Tuesday, September 25, 2007

44. Sightseeing Spot Review: Ome

Located 70 km west of Tokyo, on the upper reaches of the Tama River, the town of Ome is virtually unheard of by foreigners in Japan. Most people in Tokyo only stop in Ome to change trains on their way to the popular Okutama area. This is a mistake, as Ome is also a great sightseeing spot!

According to legend, in the year 900, a prince fled to the district of Ome with the aid of a plum tree cane. The cane took root, and the fruit on the tree it became always stayed blue. So, the area was named 'Ome' which means 'blue Japanese apricot'. There is a famous plum tree garden, 'Yoshino Baigo', which is best visited from the end of February to the middle of March when the blossoms are in full bloom. I have not visited this garden, but I hope to in the future.
More interesting to me was the area just around Ome Station. The main street is lined with homes and businesses dating back to the early Showa Era. Many are decorated with huge paintings of movie posters from that time. Most advertise Japanese movies, but there are also Japanese ads for 'Bonnie and Clyde', 'Tarzan Returns', and more.
There are three wonderful 'mini' museums also on the main street. One is dedicated to the artist who painted the murals and was also the creator of a some famous animation characters. Right next door is a 'retro' museum full of daily goods from the Meiji era - kids toys, drink bottles, matchbooks, toiletries,... the list goes on and on. It was like stepping back in time, especially for my Japanese husband. He was so excited, "Ooh, I used to drink that, I had that toy,...".
The third museum, 'Retro Diorama World' was the best. It was a very small museum showcasing the handmade dioramas of the artist, Takaki Yamamoto. Depicting scenes from the Meiji Era, they were absolutely incredible. Check this website to get a look at some of his work: http://www.hiyori-geta.com/ The museum is open from 10:00 - 17:00, closed on Mondays. The entrance fee is 200 yen.
Also on the main street is a small shrine which happened to be holding a small crafts fair the day I visited. Also nearby, there is a small glass art gallery, a temple, and a railroad park with model train sets as well as old steam locomotives and carriages.
Nothing is in English in this town and you will probably be the only foreign tourists there. But, everything can be enjoyed without translations. I plan on going back when the weather is cooler. A tourist information desk hands out hand drawn maps that are easy to follow without being able to read. I'd like to try the walking courses they recommend.

Getting there: Take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku, it takes exactly one hour if you get on one of the express trains that does not end in Tachikawa.

Japanese only website: http://www.city.ome.tokyo.jp/

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