Whether a local neighbourhood trapped in a time warp or a mountain trail not in any guide book, one of my objectives wherever I may be is always to seek out lesser-known spots away from the crowds.
If you take a train an hour west from central Tokyo on the Chuo line and get off at Sawai Station (沢井駅) near the city of Ōme (青梅市) you’ll find yourself in an unassumingly pretty village surrounded by undulating mountains and forests.
Walking a short distance down the mountainside you’ll find yourself at the 300-year-old Sawanoi Sake Brewery which sits just above the Tama River (多摩川).
Tours of the factory can be booked in advance but, not being that prescient, I was still able to enjoy a simple meal of soba and miso soup in the garden overlooking the river. An old couple eyed my chopstick skills with friendly suspicion.
A pedestrian bridge spans the river leading to Kanzan Temple (寒山寺) on the far shore with a commanding view over the area.
Below the temple is a stone plinth with a small building housing a large bronze bell which can be stuck for good fortune.
A narrow path lines the northern shore of the meandering river along which I headed east.
A cute hand-painted sign advertising a barbeque site.
I didn’t encounter a single person until I reached Ikusabata Station (軍畑駅) where you can get a great view of the valley.
A local attending to their allotment.
Next, I took a bus 30 mins further east to Kamanofuchi Ryokuchi Park in Ome which is centred around a natural bend in the Tama river.
The park is pretty ordinary save for the Kyu-Miyazaki House, a traditional thatched building originally constructed in the early 19th century and brought there in 1977. In order to preserve the timber building, a fire is kept lit in irori (いろり) hearth daily. This has the added benefit of keeping the house free of insects also.
After enjoying the park I headed back up the hill to Ōme Station (青梅駅) whose walls are lined with some quaint vintage movie posters.
I caught the next train to Tokyo, the green hills rapidly fading back into the concrete jungle and the old becoming new once again.