Tamagawa River: Don't fight Tokyo, just go with the flow
When I get need a break from the humm of the city, I head for Tamagawa River. I can play a variety of sports, row a boat, catch carp, trout and ayu fish. I can jog between tall grasses, cycle all the way from the mountains to the ocean or just lie down and watch the sky. Best of all Tokyo residents like myself don't need to travel for hours to get there, as this artery of endorphin-inducing activity bisects this most populated metropolis. It’s therefore easier to get to Tamagawa River than the more renowned outdoor activity areas of Nagano or Hokkaido.
Cycling past dams and bridges
Originating in Yamanashi, the 138-kilometer Tama river breathes life through the woodsy Okutama region, and then flows between Kawasaki and western Tokyo all the way to Haneda Airport and Tokyo Bay. Cyclists worship the Tama. On 100-kilometer round trips, they can hug the curving river all the way to the Mitake Gorge, a white-water paddling spot and site of national competitions 10 kilometers past Ome town. They can stop for breathers near various dams and bridges or the scenic Five Pine Trees, a popular film location. However, after accidents involving joggers wearing earphones, some local governments recently constructed speed bumps, which have scared away racers whose association built the paved bike paths decades ago.
Along with rugby grounds, dusty soccer pitches and manicured baseball diamonds, the river area is a haven for golfers. Near Nakahara boulevard and the bullet train tracks, a driving range (www.t-gol.com, +81 (0) 3 3758 5268) is open from dawn to dusk: the entry fee is ¥500; club rental ¥200; putting green ¥500; and 60 range balls cost ¥1,000.
Though its hours are shorter -- 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. -- prices are cheaper downriver in Ota-ku at the Kawasaki renshu-jo practice area: ¥420 entry; ¥630 for 50 balls: with discounts on the first and third Thursday of the month. The adjacent golf course is a good deal by Japanese standards, with discounts for repeated usage. First timers on weekdays pay ¥3,430 for nine holes, and ¥2,470 the second time, while weekend play costs ¥3,950.
Across the river near the Canon building, which looks like a giant copying machine, six sandy tennis courts at the Tamagawa Dai-Koen can be reserved by calling the Ota ward office at +81 (0) 3 3721 1951.
Thanks to conservationists, birds are coming back to Tamagawa, including speedy kingfishers, white wagtails, and many ducks and gulls, who seem to sing along to the rave parties or students practicing musical instruments. About a decade ago, there was even a cute bearded seal, who came down from the arctic to gain fame in Tokyo. His name: Tama-chan.