When people think of Tokyo, they picture a modern urban marvel; a packed, bustling, buzzing metropolis; the economic engine that powers Japan. What they may not be privy to, though, are the nearby subtropical islands nestled in emerald and azure seas and bordered by white sand beaches. Or the inland retreats featuring majestic waterfalls, bathing hot springs, or farms complete with hiking trails. Really, Tokyo is one city; two worlds. Once you venture beyond the gleaming towers, natural wonders await you inland in the Tama area and seaward on the Tokyo islands. And somewhere here, there's the perfect spot for you.
For lovers of the rural lifestyle, there's Hinohara Village. Perched on the western edge of the metropolis, Hinohara is Tokyo’s rustic answer to the neon-lit downtown. Rich greenery everywhere, Hinohara makes for the perfect day trip, offering travelers outdoor activities such as fishing and camping. Hiking too, attracts visitors, with natural monument Kanoto Rock being a prime destination—and the gateway to some of the area’s most scenic waterfalls. Speaking of which, at Hinohara, visitors can discover Tokyo’s green haven, Hossawa Falls.
A 90-minute train ride northwest of Tokyo station, Ōme is practically one city; two-worlds all on its own. Really, Ōme is the place for those who like variety—urban life lite nestled in verdant nature. First, there’s the city proper—Japan’s version of mid-century retro and home to multiple shops. And from the Sawanoi Ozawa brewery—which, at 300 years old, is the oldest sake brewery in the Tokyo region—there are spectacular views of mountains and the Mitake valley in Okutama. Another way to get up close with the hills, rivers, and gorges is via raft, with the gentle Tamagawa (“Tama”) River as tour guide. One can’t-miss site in the area: Mount Mitake, which crowns the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park.
One of the southern Izu islands, Hachijojima is the place for those looking to unwind and focus on wellness. To that end, there’s the lull of natural wonders like hot springs, such as Miharashi and Uramigataki (the later allowing hikers to slip behind the waterfall and explore hidden treasures). And for the spa experience, guests can check in at a number of places to enjoy massages, go on retreats, and make leis. And for those looking for hiking and epic views, there’s Fureai Farm, a working dairy business on the side of Mt. Hachijo.
Niijima and Shikinejima
Two other islands in the Izu islands—Niijima and Shikinejima—are the must-explore destinations for active and outdoor types. Lined with white-sand beaches, the islands offer plenty of opportunity to enjoy everything from sunbathing to swimming to snorkeling. Shikinejima would be the island of the family-friendly beaches while Niijima next door, with more wave action, is the place for surfers. Also on Niijima, and free of charge, visitors can watch the sun set from the Yunohama Roten Onsen hot spring, a bath with a panoramic ocean view. And back on Shikinejima, cyclists can ride up to the Gunjiyama Observatory for a prime island vista.