Tokyobling's Blog

Okutama – Hikawa and Tamagawa Meeting

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on October 3, 2015

Not far from Okutama Station in Tokyo’s westernmost Nishitama-Gun (Nishitama County), the furtherest west you can go in Tokyo by train, is a lovely little spot in the river where the mighty Tamagawa (well, not up here, but later on the river will become huge) is joined by the tiny Hikawa. I love these placid little rivers where you can actually go down and enjoy the waters and the polished river rocks. A hanging bridge allows you to cross easily from the tiny town on the north bank. There is not much to see or do here but if you are overdosing on concrete and the urban jungle of Tokyo, welcome out to the proper forests of Okutama!








Hikawa Sanbon Sugi – Triple Cedar at Okutama

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on September 10, 2014

The national tree of Japan, the Japanese Cedar or Sugi, is both a boon and the bane of modern Japanese all over the country. It has always been considered the holy tree of Japan and is easily the most well known tree and most used timber in the country, both in modern times and in historic times. Japan is one of the most wood covered countries in the world with most of its surface covered in forest and the wast majority of this is the Japanese Cedar. After the war large efforts were made to plant economically valuable forests around the country and this has now resulted in a national forest that is almost beyond ripe: many prefectures have so much sugi that they do not know what to do with it. Whereas other countries with a profitable forestry industry like Canada, Sweden, Finland or Russia has most of their forest on flat land that is easily accessible to an industrial scale harvesting the vast majority of Japanese forests are difficult to access even for humans on foot due to the mountainous terrain and humid climate. The relative mono culture also means that the pollen season can be brutal. The hay fever from which many Japanese suffer is one of the reasons that so many people wear surgical masks when outdoors and change their clothes as soon as they enter their homes. Even then, the smell of freshly cut sugi very popular and quite attractive, almost as nice as camphor or hinoki! Oh, and despite the English name of “Japanese Cedar” it is not related at all to the cedar in Europe or the Americas.

Still, the Sugi is extremely important for the Japanese and most shrines and temples have a holy sugi somewhere on their grounds. In Tokyo’s westernmost Okutama region I found this peculiar sugi on the grounds of the Okutama Shrine, the Triple Sugi of Hikawa (Hikawa Sanbon Sugi, 氷川三本杉) . I don’t know if this holy tree started out as three separate tree that merged as they grew bigger or if it is really one sugi that has developed three trunks but it is truly massive. At 43m height it is not even one of the larger trees in the country, these giants can sometimes reach up to 70m in height! Most sugi though, grow fatter rather than tall. One of the most famous sugi of Japan has a circumference of over 16m!

The Okutama Shrine is not much for the world except for the famous triple cedar, but I really liked the tiny green grocer that is open to business just next to the tree. It looked wonderfully nostalgic old time Japanese!








Okutama Station

Posted in Places by tokyobling on October 25, 2013

Okutama station, the terminus of the Ome line is the highest elevated station in Tokyo, at 343m above the sea it is just a few meters short of the height of Tokyo Tower. It is the main station of Tokyo’s western most town, Okutamamachi. With an area more than half of The Tokyo 23 wards area it is also the largest town, city or ward in terms of size. In terms of population, at just above 6000 people it is barely one tenth of some Tokyo wards. The town also contains the tallest mountain of Tokyo, the westernmost and the northernmost points of Tokyo, bordering both Saitama and Yamanashi prefectures. The station is tiny, with a little shop selling local specialities (including some mouth watering fresh wasabi plants) and not much more. In front of the station there is a bus station for those who want to go even further west. The main industry of the town itself it the lime stone mine and quarry, manufacturing various slaked lime and crushed stone products for industry and agriculture.

Arriving at the station, it is really hard to convince oneself that it’s just an hour and a half from central Tokyo and the massive Shinjuku station, which sees 2000 to 3000 times as many passengers as little Okutama station in a day. It feels very much like you are in some fantastically tiny village in the remotest parts of Hokkaido or Tohoku. Now that I have blogged from the easternmost, westernmost and northernmost parts of Tokyo I really have to get down to the southernmost point, Ogasawara Islands.








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