Cycling in Tokyo has its pleasures, but immersion in nature usually isn't one of them. With enough time and a bit of ambition, however, even a mamachari (literally, "mom's bike") rider can find places verging on the wild within the city limits or just beyond.

One of my first such discoveries after moving to Higashi Kurume in the mid-1990s was the Sayama Hills, a forested region bordering western Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture that includes Lake Tama and Lake Sayama, reservoirs that supply water to Tokyo. It's better known to anime fans as the setting for "Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro)," the 1988 Hayao Miyazaki classic that depicts the adventures of two sisters in a magical woodland in the 1950s.

For my first trips to Lake Tama, I rode a mamachari on the Tamako Jitensha-do, a 22-km cycling path that runs from near the intersection of routes 7 and 12 in Nishi Tokyo City to the lake and circles around it.