One of the things that never fails to surprise even long-term Tokyo residents is just how quickly you can get from the heart of the biggest city in the world to mountains, valleys, hiking trails, and farms. The town of Aikawa, located in neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture, is just one of those places.
Just a short car or bus trip from Atsugi down route 412, the first leg of your trip into Aikawa takes you past one of the bigger surprises to be found in this part of Kanagawa’s inaka – a Laotian cultural center that lies around a bend in the road as it makes its way to the trail heads. A short way past is the starting point for a series of trails, that make their way over mountains, past temples and waterfalls, and overlooking carefully manicured golf courses.
The hikes can easily take the better part of a day, but if you’re traveling with family, there are plenty of other stops to be made. If you’re making a pit stop, you could do far worse than to stop by Ogino Pan (Japanese only). The bakery (which you can tour) draws a steady crowd of visitors, who come by car and bike to stock up. They’re famous for their anpan buns, but there are so many offerings on display that even the most die-hard anti-carb campaigner might feel tempted to ease up on their discipline.
Continuing on, you can drop by Hattori Dairy Farm (Japanese only), a working farm that has plenty of down home spirit to it, coming complete with old fashioned tractors, pony rides, hands-on milking opportunities, and more. If you’re lucky, you might even catch dogs being trained to herd sheep.
A perfect way to finish up the day, although it’s big enough to spend a day there, is Aikawa Prefectural Park. Towards one edge of the sprawling grounds is the Miyagase Dam, but there is plenty of green space for setting up camp for the day, having a picnic, or letting the kids run wild on this structure that combines the bounciness of a trampoline with the climbing-aroundness of a jungle gym. A miniature train takes people around the park, and you can get an impressive view of the Miyagase Dam.
In all, it’s a day trip well worth the making, but we’d recommend renting a car for the trip, as getting around won’t be half the fun this far out of town.
For more information about Aikawa, visit the town’s home page at www.town.aikawa.kanagawa.jp/foreigners/multilingual.html