Although it has stayed under the radar especially among foreign tourists, there are actually plenty to things to discover about Okutama.
Okutama is a town located on the western outskirts of Tokyo. Though it is the largest municipality of the prefecture, much of its area is occupied by mountains, forests and networks of fresh water bodies. With a population of just above five thousand, it is one of the least densely populated districts in the region – just 23 persons for every square kilometer.
There’s something charming about small towns and villages in countrysides like Okutama. They are healing and therapeutic, especially for people living in cities. It is no surprise that the town and its surrounding areas receive constant visitors from central Tokyo.
Okutama Sights and Scenes
Okutama appeals to the nature lovers. With its geography, it is a known destination for hiking, camping and fishing. It also has a number of onsens (Japanese hotsprings) offering some of nature’s breathtaking views.
Although it has stayed under the radar especially among foreign tourists, there are actually plenty of things to discover about Okutama. And spending a day or two in this town can be just as rewarding as its popular counterparts.
Nippara Limestone Cave
Nippara is a small village of Okutama nestled by the town’s northern forest. Getting here is already a visual treat but more rewards await as you reach it. Within this humble community lie many hidden gems including the biggest cave in the Kanto region, the Nippara Limestone Cave.
The cave’s accessible area goes for around 800 meters but it actually branches up to 1.3 kilometers. Exploring the entire available sections can take around forty minutes to one hour, depending on your pace.
The cavern is quite spacious. Aside from a few tight sections, you don’t need to squeeze yourself just to get around. Although there is a stretch where you need to climb your way up some steep steel staircase which can be quite a workout.
Like many other grand caverns, the Nippara Limestone cave has become a venue for religious practices. It was a place of pilgrimage during the Edo period and several Buddhist objects can be found within the area.
It’s main chamber is tens of feet high and spacious enough for anyone to appreciate how grand the Nippara Limestone Cave is. The walls and ceilings are lighted up with vibrant colors which add extra appeal to what’s already a magnificent work of nature.
After spelunking, the Ichiishimaya Shrine located just outside the cave is certainly worth a visit. It’s a small Shinto shine surrounded by the towering mountains of Nippara.
Nippara Fishing Spots
A good sidetrip after is just within fifteen minutes away by foot. Located south of the Nippara cave is a shallow section of the Tama river that makes a good spot for fishing. Hobbyists and enthusiasts make their way to this area to relax and enjoy the tranquil ambiance of the remote village.
Fishing rods made of bamboo are available for rent if you want to experience the traditional Japanese way of catching fish. And if you’re good or even patient enough, you could be enjoying some of your freshly grilled catch after.
Okutama Lake and Ogochi Dam
Perhaps the town’s most precious gem is the Okutama Lake. Also called the Ogochi Dam, it blocks the Tama-gawa river to hold up to 189 million cubic meters of water and supplying them to up to 13 million residents. It is the largest reservoir in the country.
A tour around the Ogochi Dam and the Okutama Lake is very much possible. And being just fifteen minutes away by bus from the train station, you can easily slip it in to your day’s itinerary.
The Okutama Lake feature some breathtaking views of the Chichibu Tama National Park. And as the season changes, the scenery also transitions from a colorful spring view, to luscious green of summer, melancholic autumn foliage and icy winterscape.
How to get to Okutama, Tokyo
Okutama can be accessed via the JR Ome Line with the nearest station to be Oku-tama. From Tachikawa, the travel time is around 1 hour and 20 mins (train fare is 640 yen). Outside the station are local buses that take you around the town.
- Nippara Limestone Cave : Hop on a bus at bus stop 1, On a weekday, it goes all the way to Nippara Shonudo, which less than five minutes on foot from the cave. However, during weekends you can only get to Higashi Nippara and from there you still need to walk around 20-30 minutes. Bus fare is 500 yen.
- Okutama Lake : From Okutama Station, take a bus at bus stop 2. Getting lost would be the least of worries because you would know when you are already at Okutama Lake. The bus stops right at lake’s shoreline. Fare is 350 yen and travel time is 20 minutes.
Nippara Cave Entrance Fee
- 700 yen (adult)
- 400 yen (children)
- April 1 to November 30 – 8 am to 5pm.
- December 1 to March 30 – 8:30 am to 4:30 am
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