Saturday, February 20, 2016
Takenouchi Kaido, End and Beginning
I had had a less than auspicious start. Due to a late departure from home, I was forced to travel during the morning rush hour, something I am careful to avoid, an arrow-straight journey right through the heart of Osaka no less. Standing on the platform to catch the loop line, I realized I was in the wrong place, but a quick sprint over to Nankai set me straight. For some bizarre reason Yahoo Transit directed me to the wrong station, plonked me down in some nondescript housing development, from where it took a good ten minutes for a taxi to pass.
The Takenouchi Kaido traditionally started where Sakai Station currently stands, and after a futile attempt to find some kind of historic marker stone, I turned my back on the station and its massive adjoining shopping mall and walked into the sunlight. Another unseasonably warm February day, in what was proving to be a warm El Nino winter. It was pleasant going in mere shirt-sleeves, along Oshoji-tsuji, what this section had been called in latter eras. The wall of a nearby primary school had a mural highlighting Sakai's connection to the bigger world, as it had once been the only port open to foreigners during the Warring States period. These foreign sailors and missionaries were depicted with the same exaggerated probosces as the late Edo prints of centuries later. I followed my own nose past the restaurants and cafes coming to life in late morning, and after passing the station to which I'd errantly arrived earlier, I found myself in definitive suburban Japan.
The walk from here was rather uneventful yet at least pretty straight forward. The Kaido was signposted surprisingly well, and I only doubted myself twice. Suburban developers pay little heed to old maps, and in both cases I was unsure of which parallel road to follow. I had a fifty percent success rate, and when I did go wrong, I realized it immediately then quickly doubled back to walk the correct route. (I missed it because had been admiring the old stone marker pointing me down the very path I wanted. Looking at the finger, not the moon.)
Where the suburbs began to thin I found a sprawling park that served as a good lunch venue, and it was delightful to bisect the cherry trees and allow my feet a reprieve from asphalt. Throughout the day I played connect the dots with the ancient tumuli that pockmark eastern Osaka prefecture. The massive tomb of Nintoku passed unseen just to the south, but later I sat a long while beside that of Yamato Takeru, whose heroic exploits settled the Yamato tribes firmly and definitely in this area. The only nomads now were the migratory birds enjoying the sun-warmed waters of the ponds that the ancients had used for irrigation when this road was in its heyday.
Aside from these, few other traces remained. Little surprise considering the Takeuchi Kaido celebrated its 1400-year anniversary three years back. I enjoyed how the towns I passed through had an old Showa look, as if nothing has been touched since 1963. I found this most exaggerated in the townof Furuichi, whose name can be translated as 'old market.' That entrepreneurial spirit still exists in the form of shops in the form of suburban homes selling second-hand baby clothes, or functioning as cafes. This American Country Boy lingered in front of one of the latter, called 'American Country,' but ultimately I moved on.
The home stretch then began in Komagatani, a village whose pleasant look was the subtle darkened wood of Edo period temples and homes. Beyond it, I was away from man-made structures for the first time all day, as the Takenouchi made its way to the pass that bears its name. I would stop just short, having begun my walk with that very section years before. As the final kilometer passed beneath my feet, I enjoyed having the twin peaks of Nijo just above me, as well as the higher reaches of the Katsuragi and Omine ranges further out. The history of those places goes even further back, but my own place in that history has yet to begin.
On the turntable: Brian Ferry, "Taxi"
On the nighttable: Ian Baruma, "Anglomania"