Ome Guide

Ome Guide, Tokyo 青梅, 東京

by Johannes Schonherr

Ome, about a 90 minute train ride from Tokyo Station on the JR Chuo Line, is located in the foothills of the mountains of western Tokyo and a major gateway for excursions into the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park.

Many trains of the JR Chuo Line terminate at Tachikawa Station and you have to change to a JR Chuo Ome Line train, though there are also plenty of trains running through all the way from Tokyo Station to Ome.

If you wish to continue on by train towards Mount Mitake or Okutama, you almost always need to change at Ome.

Even if you have just a brief stop at Ome Station, you will certainly notice the decidedly vintage design of the station platform. Large posters of old Japanese films decorate the tunnel between the platform and the station building.

It is meant as an invitation to check out Ome itself and not just see it as a transit point.

Ome Station, Ome, Tokyo, Japan.
Ome Station, Ome, Tokyo
Akatsuka Fujio Kaikan and Showa Retro Packaging Museum, Ome, Tokyo.
Akatsuka Fujio Kaikan and Showa Retro Packaging Museum, Ome, Tokyo

Ome Juku

Right outside the South Exit of Ome Station is a small tourist information counter where maps and English-language town information pamphlets are available. Aside from the general city information brochures, there is one map definitely worth picking up: the Ome Cinema Map.

It is not a map indicating the location of operating movie houses in the city, neither is it a map of any famous local filming locations. It is a map pointing out the locations of 100 large-scale posters of classic films mounted on the walls of more or less historic buildings in the center of Ome, in easy walking distance from Ome Station.

Ome Juku, as the central area of Ome is called, does not have continuous rows of historic buildings the way, say, Kawagoe has. But there are still quite a number of vintage houses from the early Showa Period (1926 to 1989) and the many vintage billboards announcing Japanese, American and European films mostly from the 1950's do provide the city with quite a nostalgic flair.

The map handed out at the information office features pictures of all of them and indicates all their locations. It soon becomes more interesting, however, to just fold up the map and to discover the posters by oneself.

Vintage movie posters on a street corner, Ome, Tokyo.
Vintage movie posters on a street corner, Ome, Tokyo
Japanese festival goods store with vintage movie billboard, Ome, Tokyo.
Japanese festival goods store with vintage movie billboard, Ome, Tokyo

Ome Kaido Highway

Though Ome is generally a very quiet city, the traffic-heavy Ome Kaido Highway, named after the city, runs right through it. Starting in Shinjuku and connecting urban Tokyo with the Okutama Mountains and areas beyond, the Ome Kaido has been a major traffic artery for centuries. In fact, Ome itself started out as postal station on that highway in Edo times (1603-1868) before it eventually became a city in its own right.

Most of the movie posters are on display on a stretch of the Ome Kaido in central Ome dubbed "Cinematic Road".

Second-hand clothes store with vintage movie billboards, Ome, Tokyo.
Second-hand clothes store with vintage movie billboards, Ome, Tokyo

Showa Retro Sankan Museums

On that stretch are also three note-worthy museums: the Showa Retro Packaging Museum, the Akatsuka Fujio Kaikan and the Showa Gento-kan Museum.

Showa Retro Packing Museum

The Showa Retro Packing Museum shows toys and products from the 1950's and 1960's.

Access: 5 minute walk from Ome Station

Address: Ome City, Sumie-cho 65

Tel: 0428 20 0355

Open daily from 10am to 5pm, closed on Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday) and during the New Year Holidays.

Admission: Adults 350 yen, elementary / middle school students 150 yen.

Akatsuka Fujio Kaikan

Fujio Akatsuka (1935-2008) was the creator of the famous manga and anime series Tensai Bakabon (Genius Bakabon) which ran from 1967 to 1976. The anime was released in English under the title Meet the Boneheads. The museum displays many of Akatsuka's original sketches.

Access: 5 minute walk from Ome Station

Address: Ome City, Sumie-cho 66

Tel: 0428 20 0355

Open daily from 10am to 5pm, closed on Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday) and on the New Year Holidays

Admission: Adults 450 yen, elementary / middle school students 250 yen.

Showa Gento-kan Museum

The Showa Gento-kan Museum shows dioramas of Showa era life and movie billboards from the time.

Access: 5 minute walk from Ome Station

Address: Ome City, Sumie-cho 9

Tel: 0428 20 0355

Open daily from 10am to 5pm, closed on Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday) and on the New Year Holidays

Admission: Adults 250 yen, elementary / middle school students 150 yen.

A discount ticket covering all three museums is available for adults for 750 yen (instead of 1050 yen) and for elementary / middle school students for 400 yen (instead of 600 yen)

Sumiyoshi Shrine

A few steps from the Showa Gento-kan Museum is the entrance to Sumiyoshi Shrine, the main shrine of Ome Juku. The shrine itself sits on a hill. It is worth climbing up the steep stone staircase to enjoy the serene and usually very quiet shrine.

Ome view in autumn, seen from just outside Railway Park.
Ome view in autumn, seen from just outside Ome Railway Park
Tama River at Kamanofuchi Park, Ome, Tokyo.
Tama River at Kamanofuchi Park, Ome, Tokyo

Kamanofuchi Park

Just behind the nearby Municipal Art Museum, the Tama River flowing through the city makes a sharp bend, creating a sort of river peninsula. On that peninsula, Kamanofuchi Park is located. Kamanofuchi is a nice wooded park only a few minutes walk from Ome Station, connected to the rest of Ome Juku via two pedestrian bridges crossing the river.

Yoshino Baigo

Ome translates as "Green Ume", a sort of plum also known as Japanese Apricot. The February plum blossoms of the ume trees of Yoshino Baigo, an area a bit outside of central Ome, used to be one of Ome's most famous attractions.

Unfortunately, in 2009 the trees of the plum orchards caught a plant disease and had to be cut down. Virtually all of them.

The area is still striving hard to bounce back. At the moment, other plants, mostly spring flowers such as field mustard, wintersweet, Adonis and Japanese narcissus are cultivated there. 

Access: 15 minute walk from Hinatawada Station on the JR Ome Line towards Okutama, or from Ome Station take the bus towards Yoshino, get off at Yoshino Baigo and walk two minutes

Address: Ome City, Baigo 4-527

Tel: 0428 24 2481

Kongoji Temple

The original plum tree that is said to have given Ome its name however still survives. It can be found at Kongoji Temple on the western edge of Ome Juku.

According to legend, Heian Period rebel warrior Taira-no-Masakado, who sought to establish himself as Emperor of Japan, rammed a plum branch he had used to whip his horse into the ground here, declaring, "If my dream should come true, grow big, if not, wither away." Taira was killed in battle soon after (in 940 A.D.) but the plum branch did grow into a big tree, surviving for more than a 1000 years until now and still bearing fruits.

Access: 15 minute walk from Ome Station

Address: Ome City, Amagase-cho 1032

Tel: 0428 22 2554

Steam locomotives at Ome Railway Park.
Steam locomotives at Ome Railway Park
Shinkansen front car at Ome Railway Park
Shinkansen front car at Ome Railway Park

Ome Railway Park

About a 15 minute walk to the north-east of Ome Station is Ome Railway Park. The walk leads through a sloping wooded park. The top of the park, right in front of Ome Railway Park, offers good views towards a section of central Ome, a view especially enjoyable when the trees have turned to their autumn color.

Ome Railway Park itself, founded in 1962 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Japanese railways, features an open-air exhibition of eight steam locomotives, two electric train cars and the front car of a 1960's Shinkansen.

Most of the driver cabins of the steam locomotives can be entered. Besides all the vintage machinery they display, it is amazing to witness how little the steam locomotive drivers actually could see of their way ahead. They had to rely on tiny windows on the side, their view often blocked by the steam of the engine.

The oldest of the steam locomotives on exhibit was built in England in 1871 and served on the very first Japanese train line from Shinbashi (Tokyo) to Yokohama, which opened in 1872.

Just as interesting is the Shinkansen front car. There, you can sit down in the actual driver seat of a 1969 Shinkansen. 260 km/h is indicated as the top speed.

Railway Park seems to draw two very different kinds of visitors: on the one hand families with small children who also keep the miniature train rides busy (available for an additional fee). On the other hand, serious railway enthusiasts check the details of the locomotives with measuring tape in hand, taking photos of even the most obscure details. It's rare, after all, to be able to get as close to historic locomotives as here.

Access: 15 minute walk from Ome Station

Address: Ome City, Katsunuma 2-155

Tel: 0428 22 4678

Opening times: March to October daily from 10am to 5pm, closed on Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday); November to February daily from 10am to 4 pm, closed on Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday) and over the New Year Holidays.

Admission: 100 yen.

Ome Kaido Highway in Ome, Tokyo.
Ome Kaido Highway in Ome, Tokyo

Access - Getting to Ome

JR Chuo Line Rapid from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station to Ome, or transfer to the Chuo Ome Line at Tachikawa Station.

Ome English-language tourism website www.omekanko.gr.jp


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