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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ome - a Tokyo daytrip

青梅 - 東京からの日帰り

Ome Station on the JR Chuo line, Tokyo.Ome (pronounced Oh-may) is an hour west out of Tokyo on the JR Chuo line - the last stop. It's a friend of mine's favorite hot weather haunt, and he invited me to join him for a hike out there this weekend.

Ome City is in the foothills of the mountainous area that starts proper in neighboring Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, and which, in the latter prefecture, Mt Fuji forms a part of. Historically it was a station on the road between east and west Japan.

We left from Nakano station at 10.15am and got a seat after the train had passed the biggest station between Nakano and Ome, Tachikawa. Ome Station sets the tone for the whole city. The town's history is reflected in the antique style of the station with old-style station clocks, painted movie posters from the early 20th century, wooden waiting stalls on the platform with stained glass windows, and signs done in fonts of yesteryear.

Ome forest, Tokyo.Once we'd stocked up on lunch goods and water at the nearby convenience store we set off on one of the trails that leads into the hills. The sun was filtered by the forest which was made up largely of cedars. Cedars were planted all over Japan after WWII for lumber, but it actually turned out cheaper to import. For decades they remained almost the staple species of large swathes of Japanese forest, but over the past few years have begun to be culled and replaced with native trees. Not only were cedars supplanting native varieties, but they were (and still are) responsible for the hay fever that afflicts so many city dwellers in Japan.

The wildlife only an hour out of Tokyo is as exotic as if it were on an outlying island. 15mm-long ants, great black and turquoise butterflies, bottle-shaped beetles about 6 or 7cm, all manner of spiders (and spiderwebs at head level!), and ... even snakes! We spotted a snake - almost uncannily fast moving. I pursued it for a photo op, which it very kindly consented to, holding out its head and turning its eye on me , almost politely, while I focused and snapped a shot. (See photo - but look hard: it is well camouflaged.) As soon as I was done, it slithered away with a rustle of leaves.

Snake in the forest of Ome, Tokyo.The weather was spring at its most idyllic: warm sunshine and cooling breezes. Several other hikers, as well as joggers, were out on the trails, and we would exchange greetings with a different pair every few minutes.

We were done form, and back at Ome Station by 3.15pm. We made sure we selected the only train that doesn't make a long stop at Tachikawa - the 3.33 - and had no problems getting a seat on the right back to suburbia - noses reddened, legs stretched and souls rested.

Japanese Art - byobu screens

Japanese Art Books

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