Want to explore the wonders of Japan’s countryside without leaving Tokyo? Okutama, just 90 minutes away from Shinjuku, is a popular destination within the prefectural bounds. Home to the Tama River and other natural wonders, Okutama is the perfect place to slow down, soak in a hot spring — and maybe even do some rafting. Here’s how to spend a day there.

We’ve based the itinerary on our own experience in Okutama. We made the trip in late June, taking a gamble in Japan’s rainy season. Unsurprisingly, it bucketed down. We made it all work — even the rafting — though we do recommend going on a clear and sunny day, if you can.

How to get to Okutama

Shinjuku Station to Ōme Station
1 to 2 hours

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Although this one-day itinerary does not cover all the main sightseeing spots in Okutama, there is still a lot to get through, meaning that you will need to set off early.

Okutama is on the western edge of Tokyo. The easiest way to get to the general area is by taking the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Ōme Station; this takes about an hour. Once you arrive at Ōme Station, jump on the local Ōme Line. For the first activity, which is river rafting, you will need to get off at either Kawai Station or Mitake Station.

Pro tip: A short bus ride from Mitake Station is Mt. Mitake, popular in fall for its beautiful views.

Train between Ome and Okutama
The Ōme Line train has a distinctive design, making it hard to miss. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

Keep in mind that the overall journey can take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours and costs between ¥860 and ¥950. It can feel pretty long given the fact that the local trains from Ōme Station don’t run regularly, with only one or two going per hour.

We recommend aiming to get to either Kawai or Mitake Station between 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., as it is about a 25-minute walk from both stations to the rafting base and not much else is open in either area before this time.

Note: If you arrange it in advance, the rafting company can send a shuttle bus to fetch you.

Morning: Go rafting

Close up of Raft (Okutama)
Take a trip down nature’s rollercoaster! | Photo by River Joy Tours, taken on behalf of the author.

Why go rafting in Okutama?

One of the main reasons people visit Okutama is to experience the thrills of water sports such as river rafting. The Tama River is known for its picturesque views, clean waters, and rapid streams — making it an ideal place to raft.

Even though there is no small choice of rafting tours and companies in the area, you should know that each one offers different courses and intensity levels. For newbies, we would recommend opting for one of the gentler courses.

The tour we booked was with the company River Joy, which caters to children, adults, and even elderly people. You can book through either Rakuten Travel Experiences or the company website. Whilst booking on Rakuten Travel Experience can save you up to ¥1,000, depending on what day you book for, it can be slightly more complicated.

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As we found out, rain or shine, the rafting is still likely to take place. Only if the river conditions are considered dangerous, or there is extreme weather, will the tour be canceled. On the day we went, the rain actually ended up adding to the excitement, due to there being more rapids. However, it did mean that the listed tour time was shortened from two hours to one and a half hours.

Wide shot of inside of River Joy Tours
Outside the main rafting base. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

The rafting experience

As soon as you meet your guide at the main base, you will be asked to log your personal details and provide an emergency contact. Then, you will need to sign a waiver. Accident insurance is included in the tour fee; however if you are unsure about what this covers, it’s a good idea to ask your guide. Despite this all sounding quite daunting, throughout the whole experience it was clear that safety is the number-one priority.

After all of this, you will be asked to get changed. When you book the tour, you are told to bring a swimsuit, clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, and an SD card for photos. It is not mentioned on the listing, however, we would also recommend bringing a small towel. The SD card is also no longer needed, as the guides take photos on their phones. Safety equipment like life jackets and helmets are included in the tour package, whereas wetsuits and water shoes can be rented for an extra ¥500 each.

Rafting in Okutama (Riverjoy Tour)
In action! | Photo by River Joy Tours, taken on behalf of the author.

Now it’s time to hit nature’s very own rollercoaster — the river. Before entering the water, the guide will give a detailed safety talk about what to do in case of an emergency. Then, you will be taught how to use your paddle and other key signals.

Person with Raft (Okutama)
Photo by River Joy Tours, taken on behalf of the author.

The actual rafting wasn’t as scary as we initially anticipated. While it definitely is an adrenaline-fueled experience, it felt safe, and the flow of the water felt relatively gentle given the weather conditions. We made brief stops along the way to take photos near a waterfall, as well as jump off a rock. 

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Midday: Lunch at Awa Café and museum visit

Kawai Station
20 minutes walk

After having fun river rafting, it’s time for lunch. Just a five-minute walk away from the River Joy base is Awa Café. This charming spot offers lovely views of the river and a cozy atmosphere. On the menu is a small but good selection of main meals, desserts and drinks. Prices range from ¥380 to ¥2,600.

Wide Shot of Vegan Curry at Awa Cafe, Okutama
A warming (and vegan) meal on a rainy day. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

The signature dish is “The volcano” — tender roast beef on a mountain of rice, topped with a raw egg and wasabi mayonnaise for ¥1,500. A venison version is also available for ¥2,300. But we opted for the vegan coconut curry, which came to ¥1,550, with a drink set added on. The curry was sweet and creamy, the perfect warm meal after a rainy rafting session. 

Seseraginosato Museum

Seseraginosato Museum in Kawai, Okutama
The museum is inside a traditional Japanese-style house. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

After lunch, take a moment to browse around the Seseraginosato Museum, which is next door to Awa Café. The outside of the museum itself is a sight to see — a traditional Japanese-style house surrounded by zelkova and cedar trees and the sounds of the nearby river. Four to five different exhibitions are held throughout the year, each one centered around artwork and calligraphy related to the region.

Although there is an admission fee of ¥300 for adults and ¥200 for students, on this specific day we entered for free. This was most likely due to the fact that almost no one else was in the area because of the rain. 

Afternoon: Hatonosu Canyon

Kawai Station to Hatonosu Station
17 minutes

After visiting the museum, it’s time to head back to Kawai Station. Once there, hop back onto the Ōme Line and take the approximately six-minute train ride to Hatonosu Station. From the station, it’s just a short walk to the next destination on this itinerary: Hatonosu Canyon.

Wide shot of view from Hatonosu Canyon (Okutama)
Photo by Jane Pipkin

Hatonosu Canyon is a valley with vibrant greenery and the Tama River flowing through it. A sight to see in all seasons, it is particularly beautiful in autumn when the red leaves cover the area. Many people go hiking around this area because of the scenic sights, and the trail is relatively straightforward. For those who aren’t wanting to hike, it is still worth standing on the main suspension bridge and admiring the view for a while.

On bridge at Hatonosu Canyon
Surrounded by gorgeous greenery. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

Gallery Poppo

Wide shot of Gallery Poppo
This charming café sits near the beginning of the bridge. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

Next is a quick pitstop at Gallery Poppo. This quaint little café is tucked away at the entrance of the suspension bridge, offering views of the valley. It was especially atmospheric in the rain and felt like somewhere you would find in a Studio Ghibli film. Since there are limited seats inside, it is better for those who are traveling alone or in pairs.

Banana chocolate cake at Gallery Poppo
Taking time to sit back and enjoy the chocolate-banana cake. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

Gallery Poppo serves a mix of light bites, cakes, and drinks. We tried the chocolate-banana cake, which was ¥600. It was a great afternoon pick-me-up and tasted like home-style baking. Admittedly, though, the cafe’s main highlight is the spectacular view of the valley. These views, along with the sounds of the rushing river, make for a peaceful place to relax. 

Early evening: Moegi no Yu Onsen

Hatonosu Station to Okutama Station
5 minutes

After a long day walking around, it’s time to properly unwind and take a soak in a hot spring. From Hatonosu Station, you will need to go back onto the Ōme Line and make the five-minute train ride to Okutama Station. Once at Okutama Station, it’s a 10-minute walk to the final destination on this one-day itinerary: Moegi no Yu Onsen.

Foot bath at Moegi no Yu Onsen (Okutama)
Take a soak at one of Okutama’s most popular hot springs. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

Moegi no Yu Onsen has both indoor and outdoor baths. The water is completely natural and comes straight from deep underground in Okutama itself. A three-hour stay costs ¥950 for adults, ¥550 for elementary-school children, and is free for preschoolers and younger. To save a couple of hundred yen, remember to bring your own towel. If you forget to bring one, you can rent one from around ¥300.

There is also a restaurant on site where you can try some of the local river fish, as well as light snacks. Towards the front of the main building, you will find an ashiyu (foot bath) which you can use for ¥100, if you don’t feel like the full onsen experience.

Heading back to Tokyo

We suggest trying to get back to Okutama Station between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. There are only a limited number of trains heading towards Tokyo, and the journey takes nearly two hours. If you follow this rough schedule, you should get back to central Tokyo between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

Is a day trip to Okutama worth it?

Okutama Great Bridge
The view from Kawai Station. | Photo by Jane Pipkin

Very much so. You can easily fill up a whole day in Okutama doing a combination of daring and laid-back activities. What we’ve suggested here is just one of many ways to spend a day in the area. It’s great for nature lovers and those who just want to escape the city for a while.

Truthfully, it will feel like a long day if you do it without a car, given that traveling between each location is slightly inconvenient. Despite that, Okutama has much to offer and is a great alternative to some of the more popular day-trip destinations. To really get the most out of it, we would suggest staying for at least one night either in a hotel or at one of the many campsites in the area.

Note: Regardless of what season you go in, make sure to bring some sensible walking shoes as some of the areas, especially around the river, are quite rocky.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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