For active individuals in Tokyo, there are few uninterrupted stretches of pavement on which to get a solid workout without the worry of traffic lights, crosswalks, or crowds of cell phone-wielding tourists.
The Tamako Jitensha-do (“Lake Tama bike street”) in Saitama is your solution, offering 22 kilometers of wooded, serene bliss, sans city distractions. Circling the beautiful Lake Tama, visitors can casually stroll by parks, quaint restaurants, and shaded pockets of refuge, or zip along the path by bike. Whatever your choice, the trail offers a relaxing day trip away with its share of unique attractions.
Bikers will enjoy the varied path—its hills and curves take riders across bright red bridges, along the lake’s shores, and past the Seibu Lions baseball dome. If 22 kilometers isn’t quite enough, there are also trails extending from the Jitensha-do, including a similar one around Lake Sayama and through Ome-Kaido, a historical two-lane road lined with temples and shrines. Note that the trail can get popular on weekends with families and dog walkers, so be sure to wear a helmet and abide by the trail’s traffic rules.
For those without wheels, hiking trails crisscross throughout the area, often leading to lookouts, such as the one at Higashiyamatosayama Ryokuchi Park, that are perfect for catching the sunset or vistas of Mt. Fuji. To channel your youth, stop at the Field Athletics Course located on the south side of the lake. This type of park is popular in rural parts of Japan, and most often enjoyed by children and their doting parents. It consists of a series of obstacle-like structures, including nets to scramble up, a zip line, and balancing challenges. If you’re feeling peckish, stop at the wooded retreat Reservoir Toriyama. Besides their regular lunch and dinner fare of grilled meat and seafood, interested parties can reserve a barbecue site—with equipment (¥8,000) and food sets (¥3,000)—for some good old-fashioned outdoor fun.
Pedestrians also have the chance to see a slice of kitschy Japanese history—flanking the sides of the trail are a myriad of love hotels, some buzzing with business, and others standing creepily abandoned. Given their remoteness from train stations, the abandoned ones went bankrupt and were left to rot, though curious visitors into haikyo (urban exploration) have delighted in personal investigations. One such hotel relic, the Hotel Queen, contains an abundance of treasures, including old karaoke catalogs, framed family portraits, and a vintage pneumatic mail tube system.
Though the trail is a bit far from Tokyo proper, it’s worth the journey and guaranteed to fuel your active lifestyle.
Lake Tama, Higashi-yamato. Nearest Station: Musashi-Yamato.