Tokyo Camping Adventure

by Simon on June 4, 2012

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.

Tama River

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.

Tama River from below

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.

John setting up camp

Campsite all set up.

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.

A refreshing break

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.

Rescue in action

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.

Drinking games with our new friends

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.

Tama River, Okutama

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.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Edgar June 5, 2012 at 3:30 am

I was under the impression that Tokyo had no trees because we had a foreign exchange student stay with us from Tokyo and she was just amazed by the trees we had here even down town. I guess we miss understood her interpretation because those are some very pretty trees and a lot of them. I would someday like to visit Japan and China but it will be awhile.

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David June 6, 2012 at 1:24 am

This is a nice terrain. It looks like you get the best of all worlds, from rivers for kayaking, camp grounds and even mountain regions for hiking. Is this area considered a national park? What about wild life? Are there any potentially dangerous wild life such as bears or mountain cats? This is a legitimate concern if you are going to camp because you have to be careful about leaving food scraps around your tent.

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Richard June 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I saw some amateur video of the campgrounds at Hikawa and much to my surprise, it looked like just any other camp ground in America. I don’t know if it’s just me and my lack of perspective about East Asia, but I always pictured any rural area in Tokyo as a place where there are Samurai colonies or Kung Fu master training camps. I guess I have been watching way too much of Kung Fu theatre.

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Krisztian June 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

This is super cool Simon, just got to reading this post and it made me wanting to go to Japan even more! :D Great pictures too. Well done!

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Maria June 7, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Me too…I’d love to go to Japan. Thanks a lot for sharing Simon.

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Andrew June 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Sounds like you had a great time! Japans like a beautiful place to go camping. Ive only ever been to the airport in Japan!

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Michael June 14, 2012 at 1:21 am

Japan looks like a very nice place to visit and I have to agree with Krisztian and Maria about going there, I would love to even more now than I wanted to before. You posted some beautiful pictures along with the article and I loved the story you told with it. Thank you for posting this it looks and sounds like you had a lot of fun.

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Brian June 20, 2012 at 5:26 am

Japan is so foreign to me. The closest I have been to any of the terrain has been via stock photos and movies such as Shogun or The Last samurai (even though the later film was recreated to resemble a Japan from two centuries ago). I had seen plenty of photos depicting the old world architecture that has been preserved. But I never actually considered it a place to venture out beyond the tourist traps.

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Jeremy June 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Camping in Tokyo! who would have thunk it. Great photos! Enjoyed your post :)

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Andrew June 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I know right! Thanks Simon for showing us nature outside of the tech city of Japan

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