Almost Tsuchiyama. But not because I wanted to.
Because that's where the bus was. Read on.
left Nagoya in the morning and returned to last night's stopping
point, just before entering Kameyama.
I found Kameyama to be a friendly
and attractive small town. There was a castle there, and
what's left of it is between the elementary school and the junior
high. I imagine these facilities were located on the former
castle grounds when it was razed.
strolling a small shopping street, I followed the route marked by
the town (which differed considerably from the one on my map).
This led me towards the castle remains. On the way,
however, next to the elementary school, I saw these
men--presumably volunteers--doing some excavation. I wonder
what these holes were?
the castle, one sees this monument--to what, I don't know--framed
in autumn colors.
The castle itself is just a single
building, a replica of a yagura or watchtower.
However, this view downward of one corner of the fortifications
shows that the town probably spent a lot of money to reconstruct
this one building! (There was also a shrine on the grounds
down below with some more replication, but this was the only
By the way, Kameyama is said to
have a samurai's mansion, but as it is open by reservation only, I
didn't seek it out.
here, in front of the one building, is my official shot for
Kameyama, station number 46 on the Old Tokaido.
Tokaido: Kameyama, Station
the Old Tokaido
Much is made of this print
because Hiroshige is famous for his snow scenes. We're
definitely in the mountains here (as the names of this and several
succeeding stations show; yama means "mountain"
and saka means "slope"). So the snow is
likely. But, as before, HIROSHIGE IS A BIG, FAT LIAR. There
is no slope even remotely like this to be seen.
out of Kameyama, I encountered this really good ichirizuka.
Also, I saw this little drama I call "Life and Death on the
route leads up the valley of the Suzuka River, toward the dreaded
Suzuka Pass. Here is the river at full bore, and a heron
walking the banks. For a long time--kilometers, it
seemed--any time I got close, he flew farther up river.
Finally, the road was far enough away that he didn't feel
threatened, and I got this shot with my lens "doubler."
to Seki. This place was a real treat, at least on the
eastern edges. Look at this streetscape, with the mountains
beyond! It was very moving. But nearing the center of
town, the place became a tourist circus, despite some rather odd
what I mean is, that although Seki (as its name says) was one of
the three main sekisho or barriers on the Old Tokaido,
there is not even a replica of a barrier there now, as there is at
This construction project near the west end of town may be
a barrier replica, but the construction worker I quizzed about it
just kept smiling and shaking his head like I was speaking
there were some special treats. Like this: it must be
Japan's most historic bank!
these: probably the best cutouts I've seen. (Send me a
couple of faces and a donation, and I'll send you this picture
with the faces in it.)
this: the best cliche shot of "Old and New Japan" since
the Shinkansen (bullet train) in front of Mount Fuji.
the time I got into town, the place was so jammed with tourists
that it was hard to find a place for my official shot.
I finally ducked into a small park located on the site of a former
shop, complete with its own well in the (former) courtyard.
No one seemed to fancy this place, so I got the shot in peace.
Tokaido: Seki, Station
the Old Tokaido
Proof that the barrier was still
there in his day (unless he lied again).
onwards--and oh so gradually upwards--I reached Sakanoshita, the
gateway to Suzuka Pass. Its name means "at the bottom
of the slope."
There is almost no
"there" there (to steal a phrase). Not a store or
shop. A few historic markers, though. And a small
temple named Hoanji, which stole pieces from the old inn for the
daimyos (lords). This is my official shot,
standing under the stolen gate.
I also said your prayers here,
plus a little prayer for myself as I headed for the Pass.
Tokaido: Sakanoshita, Station
the Old Tokaido
The mountain in the distance is
Mount Fudesute, "Mount thrown away brushes." It is
said that the painter Kano Motonobu threw away his brushes in
despair at being unable to capture the beauty of this craggy pile
of rocks and pines. (One wonders what it was called before
There are so many stunning
mountains in the area that I couldn't pick out which one was
Sakanoshita, there is a Folk Song Hall, dedicated to materials
related to this song: "The sun shines and shines on the
slope, but Suzuka is clouded, and rain is falling at Ai no
Tsuchiyama." Ladies and gentlemen, this is no joke.
At four-something in the afternoon, it was dark on Suzuka
Pass. This is the closest I've come to being scared on this
whole trip. A nameless fear was creeping up on me, and I had
to fight it down consciously. It was as dark as after six
for no apparent reason. The trail was washed out; a brief
stretch of ishidatami--stone paving--was slick and mossy.
This shrine along the way seemed deserted.
shot of the pass itself is shaky--not because I quaked with
fright, but because it was so dark.
these people haven't heard about the 400th anniversary of the Old
Tokaido; this sign looks like it's been there for awhile, and it
was the only signage on the pass.
on the other side? The trees are gone, and tea plantations
prevail. The city of Tsuchiyama has built a nice restroom
and park, with this giant lantern (which commemorates something,
but I couldn't read what; any volunteers?).
It's a pleasant walk down; little
did I know what trouble lay ahead.
was nice to see this sign, since I missed the entry to Mie
prefecture (since I took the train as a substitute for the old
ferry); though I don't suppose there would have been a sign at the
border that I could see from the ferry, either!
imagine that in days past, the women of the area used to meet at
the well on the left to collect their water and talk over the
recent news. Do you think they meet now when they collect
their aluminum cans? It's interesting to me how often public
space remains public; perhaps the city's trash area has always been
"common ground" because of the well.
about six kilometers from the pass to the first bus stop.
(Buses seem to come up from both sides, but I couldn't find any
that went over the pass except in the early morning.)
I was making good time, enjoying the scenery, I even had a sunset
to wrap up the day.
I got to the stop; 50 minutes
'til the next bus. OK, I can deal with that. Entertain
myself. It's a dark, dark place. Read the names on the
passing buses and trucks. Wait. Wait. Ah! Here
it comes! AND.....THERE IT GOES!
I know he saw me. My
hand was raised. He even started to pull over...then swerved
away. I guess we had a problem with body language. And
it was almost an hour until the next bus! 6:40! And
I'm kilometers and kilometers from home.
To make a long story short, the
next bus--and last bus of the night--stopped. I had moved
down to the next stop, a bit better well-lit. I got a train,
then another train, then a shinkansen, then a subway. I got
to the youth hostel in Nagoya at 10:55--too late for a bath!
But there is a bright spot in all
this. When the last bus stopped, I sounded off--humorously
but directly--about the previous driver not stopping. This
driver was dumbstruck. I'm cold, I said; I'm tired, I'm
hungry, etc., etc.
So at the station, the first
thing he did was refuse my 900 yen (big secret, don't tell anyone,
he could get fired). As I left the bus, he asked me to wait a moment in
the station. A few minutes later, he came into the station,
followed by his wife and child--it was the end of shift, and they
had come to pick him up--and presented me with two onigiri, the
popular "rice balls" that are the Japanese equivalent of
a sandwich. They're something you can make (or buy) to take
I was really touched. I
don't know if this was from his lunch, or something his wife had
brought to tide him over 'til they got home--I don't know.
But let me tell you: for that
nearly-an-hour wait, I was beyond angry. I was seething, in
a rage. I was so angry, I was feeling physically
sick--adrenalin poisoning. I tried walking, screaming (it
was a country place), praying, doing anything I could to dissipate
this murderous rage. I wasn't even angry at the driver who
passed me per se; it was more the situation, and my
But this simple act of kindness
by the driver who stopped--the sharing of "bread"--wiped
it away in an instant, and nearly brought me to tears. (As
I'm actually writing this on Saturday night, I can tell you now:
tune in tomorrow, there's a sequel.)
as I said, home, no bath, no time to write, utter exhaustion.
And it's the first day of my
second month on the road; I set out on September 5th. Seems
like years ago.