Step into the Showa era with trip to Ome

Travel
Photos by Takiguchi Takahiro
Photos by Takiguchi Takahiro

Step into the Showa era with trip to Ome

by: Takahiro Takiguchi | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: May 31, 2018
Located on the west end of Tokyo, one hour from Yokota Air Base, Ome is an attractive town filled with nostalgia, traditional buildings, cartoon characters and several interesting museums.
 
Strolling through the town always seems to take one back to the 50s or 60s.
 
When I exited my train at the 94-year-old JR Ome Station, I was impressed to see the classical-looking mortar-built platform with black wooden pillars and roof.
 
The station fit right in with the rest of the city.
 
After exiting the station building, the old-style station square led to a main street known as “Cinematic Road,” filled with traditional wooden or brick mortar houses and shops, old-style public telephone boxes and bus stop, and various monuments of cats and cartoon characters.
 
Many of the shops displayed hand-drawn billboards dated from the 50s, such as “Roman Holiday,” “The Third Man” and “Some Don’t Like it Hot,” along with some Japanese samurai movies above their entrances.
 

With very few tourists, I was able to slowly stroll down the quiet street while taking in the impressive townscape. I felt as if I had strayed into my boyhood about 40 to 50 years ago.
 
“There used to be three movie houses within the tiny town,” says Yasuhiko Wada, president of Town Station Ome (information center) and owner of casual restaurant Bonbon-tei. “Although all of them were closed by 1973, Ome is still associated with the movie houses and hand-drawn billboards.”
 
Bankan Kubota, a billboard artist for those movie houses, presented his work for an art festival in 1993, after a 20-year break. His work drove Ome Town to promote itself as an old Showa-era town with the use of the billboards, according to Wada.
 
“Ome has a lot of things relating to Showa Era,” Wada said. “The town itself can be considered a gallery of the era, which attracts various tourists to our town.”
 
The Showa Era (1926-89) is the longest and most dramatic reign of an emperor in Japan’s history. The first half of his reign saw the rise of fascism, military expansion, wars, complete collapse and eventually the ultimate surrender that ended the Pacific War. During the second half of his reign, however, Japan experienced a so-called economic miracle, with annual growth averaging 10 percent in the late 1950s and higher in following years. In the 80s, the Japanese economy became one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated, with per capita income surpassing that of America.
 
In the town there are three can’t-miss museums relating to life and culture of Showa era – Akatsuka Fujio Museum, Showa Retro Shohin Museum and Showa Gentokan.
 
At the Akatsuka Fujio Museum, you can learn about the life and works of the charismatic cartoonist of Showa Era through his photos, hand drawn scripts, books and animation works.
 
In fact, Akatsuka’s manga works were a kind of Bible for me and those who are ages 40 or over who spent their youth in the Showa Era. I never missed Akatsuka’s popular TV series “Tensai Bakabon” (Genius Bakabon), and chatted with friends about the program the next morning.
 
In the Showa Retro Shohin Museum and its annex Showa Gentokan, items on display from the 50s or 60s ranged from furniture, stationary and medicines to confectionary, and again, a lot of old movie billboards by Bankan Kubota, as well.
 
The museum buildings are old and interesting themselves, and are worth visiting for taking a close look at them inside and out.
 
 
Showa Gentokan
Hours: Tues. – Sun., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Location: 9 Sumiecho, Ome City, Tokyo
Admission: Adult: 250 yen,
Elementary schoolers and below: 150 yen 
Tel: 0428-20-0234
 
 
Showa Retro Shohin Museum
Hours: Tues. – Sun., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  
Location: 66 Sumiecho, Ome City, Tokyo
Admission: Adult: 350 yen, 
Elementary schoolers and below: 200 yen 
Tel: 0428-20-0355
 
 
Akatsuka Fujio Museum
Hours: Tues. – Sun., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 
Location: 66 Sumiecho, Ome City, Tokyo
Admission: Adult: 450 yen, Elementary schoolers and below: 250 Yen
*3-museum Ticket: 800/450 yen
Tel: 0428-20-0355 
 
 
Quick facts
AREA: 103.31 square kilometer
POPULATION: 135,248 (as of 2018)
LOCATION: 1-11-1 Ome, Ome City, Tokyo (Ome City Hall)
ATTRACTIONS: Akatsuka Fujio Museum, Showa Retro Shohin
Musuem, Showa Gentokan, Ozawa Shuzo Brewery
TEL: 0428-22-1111 (Ome City Hall)