I posted a little while ago about the Kamanofuchi Park and the Tama River in the middle of little Ome City in the far west of Tokyo. The park is now one of my favorite Tokyo parks, mostly because it doesn’t look like a park at all. The Tama river in these parts of Tokyo are at the bottom of a quite deep river narrow and there are not that many places where you can actually walk down to the river and interact with it on normal days. The water flow is usually much to rapid but every now and then the water slows down and there is a convenient widening of the river bed which makes it safe and accessible enough. At the Kamanofuchi park it is even possible to go into the water and enjoy yourself a little as long as you keep out of the more quick moving deeper parts where it is impossible to remain standing.
The water is quite good too. When I was there the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) test showed less than 3 mg/L, which is a very good score. The water was completely clear, cold and very fresh with none of that typical river smell at all. This park is easy to reach from Ome station, just walk out of the station and head south, eventually you will find one of the two bridges connecting the park with the higher level city. It is great to find places like this in the largest city in the world!
Last weekend I visited one of my favorite “parks” in Tokyo, the lovely little Kamanofuchi Park in Ome City on the extreme western part of Tokyo. The park is centered around a natural bend in the Tama river and you have to descend quite a bit from the street level to get down to the river valley bottom. The park is located an easy walk from Ome Station (the last stop on the Chuo Line) and if you navigate the streets on the way there well you will enjoy quite a nice walk through this little town. The amount of green in and around Tokyo never ceases to astonish me, it is easy to see that we live in a humid subtropical climate even though Ome City is probably more into the temperate zone!
The park also has a transplanted example of vernacular housing、the Kyu-Miyazaki House, a small building originally constructed in the early 19th century but brought here in 1977. The only way to preserve a building like this is to keep a fire lit at least once a day, and to this end local volunteers light a fire in the irori (hearth) daily. The dry smoke of the fire preserves the timbers and dries out the thatched roof. It also has the added bonus of keeping the house completely insect free, not even mosquitoes want to spend any time in there when the smoke comes out! The house is packed with fantastic almost unique farm tools and household items, just a few minutes looking at those gave me several “oh so that is how they made it!” sort of experiences. Great fun for a person like me. I heard that the house used to belong to a samurai family which is totally believable since many samurai around Japan, despite being of the ruling aristocratic class were much poorer than actual farmers or merchants who could focus on developing their farms and more profitable skills.
If you already live in Western Tokyo (like for example in Fussa, Hachioji etc.) and want to try somewhere new to enjoy the outdoors I can recommend visiting Ome City! More photos to come.
One of the things I love about walking in the Japanese countryside is the huge variety of fruit trees and plants you find growing around just about every human settlement. Here are a few trees I saw in my walk along the Tamagawa river in Tokyo’s western Ome city, Sawai district. This area is just about as rural as you can get in Tokyo and just a little over an hour from the skyscrapers in Shinjuku on the Chuo and Ome lines. Before the industrial revolution, in the Edo era (1600-1868), Japan was a completely self sufficient nation where the population was absolutely maxed out to a sustainable figure of about 30 million. That meant every usable scrap of nutrition and land was put to use in one way or another. One common method for farmers and nobles alike was to have as many fruit trees crammed into their gardens as possible. They would plant fruit trees on river banks and hill sides that were to steep for anything else. To this day you still find that old roads and gardens are lined with fruit trees. On one short walk along the river I noticed over 12 species of fruits and nuts, I took photos of some of them. I also passed an “honesty box”, a small stall set up where locals put out the fruits of their gardens for sale, totally unmanned. You take what you need and put the money in the box on the table. That a system like this works in this day and age never ceases to amaze me. Unfortunately this one was pretty much sold out, but they had peppers, sudachi (which I have never seen growing in Tokyo before) and chestnuts. Amazing! As I reached the bridge leading up to Sawai station I looked up to see the nice little restaurant. Some lucky people had gotten the best seats in the house!
To get to Sawai just hop on the Chuo line and go as far as Ome station, from there you get on the smaller Ome line (just walk across the platform) and then it’s just a few stops more. This place will get pretty crowded in November, as people come out to see the leaves turning red all over the mountain sides. Magical.
It’s been a long summer and I have hardly left Tokyo at all, so please forgive me for keeping up the posts on the wonderfully green nature around Tama River, in western Tokyo’s Ome City, Sawai district. The river is very typically Japanese, getting wider and wider as it goes, with a varied and interesting path. At some spots the river is deadly, but just a stone throw away is a placid spot where kids can swim and play. I can’t imagine catching anything here but the river is popular with both fly fishers and anglers. I bet the mountains are full of boar and deer as well. It must be an interesting place to hunt in!
It’s fantastic to get out of the city sometimes. The train ticket from Shinkuku to Sawai Station using only JR trains is only 890 yen and takes about 75 minutes one way.