Okutama is an area of wilderness in Tokyo prefecture, lodged on the western end of it, looks close to Tokyo but according to schedules, takes almost the same amount time to get to as Nikko. The plan would be to hike from the train station to the lake and then back. Figured 4-5hrs hike to get there.
Traveling light today. Only cameras are the Ricoh, which comes along with me everywhere and a Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron ASPH lens. Weather is 50% chance of rain, which in my experience means sure chance of a drizzle. Whether or not it will get me wet is another story. This trip sees my old GPS tagging along, fresh from its stint in New Zealand last week and a newly charged battery to boot. Shouldn’t have the urge to buy overpriced batteries anymore.
0804hrs: On the Chuo rapid line to Tachikawa station before switching to a train that hopefully ends up at Okutama. This rapid train seems to stop at Musashi-Kagonei. A swith will be required to get to Tachikawa.
0844hrs: Train change at Tachikawa. Surprisingly large train station this. Chuo line is on platforms 3-6 and Ome line that goes to Okutama in on platform 1-2. Only problem for me is that the first train i see on the platform goes towards Okutama but stops short in Kabe. looks like another stop is in order here.
0950hrs: Ok this is getting somewhere. I’m still in train station land. Looks like the least stressful way is to wake the ome line to Ome and then switching across the platform for the train that goes from Ome to Okutama. Finally. More than 2 hours to get there. The elderly hikers decked in goretexes and heavy boots tell me I’m on the right train. I’m dressed in shorts and t-shirt. This time a little smarter. I have me a little packable gore tex jacket i bought from Mont Bell the last trip to Japan. Rightly so as it will be raining the whole day today, drizzling little bit the whole day long.
1020hrs Okutama Station: finally got here. There is a tourist centre right outside the train station with maps printed on low cost paper, but none of them in english so this will be a challenge. I took the map anyway, and immediately grabbed a gps coordinate of the station. The train schedule says that there are at least 1 to 2 trains per hour till 11pm so i don’t worry about transport back.
Okutama town is quite picturesque like the other towns on the way here. It is at the bottom, or almost there, of a large valley with nice stream flowing quickly alone the valley floor. The sounds of water are all over the town. Can’t miss it. Steep mountain surround the town on both sides. I should walk down hill and then turn right to get to the dam by walk.
1200hrs On the Okutamako trail: have been walking for some time. Mostly on nice mountain tarmac (road) and the sun is hiding behind thick clouds today. It was drizzling on the way here in the train but now that part has cleared. Went on the wrong path a few times. Went deep into the forest in one and had to track back and a second time stumbled across a grave site in the forest. Walk was pleasant. There are sounds of rapids and waterfalls aplenty. In case I forgot to mention, taking a walk towards lake Okutama today. Should be a nice 4hr walk over there and maybe spend a few hours at the lake. Have the option of taking the bus back but you know me. May walk all the way back still. Ok, time to enjoy the Japanese countryside.
1412hrs Okutamako: Right now, I have finally reached Okutama lake. Or at least a glimpse of it except the only issue is I’m up on the hill and not on the lake level. It has been drizzling for the last hour or so and I have got the waterproofed jacket on for that length of time.
The path now is quite high up with sheer drops for 100m at least on my left and I have a feeling I shouldnt be blogging in this conditions. Won’t be fun to drop off the side for sure!
1443hrs Okutama Dam Visitor Centre N35.79218 E139.04822: OK not really at the visitor centre, and the hike is really really disorienting. I have thought I was at the base of the dam an hour back but since I was up on the hill and basically hugged the contours, it took an hour to move 200m in straight line terms.
No complains. The view from the dam is really nice. Hills and more rolling hills and cloud hugging them. Almost like a chinese painting. Too bad its still raining. I will get a couple of shots and it should be time to pack up and leave this place if I am to get back in time. Behind me is Okutama lake, apparently the source of drinking water for downtown Tokyo. there is not too much to do here except for the hike here. Wondering between continuing the hike or making the journey back. Undecided.
1353hrs: Will cheat this time. Can’t be bothered to walk 4 hrs back to Okutama Station. Waiting now for the next bus to arrive and according to the time table at this stop, that will be 1615hrs and cost me 340 yen for the journey. Not too bad. Weather is getting worse. You can tell the dam is a tourist spot. Everyone here drove from somewhere and dressed for the lazy drive too. Looks like I am the only one to hike here from downstream. Nice experience, not sure I want to retrace my path. So bus is the way to go.
1615hrs On the bus: on time like everything else here in Japan. Think I have said this many times before. like any bus in Kanto, you go in from the middle of the bus and grab a ticket with the number of the bus stop you boarded. Then you look at the LED signboard in the front of the bus and the price for your ticket number will increase as the bus moves along. Ingenious. When you get off the bus just drop ticket, which is printed on both sides, into a little receptacle with your payments at the front of the bus and you have it.
The buses here are not as flashy as the ones in Nikko, actually for Japan standards I might even say it is rickety. Actually it is not half that bad. I’m just fussy. But it does look like we are currently going downhill quiet a bit. Just wondering how much attitude I must have done earlier today! Amazing.
1640hrs On the Holiday Rapid Okutama Train: This was the train I should have caught this morning. Skips most of the stops on the way and goes directly to Shinjuku, unlike the local train I took this morning. It starts moving at 1652hrs so there is still some time to burn. Lets see. 28 mins to Ome. And then the same train to Shinjuku. The station platform is not straight so there are gaps up to a meter at the entrance depending where you are. Last thing you want is to end up under the platform.
Train is moving now. Time to get some nap.
1757hrs Tachikawa Station: this train, although and express, moves slowly and makes long stops at almost all the stations. Looks like a 2 hour train ride. I slept first half hour at least. Will make the stop in Shinjuku for dinner tonight.
So overall a nice little exercise today. Nice walk with plenty of hills to climb and uncertainty on whether I was going in the right destination, which is great. The only problem is that the weather does not allow any good photo opportunities, which is also good that I don’t bring along a heavy medium format gear. The leica does well with 400 Tri-X black and white film. Only shot a roll of it though.
What I have in mind for a next trip is a trek in Mitake instead. Looks like a large group of hikers prefer to stop there a couple of stops before Okutama. That would a nice plan for my next trek. The path should be shorter but will include mountain climbing. Signing out… Time for some sushi celebration.