Akigawa Keikoku Valley
My name is Ben, I am a self-employed photographer based in Tokyo, that specializes mainly in travel photography with a particular focus on the inbound market.
Having been brought up in both the inner-city and the countryside in my home country of England, I find myself attracted to both lifestyles and can see the advantages of living in rural or urban locations alike. The logical choice for me at this stage in my career is to remain in Tokyo where the majority of my clients and work comes from, although I make a concerted effort to live a life that finely balances aspects of both downtown and provincial living with relatively hassle-free access to both worlds. This is easily achieved, even when living in a bustling city like Tokyo, with a bit of research and the will to explore the lesser known reaches of the metropolis. You’ll be surprised what awaits you in the suburbs of Tokyo once you venture off the beaten path!
This is where I would like to introduce the western part of the city, a sprawling rural landscape that has mountains, rivers, waterfalls and a plethora of hiking routes through small towns and villages, vastly different from your preconceived image of Tokyo with its bright lights and neon-clad streets.
There are several places well worth exploring including Ome, Okutama and Takao, but my personal favorite is the town of Itsukaichi and the Akigawa Valley.
Itsukaichi is easily accessed via train on the JR line out of Shinjuku, taking little over an hour to reach. For many who venture out that way for the first time it is hard to believe it’s even part of Tokyo – with ample views of mountains, forests and a raging river.
Arriving at the station you will find a small tourist information booth with info on hiking routes, places to enjoy the river and other recommended local sights including waterfalls and traditional Japanese houses. The further west along the Akigawa Valley you venture from here, the more rural and interesting things get. The furthest you can go without leaving the city limits is Hinohara Village, which is several kilometers from Itsukaichi station. For those that are feeling active rental bicycles can be found nearby at reasonable prices. For those who want to keep their energy for exploring the village itself a local bus will take you almost all the way there. Information on all of the above can be obtained at the station.
This area is a particularly good place to explore if you are concerned about issues surrounding the current Coronavirus situation. The hiking and cycling routes allow for a good amount of socially distanced activities, with little chance of meeting others along the way. On the few occasions that you do encounter others, for example at cafes or bus stops, remember to mask up, and show a level of respect to those around you. Simple actions like these make all the difference and allow the locals to share their special corner of Tokyo with visitors while feeling comfortable and safe. Enjoy!