one moment you can be smack bang in the middle of a concrete jungle and the next you can be surrounded by greenery.
We were to set up out camp right next to the 138-kilometre long Tama River, which runs through the entire Tokyo prefecture. Seeing as we were limited by what we were able to carry, we only brought one tent. We gave this to the new teacher to use and were happy to be sleeping under the stars as it was the beginning of summer.
After setting up camp, we decided to have a bit of an explore and made our way around the river seeing what we could find. It turns out this place is a popular spot for young people, especially university students enjoying their last few days of freedom.
After all the exploring, we realised that we were quite thirsty and decided to introduce the new teacher to some of the local beer. It was the least we could do.
By this time the sun had started to go down and we noticed that a couple of people who had been swimming in the river were struggling to get back to the shore from where they way. Suddenly, our peaceful outdoor beer session turned into a fully-blown rescue.
Thankfully our camping guide, John, was there to lend a helping hand and due to his rock climbing skills, the two fully-drenched and not-so-happy students were able to be rescued. As a show of gratitude for saving their friends, we were then invited back to their cabin for a few drinks and a few rounds of the ‘chicken’ drinking game.
After a long and exciting day we decided to pack it in for the night and while our new colleague was fast asleep in the relative safety of the one-man tent, we greeted Mr. Sandman underneath the stars.
We would only be staying one night on this occasion , but we decided all together to come back to this wonderful place at another time and spent longer in order to be able to explore more. After a very brief swim (the river was quite ‘fresh’) we packed up our gear and headed to Okutama station for the journey back to Saitama.
Okutama is a really special spot and a great place to spend some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle without even leaving Tokyo. The area itself has a lot to offer in terms of nature walks and scenery. The next time you are in Tokyo, consider stepping away from the concrete jungle and into a real one just on your doorstep.