Tama River Trail offers a fun, easy way for visitors of all ages to explore Tokyo
By ALLEN ONSTOTT AND KAT BOUZA | Stars and Stripes | Published: August 9, 2018
If you’re an avid cyclist or runner in Japan, this has probably happened to you: You’re racing along the road, enjoying the feeling of the wind on your face or the pavement beneath your feet — and suddenly, a red light or wayward car forces you to come to a grinding halt, losing all your momentum in the process.
Embarking on a run or a ride without encountering the hazards of city living might be difficult, especially for anyone living in the densely-populated areas of Tokyo prefecture. Luckily, there’s the Tama River Trail — a popular cycling road offering an opportunity for athletes of all skill levels and ages to experience uninterrupted adventure.
The trail, which starts in the city of Hamura on the far edge of the prefecture and ends in Ota Ward near Haneda Airport, has no mandatory stopping points along the entirety of its 50 kilometers. As its name implies, it loosely follows the banks of the Tama River, which cuts across the southern border of Tokyo. Although primarily popular with cyclists, the trail is open to pedestrians (and their four-legged friends) as well.
The Tama River Trail officially begins at the Hamura Dam — a presence in the Tama region since the mid-1600s, with the current dam constructed in 1900. The nearby canal is a popular cherry blossom-viewing spot, and the small museum located just off the trail focuses on the history of the Hamura Dam and the surrounding area.
This first few kilometers of the Tama River Trail provide quite a bit of shade, thanks to the numerous trees that dot the section of trail running from Hamura through the neighboring city of Fussa, home to Yokota Air Base. Portions of the trail here offer a bit of excitement in the form of gentle, rolling hills — but don’t worry, the track flattens out about 15 km from the Hamura area.
There are several popular parks located along the Tama River Trail, which make perfect locations to take a quick rest or to stop for a picnic lunch. On the far western edge of the trail is Fussa’s Tamagawa Central Park — a popular spot for the area’s residents to have barbecues in the summer. (Reservations for the park’s barbecue pits must be made in advance at the park recreation office.) Farther along the trail, the Tamagawa Futako Bridge Park in Tokyo’s trendy and upscale Setagaya Ward offers large, grassy areas along the riverbank where visitors can partake in a variety of athletic activities.
Families with children should make the trek to Fuchu’s Kyodo no Mori Park, located about 17 km from Fussa when following the trail. The park offers a variety of activities geared toward kids, including a go-kart track, playgrounds and a children’s fishing pond. Adults might enjoy visiting the park’s two museums, which provide a comprehensive overview of the Fuchu region’s history, or the Fuchu City Kyodo no Mori Tourism Commerce Center — a large shop selling fruits, vegetables and other locally-produced goods.
Bikers should be aware that pedestrians are also permitted to use the Tama River Trail, so practicing good cycling etiquette is a must. Accidents are rare but do happen when both pedestrians and cyclists are distracted.
Many of the route guides located along the trail are barely visible when riding on the pavement — so, without some advanced planning, it’s possible for first-timers to take a wrong turn or two. However, maps are located in select areas, making any unintentional detours easy to correct by spending a few minutes to determine where you want to go.
Whether on foot or by bicycle, the Tama River Trail is the perfect way to take in fresh air and open spaces away from crowds of tourists and popular sightseeing destinations. Its many scenic detours and points of interests make it a good trail for both novice and advanced runners or cyclists in your family. So, put on a helmet or a good pair of walking shoes, grab a bottle of water and start exploring.
Tama River Trail
DIRECTIONS: The Tama River Trail runs along the Tama River, beginning in Hamura City and ending at the Daishi Bridge in Ota Ward, passing through major areas such as Tachikawa, Fuchu and Komae along the way. It is accessible at any point along the route’s 50-km length. From the Fussa Gate at Yokota Air Base, the trail is reachable by foot (23-minute walk) or by car (8-minute drive) via Route 7.
TIMES: The trail is open year-round and has no official operating hours. However, for safety reasons, it’s best to ride during daylight hours when visibility is high.
COSTS: Using the trail is free — but renting or purchasing a bike (and any additional gear) will obviously set you back a few yen.
FOOD: Vending machines selling a variety of beverages, including water and sports drinks, are located at various points along the trail. Be sure to bring small change.