The weather this past weekend was perfect, not too cold and with clear blue skies. The sudden severe chill of the end of last week has lifted and we’re blessed with what looks like at least another week of temperatures in the 50s (that’s Fahrenheit, remember 😉 ).
Taking advantage of that, my family and I decided to head out to the Okutama region of Tokyo to hike the Mitake River Trail. I had previously hiked the actual Mt Mitake with my parents earlier in the season but had passed on the river trail. This time, I had high hopes for a few autumn leaves still clinging to the trees.
As it turns out, the autumn foliage in Okutama is just as delayed as it is in central Tokyo and we were treated to a beautiful 90-minute stroll.
The trail starts at either Ikusabata or Mitake stations and can be hiked in either direction. If you start at Ikusabata, you have a long downhill from the station to the river and then a half-mile (500 meter) walk along the road until you actually pick up the trail along the banks. At the Mitake end, the downhill is just as steep but much shorter and you pick up the trail almost immediately, at the bottom of the steps just down from the bus stop.
The trail is paved in many sections and either dirt or slightly rocky elsewhere. It has zero to minimal elevation, but there are a handful of bridges that younger children may need some assistance on.
Usually, we’re the type to pack an onigiri picnic and eat it along the river or trail, but today we left late enough to not have time to pick up lunch. Luckily, there are no shortage of eateries along the short stretch, ranging from an upscale tofu restaurant to several soba shops and cafes. We found our sustenance right in front of Sawai Station (the station in between Mitake and Ikusabata) where there is a large picnic area and a food stall serving yuba soba and curry udon, as well as edamame and some other snacky foods.
Our four-year-old is a practiced hiker at this point, so this trail was a breeze for her. Halfway through, my husband and I were lamenting having worn our hiking boots, as sneakers would have more than sufficed. But despite the lack of challenge, we completely enjoyed the scenery along the path and there are plenty of opportunities for kids to play along the water’s edge.
Getting to the Okutama area is fairly easy from central Tokyo. For the fastest route, take a special rapid service train from Tokyo or Shinjuku to Tachikawa and on to Ome (some trains continue on to Ome and in other cases, you need to switch to keep going). In Ome, switch to the Ome line and get off at either Ikusabata or Mitake.