Trail Running Around Tokyo
Thanks to Tony Grant for this information.
If you enjoy running on well-maintained trails, sometimes steep and technical, Japan is definitely the place to come. The whole country is literally covered with mountains, and every one of them has a network of hiking trails all over it.
There is a fantastic series of hiking maps available in any bookshop for about 900 yen, which show all the trails.
For trail running around Tokyo, there are a number of good options.
Take a Chuo Line train from Shinjuku (you may have to change trains at Tachikawa and Ome, if you can’t get a direct Ome Express from Shinjuku), and get off at the end of the line at Okutama station. In fact, you can get off pretty much anywhere along the line from about Futamata onwards and there are trails all over the place. The map sheet is number 23, covering the whole area. Popular peaks are Mitake-san, Otake-san, Hinode-san, Gozen-san, Kawanori-yama and Mito-san (san and yama both mean mountain in Japanese, but some peaks are called san and some are yama, for no apparent reason).
If you want a nice classic 2.5 hour run in this area then I’d recommend taking the Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Haijima, changing for the Itsukaichi Line and getting off at Musashi-Itsukaichi (the end of the line). From there you can run up a ridgeline called the Konpira-one (one means ridge) up to Hinode-san, along to Mitake-san, and then down a trail on the other side to Hatonosu, where there is a nice little onsen (hot spring) down by the river, where you can take a hot bath afterwards.
Plenty of stuff to do here. Take an Odakyu Line train from Shinjuku station to Hakone-Yumoto at the end of the line. From there, take a bus from outside the station to Hakonoe Motomachi on the shore of Lake Ashi (Ashinoko… ko means lake). It’s possible to run around the lake, a 20km circuit, along roads on one side, and then hiking trail on the other side. It’s a really lovely circuit, and highly recommended… great scenery.
There are also several nice peaks you can run up around there, most notably Myoujingatake and Kintoki-yama.
For Hakone you need map sheet number 29.
This is an area aout 2/3 of the way down the Odakyu Line towards Hakone. It’s characterized by steep trails, lots of landslides, but great views of Mt Fuji to the north and the Izu islands out to sea to the south. There are lots of great runs here, particularly Ohyama and Tonodake, plenty of trails so you can pick and choose your route if you have the map. You need map number 28 for this. It’s a fairly tough area though, so might not be your best choice for your first Japanese trail run.
4. The Takao area
Mt. Takao is a busy and popular little peak about 50mins from Tokyo, either on the Chuo Line or the Keio Line, both from Shinjuku. You can run up and down it in a little over an hour. Or you can extend it by running the ridgeline to Jinba-san and back, if you want a longer run.
Mt. Takao can be very crowded with hikers, however.
The valley beyond Takao is also lined with peaks and trails on both sides all the way to Otsuki station and beyond. I’ve run pretty much all of them and can recommend all of them. For this area you need map number 27, and the access is simple. Just take a Chuo Line train from Shinjuku and start running from whichever station you get off at.
5. If you prefer something flatter, you can take a short train ride northeast of Tokyo to a huge lake called Inba-numa (numa means marsh), and run the circumference of that. It’s something around 30km, and is a really picturesque place. You need to take a Keisei Line train fron Keisei Ueno, changing at Katsutadai for a train to Keisei Usui for this one. It takes under an hour, and the whole journey is only 640yen.
Depending on when you come, there may or may not still be snow, so if you have a pair of microspikes or something similar it might be worth packing them. For most of these areas you should be fine in just trainers though.