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Updated: November 4, 2021
Tokyo is a city famed for its rivers, but its lesser-known other bodies of water are not to be missed. Aside from being rich in history and culture, the ponds and lakes of Tokyo offer spectacular natural environments. For centuries, Tokyoites have enjoyed strolling along and boating on these oases of tranquility, either in the city or nearby mountains. Here are four of some of the best lakes and ponds in Tokyo where you can chill out and refresh your mind and body.
Explore this natural gem bursting with white cherry blossoms in spring and pink lotus flowers and jade lily pads in summer. Shinobazu Pond is a compact, natural body of water in the south part of Ueno Park. Only a few minutes’ walk from Ueno Station, Shinobazu Pond presents a harmonious balance of nature and culture that has long been celebrated in ukiyo-e woodblock prints and other artworks. Here you can spot carp, turtles and waterfowl including tufted ducks, cormorants, and grebes. With a circumference of about 2 kilometers, the pond is divided into three parts: Lotus Pond, named for the lotus plants that carpet its surface, Cormorant Pond, an oasis for waterfowl adjacent to Ueno Zoo, and Boat Pond, where you can rent paddleboats and rowboats. At the center is Benten-jima Island, home to the small Benten-do Temple, which is dedicated to the Buddhist-Shinto goddess Benzaiten. You can walk to the island along a raised walkway lined with cherry trees that stretches to the northwest and southwest corners of the pond. With its spectacular flora and fauna, and traditional temple architecture, Shinobazu Pond is a delight for the eyes and the soul.
Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Five minutes’ walk from Shinobazu Exit at Ueno Station (JR Yamanote, Keihin Tohoku, Joban, Tohoku and Takasaki lines; Tokyo Metro Ginza and Hibiya lines)
Get away from the bustle of downtown by escaping to Lake Okutama, a bucolic refuge of emerald waters surrounded by mountains. Located in the westernmost reaches of Tokyo, Lake Okutama is accessible by train (about 90 minutes from Shinjuku) and bus (20 minutes from Okutama Station). The lake formed when the Ogouchi Dam, 149 meters tall and 353 meters wide, was built on the Tama River in 1957. The result is not only Japan’s largest reservoir exclusively for drinking water, but a relaxing vista with spectacular natural surroundings. It’s especially popular in springtime, when the lakeside cherry trees are in bloom, and in autumn, when maple leaves paint the mountainsides red and orange.
Lake Okutama is an ideal spot for walking and hiking. Two pontoon bridges stretch across the lake, both over 200 meters long, offering perspectives on the Ogouchi Dam and the mountains to the north and south. For those wanting to explore further, trailheads leading to Mt. Kumotori (Tokyo’s highest peak at 2,017 meters), as well as Mt. Mito (1,531 meters) are on the north and south sides of the lake, respectively. Finally, if your muscles need soothing after your hike, try the baths at Moegi-no-Yu, a 10-minute walk from Okutama Station.
Nishitama District, Tokyo
20 minutes by bus from Okutama Station (JR Ome Line)
Soak up the Zen in this pond made famous by Buddhist priest Nichiren Shonin, who washed his feet iin Senzoku Pond en route to Ikegami Honmonji Temple. Senzoku means “foot washing” in reference to this priestly tradition. Fed by underground springs, Senzoku is a verdant, peaceful spot in the Tokyo suburbs that is also known as a spiritual power spot. Directly opposite Senzokuike Station on the Tokyu Ikegami Line, Senzoku Pond features a footpath about 1.5 kilometers long, allowing for an easy stroll. Walking along the western and northern parts of the pond, you will pass small Shinto shrines, torii gates, and graceful arching bridges. On the north shore, you will find a small island with a colorful shrine dedicated to the Buddhist-Shinto goddess Benzaiten. Senzokuike Park, in the northeast corner of the pond, has groves of cherry trees that form an eye-popping springtime backdrop to this peaceful haven.
Minamisenzoku, Ota-ku, Tokyo
One minute walk from Senzoku-ike Station (Tokyu Ikegami Line)
Chill out under the cherry blossoms in springtime at Inokashira Pond, the source of one of the great rivers of Tokyo. Inokashira Pond feeds the Kanda River, which runs across Tokyo to the Sumida River, some 25 kilometers to the west. It is said that the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, gave the pond its name, which means “source of the water supply” as the Kanda Canal provided water to Edo, the former name for Tokyo. Easily accessible from Inokashira-koen or Kichijoji stations, the pond snakes through Inokashira Park, a luscious greenspace with both a lowland zone around the pond, fringed by about 200 cherry trees, and a highland section centering on Gotenyama, a wooded area of oaks and other trees. Recreational facilities abound at Inokashira. Aside from picnicking and boat rentals around the pond, the adjacent Inokashira Park Zoo and Ghibli Museum (reservations required) are popular year-round. Birdwatchers can spot pintail, tufted and mallard ducks in autumn and winter, as well as spot-billed and mandarin ducks throughout the year. This relaxing park has something for everyone.
Inokashira Park, Gotenyama, Musashino, Tokyo
Two minutes’ walk from Inokashira-koen Station (Keio Inokashira Line)
Five minutes’ walk from South Exit (Park Exit) at Kichijoji Station (JR Chuo, Sobu lines)