|Well, today I faced
down the third-baddest part of the Old Tokaido: Utsunoya Pass.
Naturally, I won. (Third baddest, but not third worst.
English is funny, ain't it?)
I arrived at the truck stop on the
Mariko side and girded for battle. At that point, modern Highway 1
enters a long tunnel. Interestingly, above that tunnel, there's a
Meiji-era tunnel on part of the Old Tokaido. But true to my
Edo-era mission, I took the old footpath that goes over the top of that
tunnel. I missed seeing the Meiji-era brickwork, but as the
Japanese say, "Shoganai" (It can't be helped).
You can read Patrick Carey's brief description of his walk through the
Meiji tunnel in his book Rediscovering the Old Tokaido.
I started out from the truck stop on a
bridge across the new highway. After a brief climb, the old road
turns off, paved in modern colored brick. Climb again--with great
views back (left)--and there's a turn off for a footpath (right).
A brief climb through the woods, and you reach the summit.
Now, this summit is a summit.
On Hakone Pass and Satta Pass, I was never quite sure where the
"pass" was. On this one, it was very clear: a steep
uphill portion, a three-meter-long saddle, and you start steeply down
again. Very fulfilling.
The downhill part was mostly hiking
path, with a bit of road in the center. Then back onto asphalt and a
re-merge with Highway 1. Total time: well under 40 minutes! To
tell the truth, it was a bit anti-climactic. I could recommend
Hakone--up and down again--as a weekend walk. From Yui to Okitsu
over Satta Pass could be a day hike, transportation to and from Tokyo
included, and you'd still be home for supper. But this?
Don't bother, unless you're in the neighborhood. (But admittedly,
the neighborhood is quite beautiful.)
The rest of the day there wasn't much
to see. I mean, if you don't count distant green hills, flowing
water, crumbling buildings, and smiling people. It was
mostly just plod-plod-plod along flat land. (I've gotta get some
new shoes. I passed the 200-kilometer point today; that plus the
100km I did in Chichibu in July--plus some general walking around--has
left no more "give" in the soles of my sandals, and it's
starting to pain me. It's all about soles.)
Okabe is a pretty, small town in a
beautiful natural setting, squeezed between hills. While there are
quite a few old buildings, there's virtually nothing of the Old Tokaido
above ground level. If I had known that, I might have done my
"official shot" like Hiroshige's, up in Utsunoya Pass.
Instead, here I am in front of someone's gate. The marker next to me
indicates that this is the old site of Okabe's honjin (official
inn). It's the best I could do.
Okabe, Station #21 on
the Old Tokaido
Here is the view of the pass just
Today I said your prayers in a parking
lot. No, really. I stopped at a "Daily Yamazaki"
convenience store between Okabe and Fujieda for a late lunch.
Looking around for a place to sit, I noticed these five guys in the
parking lot. They turned out to be Gochi Nyorai Zo, the
Statues of the Buddhas of the Five Directions. You can learn more
about them in this Words and Pictures.
(Because they were in a parking lot, not a temple, there will be no
signature in the stamp book.)
If Okabe was bad in terms of visible
remnants, Fujieda was terrible! The 22nd station had a map showing
where things were, posted in the center of town; but I couldn't even
find markers to indicate the locations! Hiroshige shows people
getting ready for a trip; I suppose I could have shot a gas station or
Instead, I went for Alternate
Hiroshige. The prints that I've been showing you are from the
Hoeido Edition, the most reproduced of them all. But he did several
other series, including one called the Gyosho.
Fujieda, Station #22 on
the Old Tokaido
The image above is from the Hoeido
Edition showing the activity of transport professionals at the Fujieda
station. The one below, from the Gyosho series, shows people crossing
the nearby Seto River.
And here I am on the bridge across the
Seto, for my official picture at Fujieda, station 22 of the Old
I pushed on until darkness fell and rain
started--the beginning of another typhoon, as it turned out. I
jumped on the train at Rokugo station--about 30 minutes' walk from
Shimada, the next station of the Tokaido--and headed back to my room in
When I first came to Japan, I trained with 8 other people
to teach Aeon-style lessons. One of my training buddies,
Mike, was a veteran bungee jumper. He told a great story
about his first jump. He said it took a long time to get
to the jumping point, and he couldn't imagine what was taking
so long. When his turn came, they strapped him up and
told him to jump. He said OK, stood in the right
position--and couldn't move. It took him minutes and
minutes to finally jump.
His feet, you see, were smarter than his brain.
His brain kept sending signals: "Jump!" And
his feet kept answering: "No!"
I'm learning how to listen to my body as I walk.
Joseph Campbell said the brain is "a secondary organ.
It thinks it's in charge, but it's not." Elsewhere
he said that Jung's basic idea about dreams was that they
resulted from the organs of the body communicating with each
"Let me hear your body talk," indeed. My
feet tell me when to take a break, my throat says when to
drink, my belly says when to eat. Once I do stop to
rest, my legs start telling me when it's time to get up and go
(I get antsy). So while the brain thinks it's making
plans, it's the rest of the body that's really calling the
When Euro-Americans attend Hopi dances, it's said that the
"clowns" sometimes run up to them with big wind-up
alarm clocks set to noon, shouting, "It's time to be
hungry! It's time to be hungry!"
And again: Gulliver and the horse-like Houyhnhnms about
when to eat and sleep: they did so when their bodies told them
to, whereas Gulliver wanted to do it on a schedule.
Do we listen to our bodies? I think not, as a rule.
But if we do, I think it will tells us what it wants, and
distinguish that from what it needs.
Right now mine is telling me I need sleep. Adios.