Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Tired Of The Crowds? Visit Tokyo's Unmanned Stations
Written by Miho Moriya
Shinjuku Station boasts the most train passenger traffic in the world. However, there are a few deserted stations even in Tokyo, a metropolis populated by 14 million. This article introduces five such stations along with souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants nearby.
Two Sides of Tokyo
Photo by Pixta
Although the size of Tokyo accounts for less than one percent of the whole country, about ten percent of the Japanese population dwells in this area. Tokyo has the busiest train stations, with the highest number of passengers in the world using Shinjuku Station.
In other words, most people associate Tokyo as a bustling, massive metropolis.
What do you make of the photo above? This is actually a train station in Tokyo. It is Futamatao Station on the JR Ome Line. Approximately two trains run every hour, with a small number of passengers and no station workers on the premises. This station, located in western Tokyo and about two hours from Shinjuku Station boasts lush natural surrounding.
This article is about five secluded train stations on the JR Ome Line with no employees for those looking to escape the crowd, enjoy beautiful scenery, and discovery the greenery of Tokyo.
1. Hinatawada Station: Sip Tea While Surrounded by a Forest
From Shinjuku Station, it takes about an hour and a half to reach Hinatawada Station. To get off the train, press the button located next to the car door. All trains bound for Okutama departing from Ome Station employ this push-button system.
The ticket gate is replaced by an IC card reader—a type of machine rarely seen in the heart of Tokyo. Touch your card on the card reader when exiting the station. Additionally, all of the stations in this article use this machine.
The Tama River flows nearby with a bridge spanning over the major river. The surrounding mountains turn crimson and yellow during autumn, which creates a spectacular seasonal setting.
After exiting Hinatawada Station, turn right and walk for a while to find some shops.
A particularly eye-catching building houses Rose Town Tea Garden, an English tea restaurant. The building was once a wedding chapel that was later renovated into a restaurant. An American couple owns this establishment, so English speakers need not worry about any language barriers.
Rose Town Tea Garden offers a variety of meal sets with soup, sandwiches, and scones. There's also an array of tea, such as Darjeeling and peppermint, that are served in whole pots. Visitors can leisurely dine with a serene view of the river and surrounding mountains.
2. Futamatao Station: Enter the World of Author Haruki Murakami
"The two of us got off at a station named 'Futamatao.' I had never heard of that station. The name sounded quite strange."
This is a line from "1Q84," a dystopian novel by the world-renowned author Haruki Murakami. Futamatao Station is introduced as one of the places the protagonist visited.
There is no ticket vending machine as the train station is crewless. Those who do not have IC cards must use the orange-colored machine in the photograph, which dispenses tickets certifying the passenger's station of embarkation. Push the button next to the red lamp, and a ticket-sized paper will come out.
An elementary school, a retro-style bookstore, a bridge spanning the Tama River, and Kaizenji, a temple, are all near the station. It is an ideal place for a stroll.
Renovated from a furniture factory, noco BAKERY&CAFE (Japanese) is a 15-minute walk from the station.
The spacious interior is filled with soothing music. After selecting your bread, order a drink to go with it at the counter. Customers using the eat-in space can have their bread warmed up by staff.
The bakery uses natural yeast, which adds a faint, sweet taste to all the bread and tempts customers to have another helping. The coffee is brewed from beans roasted at a local store.
3. Sawai Station: For the Sake Lovers
While train stations typically have signs, the signage at Sawai Station is left blank. Although the area around the station is quiet, this is the nearest station to Sawanoi Seiryu Garden, a famous sightseeing spot.
The garden is a five-minute walking distance from the station. Sawainoi Seiryu was built by Ozawa Shuzo Co., Ltd., a local company producing sake and tofu. Local sake and homemade tofu dishes are served at the rest area in the garden.
Chairs and tables are set up inside the garden, so visitors can feel at relax while watching the Tama River flowing nearby. The kiosk offers various souvenirs—such as tofu, tea, and jam made from local products.
4. Mitake Station: For Mountain Hikes and Guestshouses
The crewless Mitake Station building stands out in this area. Famous sightseeing spots such as Mitake Gorge, which is renowned for its beautiful autumn leaves, and Mt. Mitake, an ideal spot for novice hikers, are both located nearby. There is also a cafe, a store selling trekking gear, and an information center close to the station, allowing visitors to enjoy a nice walk.
There is a shrine on the top of Mt. Mitake along with lodgings. Some offer takigyo (waterfall meditation). All are welcome to try takigyo, so be sure to inquire if interested.
5. Shiromaru Station: Tokyo's Terra Incognita
Shiromaru Station appears as if it was built after removing a part of a mountain. Trains bound for Okutama Station pass here, disappearing into a tunnel that seems to lead to a different world.
The photograph above was taken in the late afternoon. This may be why the IC card reader looks so melancholic.
Photo by Pixta
Lake Shiromaru, a reservoir created by the Shiromaru Dam, is located nearby. The emerald-colored lake surface reflects the surrounding mountains, creating a glorious view. Some people were out on the lake with kayaks during our visit.
If you get hungry, visit Earth Garden, a restaurant serving meals that use organic ingredients. Meat dishes using a special brand of pork are a specialty. The juicy hamburg steak is so soft that you can cut it with a spoon.
The restaurant has terrace seats, so customers can relax while taking in the view of the forest. This is certainly an ideal spot to take a break.
Ride into a Serene Side of Tokyo's Train Stations
In contrast to its urban setting, there is a greener, tranquil part of Tokyo. The rivers and mountains mentioned above allow visitors a chance to enjoy outdoor activities and a break from the bustle of the city.
This is the perfect place to enjoy trekking and mountaineering, too. If you are planning a day trip from Tokyo to appreciate nature, make sure to visit these five unmanned train stations.
In cooperation with noco BAKERY&CAFE and Earth Garden.