Lunch Break On The Trails?!

Four Ideas for a quick nature run in West Tokyo

As we saw in the previous article, the large, centrally located parks of Tokyo offer an abundance of nature.

But smaller parks have a very special charm, too. In its sprawling growth, Tokyo has swallowed woods, hills, and rivers that were at the heart of village life just a few generations ago. Today, this means that even the most unassuming stretches of suburbia often hide lovingly preserved trails, perched over a hill, squeezed around a golf course or slaloming through tiny shrines and bamboo thickets.

The rough edges that limit their enjoyment as city parks turns them into the most unexpected asset for runners like us: the suburban trail run. And while not everyone may have the luxury of escaping for a run during his or her lunch break, these courses remain a fantastic opportunity for a nature run just around the corner.

So grab a pair of grippy shoes and get ready for a fun (and often challenging!) run through Tokyo’s past!

Course Criteria

  • Unpaved trails through nature with short road crossings and no traffic
  • Starts and ends within one hour west from Shinjuku
  • Coin lockers and convenience stores at start and end

Parks & Recreation

・In Japan, 24-hour convenience stores are commonly located near train stations. Most stores offer food, drinks, and washrooms (good enough for changing clothes in).  Many train stations also have coin lockers useful for storing a fresh change of clothes – to the eternal gratitude of passengers on the train home.
・Neighborhood parks exist to improve quality of life but in Japan, they also serve as gathering points during emergencies, which means they almost invariably have washrooms and water fountains.

Slippery When Wet

・All the trails below are wide and safe, without the narrow passages, climbs and chains you might expect in a mountain hike. Trail running shoes aren’t necessary but you may encounter muddy areas and steep descents (especially after rain), so we recommend grippy shoes with tessellated soles to improve your comfort.
・The trails below are just as enjoyable for walkers as they are for runners. As for kids, we would recommend for them to be at least 10, as these routes are longer and offer less playtime opportunities compared to larger parks.

Land of the Four Seasons

・Routes lined with maples (もみじ) or cherry blossoms (さくら) will look especially pretty in autumn and spring. If you have time, it’s worth revisiting an old favorite just to see them wearing their red and white gala dresses.
・Rainy season (June to late July) and the final weeks of summer are more problematic. Besides getting wet, you’ll want to avoid the steepest routes to avoid accidents.
・Summer in Japan can be brutally humid and hot. Wear sun protection, keep hydrated, and stick to the routes we recommend.

The Trails

The Ridge Views of Takahatafudo

  • Great temple start
  • Fun climbs and impressive views
  • A few great vistas on Mt. Fuji
  • A few boring urban crossings

Points of interest

• Takahatafudo-son shrine
• Ridges of Tamakyuryo and Minamidaira Park

View from Minamidaira ridge
View from Minamidaira ridge
The Ridge Views of Takahatafudo
View from Minamidaira ridge

Start at the majestic Takahata Fudo-son Kongo-ji temple and quickly climb through Tamakyuryo Natural Park.

After a first stretch of sleepy suburbs, you run over the northern ridge of Tama Zoo, with beautiful open views over the Asakawa river.

Just before summiting at Hirayama Castle, turn north through the charming Hirayama Sueshige Shrine and walk down to the road below, and from there to Hirayamajōshi-kōen Station.

The Ridge Views of Takahatafudo
Course map (click to view on Google Maps)
Takahatafudo-son shrine
Takahatafudo-son shrine ©️ Kusanagi A

Start: Takahatafudō 高幡不動駅 (33 min from Shinjuku) 

Finish: Hirayamajōshi-kōen 平山城址公園駅 (36 min from Shinjuku)

Length: 5.77KM (60 min running)

Ascent: 233m | Descent: 209m

Road: 47% | Trail: 53%

Bonus

Asakawa river cycling path, all the way back to Takahadafudo (and the Tama river)

ridge views of Takahatafudo elevation
©️ trackreport.net

The Hidden Forest of Ozawamine

  • Only 20 min. from Shinjuku
  • Great views over the city
  • Well-shaded during summer
  • Muddy and slippery after rain

Points of interest

• Yomiuri Land, a Showa-era theme park
• Jufukui Shrine
• Mt. Ozawamine

Aso citizen forest
Aso citizen forest
View from Jufukuji shrine
View from Jufukuji shrine

Start: Keio-Inadazutsumi 京王稲田堤駅 (20 min from Shinjuku) or JR Inadazutsumi (26 min from Shinjuku)

Finish: Yomiuriland-mae 読売ランド前駅 (25 min from Shinjuku)

Length: 3.94KM (50 min running)

Ascent: 145m | Descent: 126m

Trail: 70% | Road: 30%

Bonus

The trail will suddenly appear on one side of the sleepy Misawa river and you’ll encounter climbs with a steep but well-maintained path through surprisingly lush woods and bamboo thickets.

After reaching the top of Mt. Ozawamine, you’ll cross into a quiet neighborhood and run on pavement along Yomiuriland park (spot the roller-coaster!) before reaching the stunning views of Jufukuji shrine.

From there, the Aso Citizen’s Forest will take you through wide, charming paths and picnic spots, all the way down to Yomiuriland-mae station.

Aso citizen forest
Aso citizen forest
hidden forest of Ozawamine map
Course map (click to view on Google Maps)
hidden forest of Ozawamine elevation
©️ trackreport.net

The Fields & Views of Kuriki Ridge

  • Nature in the heart of suburbia
  • Fun trail on a high ridge
  • Great Fuji views (weather permitting)
  • Some traffic noise

Points of interest

• Hanging garden views
• Shinkoji Park
• Haruhino farmland

Shinkoji park
Shinkoji park
Kuriki hanging gardens
Kuriki hanging gardens

Start: Haruhino Station はるひ野駅 (31 minutes from Shinjuku) or Wakabadai Station 若葉台駅 (35 minutes from Shinjuku)

Finish: Kurihira Station 栗平駅 (30 minutes from Shinjuku)

Length: 5.03KM (45 min running)

Ascent: 112m | Descent: 117m

Road: 40% | Trail: 60%

Bonus

Tsurukawa river goes south all the way to Tsurukawa station

fields and views of Kuriki ridge map
Course Map (click to view on Google Maps)

After running down from Haruhino station, the tiny Kaidohidamari Park opens your way through the rice fields.

A left turn at the bridge will then take you past a cemetery and towards Shinkoji Park’s beautiful hill landscape. From here, make your way over the tiny edge of Kuriki ridge, with open views over the valley and (weather permitting) Mount Fuji.

Take a left after the Tokogakuen Elementary School to cross some pretty orchards and down to Kurihira station.

Haruhino farmland
Haruhino farmland
fields and views of Kuriki ridge elevation
©️ trackreport.net

The Rolling Hills of the Oyamada Parks

  • Lush, quiet, and panormaic
  • Stunning cherry blossoms in the spring
  • Good shade for the summer months
  • A bit isolated

Points of interest

• Dragonfly pond
• Suspended bridge
• Tokyo Kokusai Golf Club

Oyamada park area
Oyamada park area
Dragonfly pond area
Dragonfly pond area

After a brief stretch of road down to the Tama Aqua Blue Pool (spot the giant slide!), the trail will start in front of you. Follow the trail around the golf courses and past Firefly pond, all the way down to the spacious Oyamada Ryokuchi Park.

Catch your breath at the picnic tables, then loop back up through the metal bridge and around the Tokyo Kokusai Golf Club. Don’t forget to enjoy the views at the top before coming back to Karakida station.

Tokyo Kokusai Golf Club

Start / Finish: Karakida Station 唐木田駅 (40 min from Shinjku)

Length: 7.26KM (70 min running)

Ascent: 241m | Descent: 243m

Road: 25% | Trail: 55% | Paved Parkland: 20%

Bonus

rolling hills of the Oyamada parks map
Course Map (click to view on Google Maps)
Takahatafudo elevation profile

About the Author

Alain

Alain is an unlikely combination of professional videogame translator and amateur trail runner. 

When he’s not penning some space marine or foul-mouthed orc, you’ll find him on West Tokyo routes, either alone or with his friends at Tama Trailrunners.

Alain