Is Tokyo this…GREEN????
If someone had told me that Tokyo had a green side, I would imagine that they were talking about the many lovely parks dispersed throughout the city. These oases can be found nestled between the many towering districts of this metropolis, but if you want to get lost in nature, you might feel a little less than satisfied.
So, when we ventured out into the Tama area, we were in for a pleasant surprise. Just a short trip outside of Tokyo’s center, we soon found ourselves lost in a vast expanse of lush green hills and valleys. As we wandered deeper into a seemingly endless forest, we were met with the rushing sound of rivers, the sweet smell of pine needles, and a crisp cool mountain breeze.
If you are seeking refreshment and relaxation, Tokyo’s Tama area has it all. In the morning, we decided to start the day with stand-up paddle yoga, while floating down a calm river covered in a magical carpet of morning mist1. For even more peace and clarity, we meditated in the tranquil atmosphere of an ancient temple’s cafe under the guidance of a Buddhist monk2.
Being around so much nature, the inner child in me also wanted to get free and explore. We grabbed our street cycles and cruised the roads that twist along pristine lakes3 and jutting cliffs.
After breaking a good sweat, we grabbed a raft, plunged into a wild river4 and, careened down white-water rapids. I couldn’t help but to let out a cry as I was filled with adrenaline and excitement!
What would a trip be without a little culture to fulfill our desire to connect with this amazing part of Tokyo? There is a long tradition here of pilgrimages that lead to shrines5 deep within the hills where you can refresh your spirit or give thanks to the local gods. We enjoyed the aroma of burning incense, participated in prayer rituals, and even got to dine on traditional meals that replenish your whole body.
There are also many traditions that are passed down from generation to generation by highly skilled craftsmen and craftswomen that you can experience We had a chance not only to view art created by skilled artisans, but we were able to get ourselves elbow deep in indigo dye and see what it’s like to really test our aesthetic senses6.
Finally, as night came, the local town was filled with the glow of lanterns, lit as they have been for generations, to summon the community to a festival filled with the clamor of children playing, vendors selling delicious street foods, and the drums of the festival rumbling through the streets7.
As the lights glistened in the eyes of passersby, I knew we had found not just the green part of Tokyo, but we had found the colors that make this city truly a place like none other.
*1 Ome City, Okutama Lake Shiromaru
*2 Hinohara Village Temple Cafe Syu-un
*3 Ome City Lake Okutama
*4 Ome City Mitake Gorge
*5 Hachioji City, Mt. Takao Yakuoin Temple
*6 Ome City Aizen Workshop Kosouen
*7 Fuchu City Okunitama-jinja Shrine