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Updated: August 28, 2023

The metropolitan prefecture of Tokyo is home to incredibly diverse nature. While you may imagine a bustling, highly developed metropolis, there is a natural world beyond the city center, waiting to be discovered.


  • Stay on trails to limit you impact on the surrounding land that animals and plants call home.
  • Pack an umbrella and raincoat during the rainy season, which usually lasts from early June to mid-July.
  • Be aware of the dangers of heatstroke in summer, and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Preserving a lifestyle connected to nature

Satoyama Gakko Tokyo

Satoyama Gakko Tokyo is in Hinohara Village, the only village in mainland Tokyo. It is a non-profit organization that offers visitors the chance to learn about nature and how people live in tandem with it. Though located in the busy capital, Hinohara represents a different lifestyle. The area is punctuated by steep cliffs where dense forests take root, and it is this rugged geography that has kept industrialization at bay. Many suburbs of Tokyo are linked to the city center by commuter trains, but Hinohara can only be accessed by a bus that meanders along the village’s winding roads. This might seem like an inconvenience, but it is the village’s salvation.

We are lucky to get to experience Hinohara firsthand with a day of guided hiking. Hinohara had a strong charcoal industry before modernization, but now only traces remain. the hiking tour follows these remnants and explains the history behind them, examining abandoned charcoal kilns and the forests where wood was gathered. The tour also shines a spotlight on the small stone statues dedicated to the horses that carried charcoal throughout the town.

Before starting the hike, one of the organizers asks us to keep three connections in mind: the connection to the land, the connection to the culture, and the connection to the people around us today. At the end of the trip, the third connection is the most profound. The participants have come a long way to be in this forest and listen to the guides. One man got up at 4:00 in the morning to bike here from a neighboring prefecture. A young woman mentions that one of the guides was her teacher when she was a child. This student-teacher relationship continues today as she earnestly listens to his stories 20 years later.

The guides tell us about a world far removed from the bustling city less than 60 kilometers away. One guide grew up in the village and made a living making charcoal while eating off the land. Leading the pack at 80 over years old, he describes various episodes from his youth in the village. When we approach a pile of neatly stacked rocks—a kiln, we’re told—covered with brilliant green moss, he tells of how he built it in the woods to make charcoal when he was younger. The land is rich. One of the blessings is a massive tree. Water runs downhill through the root ball, forming a reservoir below. The water is delicious.

Beyond hiking, Satoyama Gakko Tokyo runs various activities in and around the Fujikura Schoolhouse, a former school that the organization renovated and turned into a center for continuing education for the community. On a visit, you can learn how to make foods characteristic of life in the village. The menu includes classics like miso, as well as mochi made with various types of millet, a superfood that nourished people throughout the world before a diet depending on meat for protein became widespread.

The organization also hosts events that involve staying the night, for example, family camping events where parents bring their children to run around the schoolhouse, cook nourishing meals, and scramble through the woods. Groups of up to 16 people can reserve the schoolhouse for the night.

Fujikura Schoolhouse, surrounded by nothing but mountains and dense foliage, provides a beautiful natural setting for various activities. Large windows invite natural light into the schoolhouse’s interior while the deck near the front door offers an excellent spot from which to admire the sunset.

Satoyama Gakko Tokyo (Fujikura Schoolhouse Lodge)
4814 Fujiwara, Hinohara-mura, Nishitama-gun, Tokyo
Website (JPN)

One-of-a-kind nature in Tokyo

Tokyo Urayama Riverfront (Tokyo Urayama Base)

Tokyo Urayama Riverfront (Tokyo Urayama Base) is a natural playground just an hour away from Shinjuku. It offers various ways to enjoy the wilderness between Musashi-Itsukaichi and the Akigawa Valley. The starting point is just a 1-minute walk from JR Musashi-Itsukaichi Station. You can arrive without reservations and have access to rental equipment and a variety of tour and route options.

There are many activities on offer here, from countryside cycling to riverside relaxation. Borrow a camp chair on-site and enjoy the luxury of doing absolutely nothing, or join a guided tour showcasing the abundance of nature in Tokyo. The riverside trekking tour will take you to a magical waterfall in the woods where you can slip on rental waders and walk into the water without getting wet.

©Tokyo Urayama Base, Photo by HIROYUKI TAKENOUCHI

Tokyo Urayama Riverfront (Tokyo Urayama Base)
219-7 Tateya, Akiruno-shi, Tokyo

Hego no Mori Tour

Hachijojima Island of the Izu archipelago is located 287 kilometers from mainland Tokyo, but it's part of the metropolitan prefecture. The island boasts incredible natural diversity, including a wide range of plants, such as towering ferns, unique to the Izu islands.

On the Hego no Mori Tour, an authorized guide will take you through a dense forest that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the age of dinosaurs. There are two courses to choose from: a relatively flat course focusing on the flora and fauna around you and a more active course that covers all the trails in the forest.

Hego no Mori Tour
2749 Nakanogo, Hachijo-machi, Tokyo
Website (JPN)


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