Strolling around Ome-juku
First, let’s gather information at the tourist information counter, found on the right from the south exit of Ome Station. There you can obtain maps and useful pamphlets. The signboards of classic movies from home and abroad panel the street, evoking the nostalgic ambience of the Showa era (1926-1989). Why not see if you can find your favorite movie, a classic that you enjoyed in the theater years ago?
Akatsuka Fujio Kaikan is a museum dedicated to the feat of a cartoonist, Akatsuka Fujio (1935-2008), who created the popular manga, “Tensai Bakabon.” The museum, a five-minute walk from the station, displays many things including pictures drawn by Akatsuka’s own hand. It also sells cute character goods. The adjacent museum, Showa Retro Shohin Hakubutsukan, displays a replica candy shop, as was often seen on streets during the Showa era. There is also the Showa Gento-kan, exhibiting dioramas recreating various Showa scenes, as well as the movie signboards mentioned above. A single ticket for access to all three museums is sold for 700 yen.
Ome Tetsudo Koen (Railroad Park) is located on the hill stretching from the north side of Ome Station. Many steam locomotives which once ran throughout Japan are displayed outdoors in the park. In addition, the front carriage of the Shinkansen (the bullet train), a symbol of Japanese economic growth, is also on display here – its dynamic form will leave you overwhelmed. You can go inside the carriage, and can even take the driver’s seat in the cockpit, which is a very rare opportunity. If you are interested in Japanese railroad history, it is recommended that you also visit the memorial museum, which houses more detailed materials and also runs miniature train models.
The origin of the name “Ome,” originally meaning ‘green plum’
There stands an old plum tree surrounded by stone stakes in Kongo-ji Temple, a 15-minute walk to southwest from Ome Station. This tree is called “the plum of Masakado’s oath,” and it is believed that the town of Ome was named after this plum.
The famous warrior Taira-no-Masakado (903-940) once visited this place. He planted a plum branch that he had used as a whip for his horse, and made a wish: “If my dream should come true, grow big; otherwise, wither away.” The branch took root and became a tree. However, after the summer had passed, the fruits borne on the tree never ripened and remained green on the branches. This is said to be the reason why this area came to be called Ome – green plum. This old tree still exists and bears green plums in the fall. Kongo-ji Temple is also known for its 150-year-old weeping cherry tree.
Shiofune Kannon-ji Temple / Iwakura Onsen-kyo
Go north for 20 minutes on foot from Higashi Ome Station to arrive at Shiofune Kannon-ji Temple, by way of the Fukiage Shobu Koen (Iris Park) where 100,000 irises bloom every June. Shiofune Kannon-ji Temple is a prestigious temple with 1,300 years of history: it is known as a temple that has beautiful seasonal flowers. The most famous flowers here are the azaleas in springtime. Kasumi Kyuryo Shizen Koen (Natural Hill Park) is located on the north side of the temple, where you can enjoy walking through the pine woods.
Go further to the north and you will come to Iwakura Onsen-kyo hot spring resort, the origin of a myth of Yamato Takeru (a legendary Japanese prince of the Yamato dynasty). The hot spring is said to make your skin smooth and beautiful. The route from Fukiage Shobu Koen through Shiofune Kannon-ji Temple to Iwakura Onsen makes for one of the best hiking courses. You can enjoy a leisurely soak in the onsen at inns along the way. It might be very refreshing to also visit the baths after hiking.
Around the area between Mitake Station and Sawai Station, Mitake Ravine Trekking Decks are built along The Tama River parallel with the railroad. Along these trekking decks, there are many tourist spots such as museums. This is one of the best areas for you to enjoy hiking, and you can do so while listening to the babbling of the stream as background music.
Gyokudo Art Museum is five minutes walk from Mitake Station. It displays the works of Kawai Gyokudo (1873-1957), who was an honorary citizen of Ome, and a great modern Japanese painter. The scenery of Okutama as painted by Gyokudo are mainly exhibited here. Next, go east along the river through Kanzan-ji Temple and visit Sawanoi Museum of Traditional Japanese Hair Ornaments. The large comb monument hung above the entrance attracts people’s attention. They exhibit Japanese combs and hair accessories here, collecting approximately 400 items from the Edo era (1603-1867) through to the Showa era. The entrance lobby commands a beautiful view of the Tama River.
Ozawa Shuzo is located across the Tama River from the Sawanoi Museum. This long-standing brewer has been brewing sake made with the abundant spring water of Ome for 300 years. You can visit their sake cellars and learn about the brewing process.
The temperature of the cellar is kept constant all year round, and it is cool even in summer. Air conditioners do not control the temperature, but the thick walls of the “kura” (cellar) structure naturally preserve a balanced, even temperature inside. The porcelain-enameled tanks for the brew also stand inside. Although the tanks are not all of the same size, for a typical example is big enough to store a volume of sake that would take 60 years to drink if one drank the appropriate amount every day. You can also see the storing shelves of fermented sake (fermenting of sake is not common), and the well from which a crystal stream gushes out through the rocks. At the end of the inspection tour, you can try tasting the fresh sake. Anyone who has interests in Japanese sake will be happy to drop by here.
Enjoy tasting more varieties of sake at “Kikizake Dokoro” in Sawanoi-en, located across the road (fees apply). Snacks and shopping are available here too. You can also drink the fresh spring water which is used for brewing sake.
Mt. Mitake Trekking and Nature Experience
Mt. Mitake is surrounded by magnificent nature. It is amazing that Mitake has such a great, full-scale hiking course even in Metropolitan Tokyo. Seasonal flowers and singing birds welcome visitors to Mitake. Musasabi, Japanese flying squirrels, are sometimes seen here. Mt. Mitake, which stands 929 meters above sea level, has long been worshiped as a spiritual mountain, and there are more than 20 shukubo (lodgings for pilgrims at temples) here today. It is recommended that you stay overnight at one of them, enjoying the heavenly stars and night views.
It is convenient to take the cable car when visiting Mt. Mitake. From JR Mitake Station, take a bus to the last stop (Cable-shita stop). Then transfer to the cable car (at Takimoto Station) to climb half way up the mountain. It is very convenient and fast (the ride lasts just 6 minutes) and it travels up the mountain at an average incline of 22 degrees. The higher you go up, the better and wider the scenery appears in front of you. When you get off the cable car at Mitakesan Station, you can take a single lift to the observatory. If you want to walk up ahead, go left and enter through the “torii” gate.
When you head for the direction of the mountaintop, why not drop in at Mitake Visitor Center and collect some information. You can obtain pamphlets describing hiking courses, as well as maps in English. Keep walking through the shukubo lodgings and shops to the top of the mountain. It is about 25 minutes on foot from Mitakesan Station to Musashi Mitake Shrine. Visit and pray to the god in the main building, which has a sacred atmosphere and commands a view of beautiful town scenes. Close to the main shrine building, the treasury museum displays various important items including red armor appointed as a national treasure, and more items designated as important cultural assets.
You can find Nanayo-no-Taki Waterfall and Rock Garden on the circular hiking course of Mt. Mitake. Since more than 100 species of wild birds live here, it is also known as a popular bird-watching site. If you walk west, you can go through to Okutama. However, the roads are very rough and rugged, so you will need special gear for mountaineering if you wish to continue walking.
Yoshino Baigo (Plum Village) is the area on the south bank of the Tama River from Hinatawada Station to Futamatao Station, stretching a distance of 4km from east to west. The annual Yoshino Baigo Plum Festival takes place from the end of February through to March 31. This is the largest plum festival in the Kanto (Greater Tokyo) Area and more than 300,000 visitors come here from across Japan. About 25,000 pink and white plum blossoms bloom beautifully, with the fragrance drifting through the air. There are other sightseeing spots such as Ome Kimono Hakubutsukan (Museum) in the neighborhood.
Ome Marathon, held every February, has been a pioneer of citizens’ marathon meets since 1967. About 15,000 people, from athletes to ordinary citizens, run through the streets in Ome. Welcoming crowds standing along the street to cheer and shout encouragement to the runners.
Hands-on art workshops in Ome
Ome is located in the suburbs, far away from central Tokyo, and it is a serene place covered with trees. Many artists have their studios here. They also hold hands-on workshops for crafts such as pottery and glass art, and these workshops are open to the public. Why not join one according to your interests?
Kosoen, the Aizome (Japanese indigo dyeing) studio, has been involved in the dyeing industry since the early Taisho era (1912-1926). The owner renovated an old Japanese farmhouse into a dyeing studio and started to offer hands-on workshops to visitors 20 years ago. Beginners’ indigo dyeing classes last one hour (fees apply). You can make your own unique tie-dye handkerchief, which will surely be a good hand-made souvenir. If you want to know more about the art of Japanese indigo dyeing, it would be better that you try a one-day workshop where you can learn about several dyeing techniques.
The studio itself is open to the public for visiting, free of charge. Beautifully dyed bags, T-shirts, sweaters, etc., are on sale in the annexed showroom.
To visit Ome, it is convenient to take JR trains. By the Special Rapid trains on Chuo Line (direct service to Ome Line) it takes 70 minutes from Tokyo Station, and about 60 minutes from Shinjuku Station. Take JR Ome Line trains when transferring inside the Ome area.