3 Tokyo travel hidden gems to explore

18 November 2016


Tokyo is a global destination that needs no introduction, known for its distinctive whirl of colour, quirk and frenzy. This year alone, Japan has opened her doors to over 16 million international visitors who mostly enter through the capital city.

While it would seem like virtually every inch of Tokyo has been well-featured across online and offline travel guides, there are a handful of secret hideaways off the beaten path that has eluded even the most savvy Tokyo-ites. Whether you’re a frequent Tokyo-tripper looking to escape the urban jungle or a first-timer hankering for a novel experience, here are some of the best outlying day-cation spots in Tokyo you have to explore.




Where: Nishitama District, Tokyo

Getting there: Two-hour train ride from Tokyo to Okutama Station by JR Chuo and Ōme lines (US$ 10 each way)

Okutama is a hidden sanctuary located within the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, a favourite amongst nature lovers who seek refuge in its spectacular rolling mountain ranges, flowing rivers, and gorges. It’s an accessible one-stop destination for a host of experiences you will not find in urban Tokyo, all packed into one solid day trip: peer down at the 40-meter-high Hatonosu Ravine from a narrow suspension bridge, ultra fun Tama River activities like canyoning waterfalls and rafting (Splash Tokyo), and trek along the myriad nature trails around Lake Okutama. Remember to gorge on wasabi-flavoured treats or even better, harvest your own fresh wasabi, as Okutama is one of Japan’s three major wasabi producing regions. If you’re spoiling for a luxurious ryokan retreat, simply check-in at Suiko-en to enjoy the private onsen facilities, followed by an opulent traditional kaiseki (tip: eat with freshly grated self-harvested wasabi for added gratification).


Mount Mitake


Where: Ōme City, Tokyo | More info at

Getting there: 75-minute train ride from Tokyo/Shinjuku Station to Ōme Station by JR Chuo Line; Change to JR Ōme Line at Ōme Station and take a 20-minute ride to Mitake Station (US$ 9 each way)

Location within the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, Mt. Mitake peaks majestically at 929 meters above sea level. Known for its diverse unadulterated landscape, this sacred mountain is a dream for hikers and nature lovers. Mt. Mitake offers a variety of scenic walking/hiking trails that lead to its summit. For the less inclined, take a six-minute ride on the Mitake Tozan Railway cable car (US$ 6 per person) to the upper station. Another 20-30 minute walk through a historic small village lined with ryokans and souvenir shops will lead you to Mt. Mitake’s crowning glory, the Mushashi-Mitake Shrine. It is believed that this prominent Shinto centre for mountain worship has served pilgrims for almost 2000 years. Upon leaving the shrine, you will not regret taking a hour-long stroll through the “Rock Garden”: a narrow, forested valley with a picturesque stream, waterfalls and scattered moss-covered stones. Finally, reward yourself with a free sake tour and tasting at the Sawanoi Sake Brewery – a mere walking distance from the cable car base station.


Izu Oshima


Where: Izu Islands, Tokyo | More info at

Getting there: Two-hour jet foil boat ride from Tokyo’s Takeshiba Ferry Terminal to Oshima (Tokai Kisen, US$ 70 each way)

Izu Oshima (simply called Oshima) is the largest of the seven Izu Islands with a population of 9,000 people. Surrounded by hot springs, hiking trails and idyllic beaches, Mt. Mihara is an active volcano that lies at the center of this national Geopark. Hike to Ura-sabaku (Black Desert) for a truly awe-inspiring sight; it’s the only place that’s labeled a ‘desert’ in Japan. Prepare to be transported to a different world once you set eyes on these vast dramatic black sand dunes, which are formed by an amalgamation of erupted volcanic ash and scoria from Mt. Mihara. Similarly, head to the black sand Sunanohama Beach for the best views from the island’s longest and most beautiful coastline. When in season, the forests of beautiful tsubaki (camellia japonica flower) indigenous to Oshima are a sight to behold. For a more hands-on approach, experience the traditional cold-press method of extracting tsubaki oil at Oshima Furusato Taikenkan.

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