Living in Okutama, Tokyo: Guide for Foreigners

  • Advice

Okutama is located right on the edge of Tokyo in Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. This is a very natural and undeveloped part of Tokyo, so it's great for nature lovers.

Okutama Station sign

"奥多摩駅への道標" by Kentaro Ohno is licensed under CC0 1.0 

Okutama is often thought of as a tranquil getaway from overwhelming central Tokyo where visitors can get back to nature. The area has a decent tourist sector with people regularly traveling here to go on hiking trips or to explore the natural wonders of the area.

Abundant Natural Scenery

Beneath the town, there are the 250-million-year-old Nippara Limestone Caves. The 800m deep network of caves is the biggest of its kind in Japan. Tourists regularly venture down into its mysterious depths to see the extraordinary rock features. Bizarre rock formations and geological sights fill the underground realm. It really does feel like passing into another world when you get down into the caves. Many people take advantage of the low temperature in summer and escape the Tokyo heat by spending a day out in the caves, where it can get as low as 10°C (50°F).

Okutama is well connected for a place so rural. The city has its own train station and even a helipad (Though one is used much more regularly than the other). You can take the train to Tokyo central station in under two hours for just over ¥1,000. If you want a more luxurious ride, you can take the Ozashiki Train, and ride in a matted tatami carriage. 

Free Houses for Foreigners?

houses in Okutama, Tokyo

"奥多摩" by Kentaro Ohno is licensed under CC0 1.0 

Okutama regularly appears in articles talking about local governments giving away free houses. These stories are true, though there are rules attached and once you do a little research, you find out that these houses are rarely ever free. The Okutama local government are very interested in boosting their number of residents. Like all rural locations across Japan, Okutama has an aging population with no children to take the elders' place. That is why many of the 'Free Houses' are only available to young families, with reduced rates to those with more children.

Houses under the current Okutama scheme cost around ¥50,000 per month. Most of this is property tax. Only after 22 years will the house officially become yours. 

A better option for many who do not fit the strict requirements for one of these free houses is to buy a dilapidated house or Akiya. Akiya often sell cheap after the previous owners have passed on with no one willing to take ownership of the property. There are schemes to try and encourage people to buy these houses as well, with more and more of them coming on the market every year. 


Woods in Okutama, Tokyo

"Okutama" by Ko Fujimura is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

 All house prices are low in rural locations like Okutama. With little competition, you could bag your dream home in the rural Japanese countryside for a fraction of the cost of renting in central Tokyo. 

 Okutama could be a pleasant place to raise a family. With the cheap housing, two elementary and two middle schools, it's a nice location for those who work remotely or want to work in the local foresty or tourism industries. 

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