I would like to introduce my absolute favorite Autumn date location: Okutama. Less than 2 hours from Shinjuku, you will travel into a magical forest with emerald-green lake. During end of October and November, the mountains look like they are “on fire” because of Autumn foliage turning them red, orange and yellow. Spend some time on the fresh air with your special one and enjoy the breathtaking views that will become everlasting memories!
How to get there?
From Shinjuku station, take JR Chuo line to Tachikawa station(around 25 minutes). At Tachikawa station, change to JR Ome line for Okutama station (around 60 minutes). If you want to go to the Okutama lake or Nippara area, take a bus from JR Okutama station.
What to do in Okutama in the autumn?
Wandering through majestic Autumn nature
There are several hiking routes starting from JR Okutama station. Numerous hiking maps in the area will guide you, however many signs are only in Japanese, so I will provide Japanese spelling of major landmarks.
1. A round, 4-kilometer hiking route starts and finishes at JR Okutama station(奥多摩駅).
2. The second course is located in the Nippara Valley (Nippara Keikoku-日原渓谷) and is about 35 minute bus ride from JR Okutama station. The bus departs from the left of Okutama station.
3. The third course is located in the Hatonosu Canyon (Hatonosu Keikoku-鳩ノ巣渓谷) and offers extraordinary views as shown on the pictures below. The start of the hiking course is about 5 minutes walking from JR Hatonosu station(鳩ノ巣駅).
4. If you are in the mood for a short 1,5 hour hike, get off at JR Kori station （古里駅）and follow the route to JR Hatonosu station. The route should take you past the gorgeous Hatonosu Canyon.
5. If you prefer a longer trip, take a 3-hour walking trip from JR Shiromaru(白丸駅) station (next station after Kori station) through Kazuma valley.
6.If you want to walk even more, continue the same route all the way to JR Okutama station. In this case, the hike will take around 5 hours. Bear in mind that the walk from Kori station to Okutama station in a fast pace without resting takes around 3 hours, so plan your time accordingly.
Catching a delicious meal
Numerous rivers in Okutama area offer a great opportunity for fishing. You don’t need to bring any fishing equipment as it is available for rent in official fishing spots, such as Hikawa International Fishing Spot.
You can ask the staff to fry the fish in the traditional Japanese style “shio-yaki” or cook it yourself at the BBQ area (reservation required).
There is an opportunity to go stand up paddle surfing (SUP) at Shiromaru lake. Rafting and canoeing is possible near numerous waterfalls of Okutama area.
You will appreciate the views of canyons and valleys from the river side!
Visiting the largest dam in Japan
Ogouchi Reservoir was completed in 1957 and is the largest reservoir in Japan, currently serving 20% of the water supply in Tokyo.
There is a nice observation deck to appreciate the size of the dam and a museum to learn about its history and structure.
Dipping in a hot spring
What can be better than soaking in a hot bath after a fun day of hiking? There are several hot spring facilities in the area that I can recommend. The first one is called “Moegi no Yu”, located just 10 minutes walking from JR Okutama station. It offers several indoor and outdoor baths so you can admire the Autumn colors while bathing!
Quick note, this hot spring is closed on Mondays or the following day if Monday is a national holiday. The entrance fee is 750 yen for 2 hours and 200 yen for every additional hour.
The other hot spring, “Mikawaya Ryokan”, is situated 5 minutes away from JR Okutama station. Opened 200 years ago, it is a traditional Japanese inn where you can visit the hot spring facilities from 11 AM to 4 PM for a humble price of 1000 yen! There is also an opportunity to include a traditional Japanese meal and resting space for additional 2000 yen.
When is the best time to visit?
Okutama usually reaches the peak of the Autumn foliage around mid to late November, although it differs slightly depending on a year.