JSPS Quarterly
No.61 2017 Autumn

Introducing Japan: A Quiet Tokyo

Dr. Andrew Houwen

Okutama valley

Many will be familiar with Tokyo’s visual clichés: the Shibuya crossing, the neon lights of Shinjuku, Asakusa, or the highrises in the city centre. But much of Tokyo is in fact very peaceful, and many Tokyo residents make regular escapes on days off to the sparsely populated mountains just to the west. Interspersed between the buildings and houses of Tokyo and its suburbs there are also many wonderful parks and, perhaps more surprisingly, agricultural fields. This is the quiet side of Tokyo life.

I live with my wife in Tachikawa, a city in western Tokyo which used to have a military base, now converted into Showa Memorial Park. Around our flat there is barely a sound other than that of birds such as the cuckoo in late spring. Next to us lie agricultural fields, where daikon radishes, edamame beans, and many other vegetables are grown and then sold at a little stall nearby. Just to the north runs the Tamagawa aqueduct, a small, treelined stream perfect for a morning stroll.

 on the map of Japan

On a sunny day, it’s nice to go to the mountains of Okutama (in the upper Tama valley) at the western end of the Chuo train line. While Mt. Takao is normally thronged with tourists, many of the mountains are barely visited at all, except by an occasional wild boar or bear (so it’s important to carry a bell to ward them off). You can listen to almost complete silence save for the sound of the wind in the pines while looking out across those distant Tokyo highrises, from the quiet heights of Mt. Hinode.

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JSPS Quarterly No.61 2017