Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kyo Kaido

Back in the late winter, I walked a small section of the Kyo Kaido, which used to be an extension of the Tokaido, as it passes through Kyoto toward Osaka. It is essentially the Keihan line now, but sections still remain. I start near the amusement park in Hirakata. The road goes up through a section of town that probably hasn't changed in 50 years. It takes me to a small canal, then the color of the pavement changes making it easy to follow. I stop in a funky cafe for a cuppa, then continue down the narrow road, where the shopping arcade is trying to keep the dreams of the Showa era alive. I veer a couple times to the opposite side of the train tracks, to investigate hilltop temples and shrines. One of them had a nice view of the Yodogawa stretching away toward Osaka. How much nicer it be to see slow moving boats out there.

I pass through Hirakata, then Kuzuha. The trail gets even narrower, passing modest homes and small temples. Many of the homes have maintained a centuries old look. I finally come to the end of the homes and am surprised to see a sign warning me of vipers. Past this overgrown part, things open up onto rice fields. In the middle is a temple I've often admired from the train, but being a training temple it is closed to guests. I enter another shopping street, lined with many old inns that had once housed Edo period travelers. At the end of this street is a huge tree, dwarfing all. I see a sign posted alongside, which I at first take for a Shinto monument of some sort, but on closer look is a notice about how to separate the rubbish. How sad that this massive being that has shaded some many figures through history, has been relegated to the place where the trash is picked up. The houses from here get more shabby. I'm guessing that this must be a buraku area. You don't often see poverty like this. All becomes squeezed between river and hill until blending into Yawata, where another spur of the Kaido heads south toward Nara.

Having walked this center portion of the Kaido, equidistant to both Kyoto and Osaka, I'm tempted to choose an end and carry on to either of them. But I worry that the paths are unmarked, and I've wasted too much time in my life second guessing myself, and retracing my steps...

On the turntable: Woody Herman, "Men from Mars"

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