by Johannes Schonherr
Sayama Lake, Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture 狭山湖 所沢 埼玉県
A good portion of Tokyo's fresh water supply comes from the mountains in the north-west of the city, roughly the area of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park.
To secure a steady supply, the incoming water is at first collected in two big reservoirs before it heads to the purification plants and eventually to the customers' faucets.
Both reservoirs form big lakes surrounded by forests and offer the visitor beautiful views towards the mountains. On clear winter days, snow-covered, distant Mount Fuji looks as if it is located right behind the lakes.
The two reservoirs, Sayama Lake and Tama Lake, are in walking distance from each other even though they are located in different prefectures. Sayama Lake is in Saitama Prefecture while Tama Lake is in Tokyo. Together with their surrounding areas the lakes form the Sayama Nature Park, covering much of the wooded parts of the Sayama Hills.
The Sayama Hills are not an isolated area, though. The Seibu Prince Dome, the home stadium of national baseball league club Seibu Lions is located right in the center, also very close is Seibu Park, a large entertainment park featuring roller coasters, a Ferris wheel and similar attractions.
There are plenty of small temples and shrines to discover in the vicinity, numerous restaurants are close to the lakes as are a good number of love hotels. Thus, the area is very popular with day trippers from Tokyo for a great variety of reasons.
Though the lakes are the major attractions of the area, their status as tap water reservoirs means that they are for looking at and photographing only.
Both the Sayama Lake and the Tama Lake are seriously fenced in (with barbed wire on top). There is no swimming, boating, fishing or the like.
The visitor areas are largely restricted to the dams and the adjoining rest areas. From there you get great views and many people use the locations for leisurely strolls, for jogging and kite-flying. Anything is okay as long as it doesn't affect the water.
Because the forests surrounding the lakes are so rigorously cordoned off, many rare birds are nesting there. Bird watchers with their large-lens cameras are present at the viewing points of the lakes whenever the weather seems favorable.
Major attractions of both lakes are the water intake towers. Each lake has two of these towers which mark the starting points of the pipelines that take the water from the reservoirs towards Tokyo.
Also known as the Yamaguchi Reservoir, Sayama Lake, located in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, and in service since 1934, is the bigger of the two lakes and it offers by far the better landscape, including a very impressive view towards Mount Fuji on clear days between late October and early March.
Since the Fuji is southwest from the dam, visitors can see the mountain in all its glory from the morning to about noon. At that time, the sun shines right at the mountain. In the evening, the sun will set behind the Fuji. It's a very different scenery then, offering a striking sunset beauty.
Because of its rugged shoreline, a lot more land is fenced in at Sayama Lake than at Tama Lake. Land that is left in an absolutely natural state. Thus, plenty of rare birds nest there and can, with a little luck and patience, get caught on camera by the bird watchers regularly congregating here.
Tama Lake, Higashi Yamato, Tokyo 多摩湖 東大和 東京都
Tama Lake, also known as Murayama Reservoir, located in Higashi Yamato City, Tokyo, and in service since 1927, is closer to densely inhabited suburban Tokyo.
Tama Lake has the better rail connection and its dam starts literally just across the street from Seibu Entertainment Park. Bird watching is popular here, too, and the mountains including Fuji are visible behind the lake as well but, basically, Tama Lake feels more like an urban park while Sayama Lake feels like part of nature.
From Ikebukuro Station, take the Seibu Ikebukuro Line to Nishi Tokorozawa Station, change there to the Seibu Sayama Line, get off at Seibu Kyujomae (right in front of Seibu Prince Dome).
Alternatively, take the JR Chuo Soba Local Line from Shinjuku Station to Kokubunji, change to the Seibu Tamako Line, change at Seibu Yuenchi to the Seibu Yamaguchi Line (a rubber-tired people mover), get off at the line's terminus at Seibu Kyujomae.
JR Chuo Soba Local Line from Shinjuku to Kokubunji, change to the Seibu Tamako Line, get off at the line's terminus at Seibu Yuenchi Station.
Seibu Yuenchi Station is in front of Seibu Entertainment Park as well as right next to the Tama Lake dam.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks, Yamaguchi Reservoir Section: Tel: 04 2922 3213 (in Japanese)
English Website of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks: www.waterworks.metro.tokyo.jp/eng
English section of the Sayama Park website: www.sayamaparks.com/english
Sayama and Tama Lakes on google maps