Who says there isn’t any nature to be found in Tokyo? Just 2-3 hours drive away from Tokyo, lies a rough diamond called Okutama (奥多摩). This is a place for nature lovers, for hikers, for adventure seekers.
It isn’t easy to get here by car, one has to be skilled in navigating the rough terrains of a steep mountain in a winding long road that can be so narrow at times that there is only space for one car to pass through. Luckily for me, my bae is such a man. For tourists perhaps it would be safer, easier and likely even faster (we got caught in a terrible jam on our way out of the city and back) to get to Okutama by train.
Our first stop is at Nippara Limestone Cave (日原鍾乳洞), the longest cave in the Kanto region at 800 metres long. I studied Geography back in my JC days, and Physical Geography is my forte and interest. I had always wanted to visit a cave, and I’m more than contented to have ticked this off my bucket list finally, and it’s not just any cave, it’s a limestone cave! I got to see beautiful stalactites and stalagmites to my heart’s content, my soul just died a little upon leaving the cave, I couldn’t bear to leave it. It was everything I imagined, and more.
The temperature here is a constant 11 degree celcius all year round, and I was more than happy to escape the heat, but instantly stunned by the cold the moment I entered the cave. But once my body adjusted to the cold, I was a happy explorer, running my hands along the cold, wet limestone surfaces gave me a thrill, my textbook graphics have finally come to life. One has to be extremely cautious in the cave though, for not only is it wet and slippery, there are many places where the ceiling is low.
After exploring the cave, we got a little peckish, and had lunch at this random restaurant we found, called Hatonosu Kamameshi (鳩の巣釜めし). Kamameshi (釜飯) literally translates to “Kettle rice” , that is, rice cooked in an individual size pot and served directly in it, which is what we Chinese call “砂锅饭” or claypot rice. To be able to eat this reminded me of home, and made me realise just how similar Japanese and Chinese culture really is. I particularly loved the soup, tasted just like my mom’s cooking, very Chinese and comforting.
Then we went for a hike along the Hatonosu Valley by the Tama River which flows to Lake Okutama. Hatonosu Valley is known for its gigantic and odd-shaped rocks and crags and of course its beautiful waters. Supposedly the trail is easy to walk, but I guess my weak physique really needs some working at. I was huffing and puffing throughout the whole trail. But I pushed on, and was rewarded with a most magnificent sight of nature’s powers and beauty.
As Okutama is a mountainous region with fresh spring waters, wasabi is a local specialty here. Those who followed me on Find The Wasabi show would know that wasabi is grown is spring waters up the mountains. So it is a must to get some wasabi souvenirs back home! I bought some wasabi crackers at only 450 yen, and they did not disappoint, the crackers were generously flavoured with the sharp tang of wasabi.
Hatonosu Kamameshi (鳩の巣釜めし)