Tokyo City Guides: Okutama Lake, Okutama Town, Tokyo
Okutama Lake 奥多摩湖, 奥多摩町, 東京
by Johannes Schonherr
Okutama is the western-most town in Tokyo and it sits deep in the mountains of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. It is thinly populated but a very attractive destination for hikers on the Okutama Mukashi Michi trail, campers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
One of the central features of the town is Okutama Lake, also known as the Ogouchi Reservoir, a major freshwater source for Tokyo. The natural flow of the Tama River, traditionally an important water source for Tokyo, is blocked here by the Ogouchi Dam, creating a large lake that branches out into several valleys further upstream.While the Tama River feeds the lake from the west, the Kosuge River originating in Yamanashi Prefecture contributes waters from the southwest. The Kosuge river mouth emptying into the lake and the surrounding lake branches belong to Yamanashi Prefecture.
An underground pipe system draws water from the lake according to the needs of Tokyo. A power station at the base of the Ogouchi Dam uses the water power of the Tama River draining from the lake to produce hydro-electricity.
Visiting Okutama Lake
Driving from Tokyo, enter Highway 411 in Ome Town and pass through Okutama Town center, then continue on towards the lake. You first arrive at the Onouchi Dam, marking the eastern end of the reservoir. Following the Tama River Valley, the road leading to the dam ascends the mountains in a series of curves. From some of the bends of the road, you can already spot the impressive dam from a distance.
Next to the dam is a huge parking lot. It's worth a stop. The dam is open to the public and walking over it offers great views over the lake and the mountains surrounding it. When you peek down the steep 'backside' concrete wall of the dam, you can spot the water processing facilities regulating the further flow of the river towards Tokyo as well as a power station turning the water power of the Tama River into electricity.
On top of the dam are two white buildings, in local tourist brochures labelled as "towers". The second one, the one further away from the parking lot, is open to the public for free and serves as an observation deck.
It belongs to the Okutama Mizu-to-Midori-no-Fureaikan (Okutama Water and Green Museum), a little museum dedicated to the local contribution to the Tokyo water supply and situated right next to the entrance to the dam. The admission-free museum features displays on local history as well as on the history of the dam, the sources of the water in the lake as well as general information on the importance of clean fresh water supplies to the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.
The top floor of the museum houses the Katakuri no Hana Restaurant, its windows offering great views over the reservoir.
The construction of the Ogouchi Dam began as early as 1932. During World War II and the following years, construction work had to be stopped. The dam was eventually completed in 1957 and has been in service ever since.
Continuing on Highway 411, which closely follows the lake, you soon arrive at the Nonkia Restaurant.
Located on a small promontory overseeing the lake, the views towards the lake from the second-floor dining room of the restaurant are superb. The restaurant offers hand-made soba and ramen noodles, the vegetables used are all locally grown. Nonkia Restaurant is a great place to sample very tasty, traditional, mountain food.
Mugiyama-Ukihashi Bridge and Ogouchi Shrine
A few kilometers on, Highway 411 will cross the red Mikedani Bridge onto a small peninsula. It might be best to park the car at the lot to the right of the road before crossing the bridge. The small peninsula ahead offers attractions not to be missed.
Walk over Mikedani Bridge and right behind it, through a short tunnel, then turn left. After a few meters, you will arrive at the steps leading down to the Mugiyama-Ukihashi Bridge. That's a pedestrian pontoon bridge crossing an arm of the lake. The pontoons floating on the water will slightly move under your feet while you cross the bridge.
The small peninsula offering access to the pontoon bridge houses, on its eastern edge, the Ogouchi Shrine. The peninsula might be small but walking up to the shrine means hiking up a steep path. The shrine sits on top of a hill high above the western reaches of Okutama Lake.
Good views towards the surrounding landscape are available at some bends during the climb to the shrine. The shrine itself is however surrounded by dense forest. The shrine serves as a shrine - not as a viewpoint.
Hot Spring Onsen Bath
Okutama Lake being a freshwater reservoir, swimming in the lake is of course strictly prohibited. But there are several hot spring onsen baths close to the lake. One is right in the immediate vicinity of Ogouchi Shrine.
Walking back from the shrine and arriving at the tunnel entrance, cross the road (without entering the tunnel) and walk towards the little hamlet straight ahead. Turn right after a few steps and climb up the narrow hill road. On top of it you find a public hot spring onsen bath. Maybe just what you need after a day exploring the lake.
From central Tokyo, take a JR Chuo Line / Ome Line train to Ome Station, change there to the Ome Line. That's the line that goes to Okutama Station.
In front of Okutama Station, take a Nishi Tokyo Bus to Okutama Lake from Bus Stop 2. Many of the buses follow Highway 411 all along the shore of Okutama Lake with frequent stops at the most interesting points, including the Nonkia Restaurant and Ogouchi Shrine.
Nishi Tokyo buses accept SUICA / PASMO cards.Nishi Tokyo Bus Company website (in Japanese).
From Tokyo, drive through Tachikawa and on to Ome, get on Highway 411 there. It leads straight to the lake and all along it.
Okutama Mizu-to-Midori-no-Fureaikan (Okutama Water and Green Museum)
Located right at the Ogouchi Dam of the Okutama Lake.
Opening times: daily from 9.30am to 5pm. Closed on Wednesday. If Wednesday is a public holiday, the museum closes the following day.
Admission is free.
On the top floor of the museum is the Katakura-no-Hana Restaurant, offering good views over Okutama Lake.
5 Hara, Okutama Town, Nishitama-gun, Tokyo
Tel: 0428 86 2731
Nonkia Restaurant のんきあ レストラン
Traditional soba and ramen noodles, local cuisine.
Opening times: daily from 10.30am to 5pm
Tel: 0428 86 2533
368 Hara, Okutama Town, Nishitama-gun, Tokyo
The restaurant has its own bus stop.
Parking is available on the ground floor below the restaurant. However, since the restaurant is located at a sharp bend in the road, entering and leaving that parking lot is very dangerous due to incoming traffic. Shortly behind the bend in the road is a public roadside parking lot, offering a much safer option.
Okutama Lake on google maps
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