Running through Akiruno City (あきる野市) in the foothills of Okutama, to the west of Tokyo, the Akigawa River (秋川) and its valley can give you all you need for a quick outdoors escape from the bustle of the city. Dramatic scenery, deep pools and a BBQ spot. If you’re on a limited timeframe you could do a lot worse than come out here for some fresh air and water.
Musashi-Itsukaichi (武蔵五日市) is the go-to jump off point, and though technically a part of 東京都 (Tokyo Metropolis) you won’t find much in the way of facilities on hand, more a quiet, roadside wooden village feeling. The river round here is deep in parts and has some solid rock jumping potential, summertime tubing down the river, and nice pebble banks for picnics.
If you diverge from the river there’s some impressive farmland surrounding: think classic landscaped paddy fields stepping up little hills, with some pleasant Temples and Shrines. see the Gotokuji Temple (広徳寺) and Mishima Shrine (三島神社) for some fine examples.
To top it all, you can warm up after a day in the river with a coniferous tree-top, birds-nest onsen with impressive outdoor baths.
Where is Akigawa?It feels and looks like it’s a world away, yet the best part of the valley - accessed from Musashi-Itsukaichi - is an easy one hour trip from the heart of Tokyo.
From Musashi-Itsukaichi station the Akigawa valley continues for miles, but the main stretch for most visitors is just within a few short kilometres upstream. The spot you end up in is then just dependant on what you want to do, and how far you want to travel onwards to do it!
If you want to have a quick dip in the shallow water, some tubing, drinks and a barbeque, stay near the station and follow the signs the the barbeque spot called “barbeque land” (バーベキューランド). If you are more in the mood for some rock jumping and deeper pools, take a trek alongside the river until you find the right place.
How do I get to Akigawa?
Musashi-Itsukaichi, the gateway station, is just over an hour from Shinjuku Station on JR Chuo Line and JR Itsukaichi Line, changing at Tachikawa. There are regular buses that can take you the short ride further upstream, though for a quick swim or barbeque you don’t need them.
The onsen is about 45 minutes walk from the station or 17 minutes on the bus. Check their website for more details.
One of the best convenient spots is about 15 minutes walk west from the station. Look for Sawato Bridge (沢戸橋) along the main road west for a quiet spot with pebble beaches, rocks and fairly deep, fast flowing water. This section even has a toilet block nearby.
If you are feeling adventurous and follow the Aki gorge even further upstream you will find many more little sections with nice pools and rocks. It will be less crowded here too.
The food on offer in the traditional local restaurants is the standard Japanese tourist town fare: teishoku (定食) sets with soba, tempura, miso soup and more. Expect to pay 1000 JPY plus.
The onsen is called 秋川渓谷瀬音の湯 (Akigawa Keikoku no-Yu Spa). Check out their website for pictures and more.
Buses back to Musashi-Itsukaichi station from the onsen carry on until at least 2200 but it’s not an impossible walk - bring a torch/flashlight if you think you’ll try.