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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 15th, 2001 (Saturday):
From Moto-Hakone to (Almost) Mishima

Note: In the original Aki Meguri pages, the Old Tokaido stage had separate journal entries on most days.  These have now been added at the bottom of this page.

 
Today's Words and Pictures: Monuments on the Road to Mishima, Yamanaka Castle Ruins, and Soukanji
 

I had a darned rough start.  "Anything before noon isn't late."  But 2:15??!!

I was up at 7:30, did laundry, and checked out of the ryokan.  The landlady gave me a "gift towel" as a farewell present--fitting, as I had lost one on the road yesterday.  (These are long face towels, widely used for wiping sweat.)

I lugged my bag to the station, and headed for Numazu.  Here's the plan: Yesterday I stopped at Moto-Hakone, by the shores of Ashinoko Lake.  I took a bus back to Odawara, and a train to my room in Chigasaki.  So today, I'll take a train to Numazu, stash my bag at the station, and catch a bus up the other side of the mountain back to Moto-Hakone, then walk down.

Simple, right?  But past Odawara, the train often lays over to let expresses pass.  So a 70-minute ride took over 100.  Then the bus up the hill took another hour and a half.

So at 2:15, I reached Moto-Hakone.  But what a GREAT day after that!

Hakone is beautiful, and there are plenty of sights to see, from Hakone Shrine to castle ruins to stone Buddhas.  But I'm a pilgrim, not a tourist (!).  So I gotta walk.

Hakone is not only beautiful, but weird.  Although it's a traditional resort dating back centuries, it is loaded with kitsch.  Where else in Japan will you see a sternwheeler and a scene straight out of Baja California?

I walked some more ishidatami, this part damaged by the typhoon last week.  The road goes through a beautiful suginamiki, a cedar-lined walk.

My first stop was the famous seki-sho or Hakone Barrier. This guard station marked the dividing line between Kanto (literally the area East of the Barrier) and the central portion of Japan, which eventually becomes Kansai (the area West of the Barrier).  This shot shows an original wall of the Barrier station.

This being Saturday, the museum at the Barrier was quite crowded, so I din't go in.  Instead, I got a shot of this guy playing shamisen, a traditional three-stringed instrument.

And here is my official shot for the Hakone station, with the museum and Barrier gate behind me, and not too many tourists.

The road follows the lakeshore for awhile, past tourist traps and sightseeing buses.  Then it turns off and--I didn't see a soul until I rejoined the vehicle road near the Pass.

I finally got an elevated view of the lake; yesterday's walk was so shrouded in trees and clouds that I never got a good view.

At Hakone Pass (called here a "ridge") I entered Shizuoka Prefecture--only my third this trip, after Tokyo and Kanagawa.

I want you to see the kanji (Chinese character) for "pass."  The left-hand element is "mountain."  The two right-hand elements are "up" and "down" respectively.  So a pass is a place where you go up and down a mountain!

(By the way, you'll need to be Japanese-enabled to see this.  If your browser is Explorer, check View, Encoding to see if you have a Japanese pack.  If not, write to me and I'll tell you how to get one--free!)

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Hakone, Station #10 on the Old Tokaido

Here we see Hakone Pass--and it's crowded.  As I mentioned, I saw no one on this path.  But as it was Saturday, there were plenty of cars on the vehicle road.  Hiroshige has clearly exaggerated the mountain here; I saw nothing to compare.

From the "ridge" down is a beautiful, well-maintained walk.  The city of Mishima has really done a great job of marking the trail.  It's ishidatami most of the way.  (See yesterday's Logbook if you don't know what ishidatami is.)  The path was littered with stones, markers, and monuments.  I've collected them onto a Words and Pictures page.

I hoped to reach Yamanaka Castle ruins before nightfall.  I did, but barely.  And as I pulled out my camera, it began to rain.

This is a very atmospheric place.  I saw no one but grasshoppers.  I've described the castle construction on another Words and Pictures page; for my feeling, here's a haiku:

once the samurai
held this ground--now there's only
grasshoppers and rain

Next to the castle is a small temple named Soukanji.  I sheltered here for awhile, and said your prayers.  I know nothing about the place, but it was clearly associated with the castle.  I've done a very small Words and Pictures page (it's a very small place).  What it lacks in size and beauty was more than made up for by the feelings I had after visiting the castle ruins--and as I faced a downhill walk on wet ishidatami as it grew dark.

But I made it.  The road occasionally joined the vehicle road, and in the dark I missed one stretch that included an ichirizuka (according to the map).  But I caught the last section of ishidatami, which started next to a love hotel and ended as someone's driveway!  Then came the worst part: a VERY steep downhill residential vehicle road.  But the end of today's walk was great: a flat, two-lane road running amongst houses, shops, and temples.  At 7:10 I caught the last bus from Tsukuhara--along that road--to Mishima station, then the train to Numazu and my hotel.

 

Journal
Entry

Lodgings

There's nothing philosophical about today's entry.  I just wanted to give you some background on the types of places where I'm staying.  I've listed them below, with some of the salient features:

Private homes: Twice I've been blessed with invitations to stay in my friends' homes. They're pretty much the same as a Western house, with one big exception: the bathroom.  (This will be a sort of theme today.)  The bathroom in a Japanese house is really a BATH room.  The toilet is usually in another room (as was the case in both of the places I stayed.)  Further, the tub itself is generally bigger than a Western one, with more features.

This is because of the Japanese style of bathing.  One bathes outside of the tub, washing and rinsing using either a tap and bucket or a shower hose..  Then one slips one's clean body into the tub for a good soak.  This way, the whole family can use one tub of water.  There is usually a circulating heating device to keep the water hot (typically very hot) for everyone.  We never use soap or shampoo in the clean tub water.  You'll be hearing more about this type of bathing in a minute.

By the way, as is usual, both of the houses I stayed in had the washing machine in the bathroom.  I should make it clear: the bathroom is really two rooms.  There's a "dry" room, with a sink for brushing the teeth and so on, and the washer; and a "wet" room, comprising the soap-and-tub areas described above.

Ryokan: This is a fairly traditional-style Japanese inn.  The rooms are often tatami (straw mat) floored, and the furniture is low to the ground.  Bedding is usually a futon.  Though they're sometimes in the room at an added price, both toilet and bathroom are usually outside, down the hall for use by all.  Yes, this means bathing with strangers.  But the effect of the hot bath is more than enough compensation for any embarrassment caused.  I've used sento (public baths) in Japan, too; this is the same principle.

In most ryokan, by the way, the toilets are Japanese style.  Never seen one?  Here's a picture:

 .

You stand over the porcelain trench and squat.  Not all that comfortable, but very efficient.  Proper etiquette is to slip off your room slippers and slip on the toilet slippers before proceeding.

Business hotels: About what you'd expect: small room, lingering smell of smoke, unit bath (bath and toilet together).  Also usually includes a pay-for-porn TV option.  One advantage: total self-contained privacy.

++++++++++++++++

Well, that's the range of where I've stayed so far (except for that night in the apartment building's parking area).  I expect to hit a few youth hostels along the way, not much different from anywhere in the world.  And I'm more likely to sleep out once I hit Shikoku.  More as it develops.

 

 
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