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Ome - The Perfect Side Trip from Tokyo
Getting Away from the City
Tokyo is a huge city with a limitless amount of things to see and do. I've lived here for over 20 years and I still haven't really done everything the city has to offer. However because of it's huge size, it's hard to truly relax and unwind. In fact I find that I have to get myself out of all the hustle and bustle now and then so I don't explode with exhaustion.
I'm always looking for new places to visit in or near Tokyo. Recently I was at my local bookstore and I stumbled upon a magazine that introduced a city called Ome. Just an hour train ride away from Shinjuku, Ome is a sleepy town that has quite a few attractions that can fill an entire day.
It's full of nostagia and has the atmosphere of Japan in the Showa period. In fact this is one of the selling points of the place. The slow pace and peacefulness of the entire town is something you won't be able to experience in the city.
Today I've decided to visit three separate parts of Ome. They are all within walking distance of each other so it can all be done in about 6 hours. I would also recommend having lunch and perhaps a nice tea break in between.
*Photos taken by myself unless otherwise noted.
Tokyo By Foot
Walking is probably one of the best ways to discover Tokyo. With this book in hand, you'll discover more about the city than you'll ever do taking a tour bus. Get to know Tokyo up close and personal. With 29 walks to choose from, there should be something for everybody.
If you are a tourist visiting Japan, you'll most likely be using Shinjuku as your starting point. Shinjuku is the city that most tourists imagine Tokyo would be like. Skyscrapers, neon lights and people everywhere. Shinjuku is also the busiest train station in the world!
First thing you need to do is to make sure you are at JR Shinjuku Station. There are so many train lines that utilize Shinjuku so take your time and if you are not sure, just ask one of the train attendants to make sure you are at the right place.
The easiest way to get to Ome is to take the JR Chuo Ome Line from Shinjuku to Ome. There are 26 stops and takes about an hour each way. If you've been in Tokyo for awhile you'll find that an hour commuting from one place to another is nothing as Tokyo is so big to begin with.
If you know a little bit of Japanese, I would suggest that you ask the train conductor for the fastest way to get to Ome. Usually this would include a transfer of trains at some point so it's a tad bit more challenging than the first way. You can usually shave off 10-15 minutes off the commuting time this way.
Arriving in Ome
Once you arrive in Ome, you'll notice the atmosphere has completely changed from the city. Notice the surrounding mountains and rooftops of old houses and buildings as you arrive at Ome station.
The station itself is made to look like how it looked from days gone by. From the waiting room to the old movie posters that decorate the entire station, it sets the tone for your Ome excursion.
Once you walk outside the station, you'll find yourself in the city of Ome. This is as busy as you'll see the city get. Make sure to stop by the tourist information center right outside the station to get a map. You'll need this to get around as there are no huge landmarks.
You'll probably get lost from time to time but that's part of the fun. If you are here during the summer, make sure to buy a bottle of water to keep you hydrated. There are many vending machines and stores around here.
Stroll through Ome City
A Stroll Through Simpler Times
Notice all the old movie posters and signs that dot the entire town. These signs are all hand-painted by a resident artist who used to do that for a living in the olden days. I had such a blast trying to find those that I recognized such as Breakfast at Tiffany's.
I also visited three museums in this area. All three museums are located within close proximity of each other so don't worry. They are also extremely small so it'll only take a fraction of your touring time. I suggest that you do all three as they have a special discount ticket with access to all three for only 700 yen. Akatsuka Fujio Kaikan is a museum dedicated to Akatsuka Fujio (1935-2008), who created the popular manga animation, "Bakabon."
The museum is a five-minute walk from the station and displays many things including pictures drawn by the artist himself. There is also a small store selling Bakabon souvenirs and more. Showa Retro Shohin Hakubutsukan can be found right next door and has displays of an old candy shop, often seen on streets during the Showa era. One minute away, you'll find the Showa Gento-kan, exhibiting dioramas that recreate scenes from the Showa period, as well as the movie signboards.
Lunch At a Quaint Hideaway
After the three museums we were starting to get hungry so we decided to have lunch at "Natsue no tobira" ( The door to summer). We found this quaint restaurant that was tucked away between the station and the mountains. It was such a cute and cozy place that I could have stayed there all day with a nice book. We sat by the window overlooking the train tracks.
The restaurant serves a very good curry rice. The lunch set comes with a side salad and drink. The place also serves a small selection of cakes and drinks.
Natsue no Tobira Coffee Shop
Hiking in Japan
Hiking for an Hour or Two
The next thing on the agenda was a short mini hike up the mountain that's right behind Ome station. We basically exited the coffee shop after lunch and walked up the mountain that was literally right there. We went up as high as we desired and then took a small trail through the forest back down which lead us to a lovely temple.
If you wanted to, you could do a major hike by taking one of the numerous hiking trails in this area. On this particular day, it was too hot and humid and we wanted to see other things in the area as well. Plus I hear there is the occasional snake encounter in these part of the woods.
Hiking up the small mountain of Ome
Here's a Video of our Hike up Ome Hills
Down to the River
The final stop on the itinerary was a visit to the Tama River. I really had no expectations for this part of the tour as it's just a river really. However this became the highlight of my visit. Once we found the river, we were greeted with crystal clear water, stunning views and people having barbecues, fathers fishing and teenagers swimming in the cool water.
I couldn't resist and I ended up taking my shoes off to get into the cool and refreshing water of the Tama River.