Monday, July 25, 2016
The problem with walking westward in the early morning is that your calves tend to get sunburned. It had happened yesterday, and I could feel it again now, and from behind, it must have looked like my legs had brake lights.
But I was all go, having woken just after the sun. A new guide book featured a walk that picked up the May 2009 walk that I'd finished at Kumagawa, so it was to that old post town that I duly returned, pulling into the Michi-no-eki carpark close to 7 am. There was little life here due to the early hour, but for a couple of dogwalkers, and an old woman or two pottering in the garden. The feudal period barrier gate was gone but my passage was still watched over by cats. The flow of water escorted me down a broad street flanked by low two story houses, all in keeping with that period look. The town wasn't as well kept as some of the others that I'd seen along the greater trafficked and better known Nakasendō or Tokaidō, but it still beat the look of 90 percent of the towns in Japan.
It was funny to reread my earlier 2009 post (prior to writing this), as therein I had mentioned that this Wakasa-kaido was a separate route from the Saba-kaido, even though they sometimes share the latter name. It was a fact I'd since forgotten. A few months ago, my friend Nils asked me about the Wakasa route (questions I couldn't answer), and since then I have been curious. The road appeared on maps as Route 367, and didn't look too appealing to the walker. The drive up at the early hour had allowed me to visually scan the route, and to follow with my eyes all the divergent small roads which lolled in and out of the hamlets hidden just off the busier route. It looked more appealing than I had thought. Although I had recently sworn off walking the more minor of the old roads, being so close to home I thought it could make for a pleasant couple of days.
At the far end of Kumagawa a sign pointed to an Inari shrine out of sight up the hill. The path extending in that direction was overgrown and straddled by some small torii that looked on the verge of collapse. I usually enjoy exploring these kinds of things, but some inner voice told me to hold back. So my steps continued as they had, on up the road.
It was an enjoyable morning, my route thankfully keeping me off the busier highway, and through a valley along which a number of villages were strung. None of them were as well-maintained as Kumagawa, but they weren't terribly built up either. There was the occasional shrine, or an old hold out structure from the Edo period. There were also a few non-survivors, including an abandoned love hotel, but I'd leave any further exploration to another friend whose own journeys are taken with such decay.
And there were things too of a far greater age. The Wakasa-kaido here passed a series of Kofun burial mounds, one of which was said to have been constructed with technology from the Asian mainland. It was interesting to think of the town of Obama as being an international port, especially one dating back in the mid-6th Century. That of course marked the time when Buddhism first came in, being itself a form of Asian technology. We think of early mainland contact of having occurred in Kyushu, or around Izumo, but any parties landing here would simply have had to follow a single straight line due south through the latter day capitals of Kyoto and Nara, directly into the heart of the imperial court of Asuka.
Their journey would have been far longer than my own. I reached my goal after only a few hours, at the point where the trail intersected with the Saba-kaido. There was no need for me to continue to Obama on foot from here, as I already had seven years ago. I had a reward of sorts in mind, so I hitched back to my parked car, and drove the remainder of the Saba-kaido to the sea which gave the old road a reason to exist. I threw myself into its waters then floated awhile, watching the clouds of summer rise upward into the blue. No need to go any further than this today.
On the turntable: Ben Sidran, "Life's A Lesson"
On the nighttable: Eleanor Clark, "Rome and a Villa"