Sign up for my Newsletter & Podcast!

From almost Kyoto to KYOTO!
(Tue., Oct. 9th, 2001)

 Tuesday, October 9, 2001 (click to see all posts from this day)
 The Old Tokaido

Kyoto, the End of the Old Tokaido

Well, it never goes as planned. I had laundry problems this morning, so I left later than I expected (I've been getting 8:00 starts recently; this one was after 10:00). So I didn't get to Uji, which I hope to make up in the next day or two.


Before I tell you any more, please read this letter.

To the College-Aged Girl at the Sanjo-Ohashi Bridge,

You'll never know what you've done for me. It wasn't so much the cash as the kindness.

You couldn't know this, but I had just walked from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Old Tokaido. It took me a month and five days. Some days I walked a little, some days a lot, and some not at all. I walked in the city and the country, on empty Sunday morning sidewalks, through busy train stations and deserted rice fields. I climbed mountain passes and crossed rivers.

And after all this, I was having an easy day, just an hour or so's stroll downhill to the goal.

But for the past hour, something had been bugging me. The basic thought was: what's next? There will be no celebration at the bridge, no news teams or friends to meet me. I'll just snap a couple of photos--as I have so many times--and catch a bus toward Kyoto station.

About 30 meters from the bridge, I had an extraordinary experience. A group of about 30 grade school kids, with 3 or 4 teachers, was coming toward me on the side walk. So I stood aside, as I usually do, getting ready to smile and greet the kids as they alternately freaked out, then smiled at me. The leading teacher passed, and then the first two little boys behind him, with big smiles on their faces--flipped me off! Gave me the finger, blew me the bird.

Wow, I thought. Welcome to Kyoto. Is this my celebration? I'm sure they didn't know what the impact was; the other kids greeted me as usual. But it was a little surreal.

Then, as I reached the cross-street just before the bridge, you and I waited together at the signal. After some not-uncommon brief eye contact, we waited on, then crossed. As my foot hit the bridge--literally, as I stepped onto my goal of 35 days--you said "sumimasen," dug into your purse, and handed me a thousand yen. With a quick request for a prayer, you turned and left as I was still saying "arigatou."

You'll probably never see this. I had no time to give you a card, or my name, or anything. I've heard that this sort of thing happens on Shikoku, but this is Kyoto, a place so thick with temples and religion that I would have thought the people here would be a bit callous about all that. I've received tomatoes along the way, and some monks gave me cash. But no one has just walked up to me and handed me money and walked away!

I cannot express the depth of feeling I experienced then--several hours ago--and am experiencing still. I prayed for you at Toji today, and will continue to.

May you find peace.
May you achieve your dreams.
May the world become a place in which you and your children and their children can live without fear of war.
Bless you. Bless you. Bless you.


Well, here it is. My last official shot, at the Sanjo-Ohashi (Third Street Big Bridge), the entry to the old Imperial Capital of Heian (Kyoto).

This will indeed be my last official shot. As the nature of the trip changes, so will some elements of these pages. The "official shot" concept simply no longer fits in with the material. Watch for new features in days to come.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Kyoto, the End of the Old Tokaido

I guess the bridge was pretty busy in his day, too!


Ah, Toji. There's a Words and Pictures page to see, but first I want to talk about this pagoda.

First, it's important because it's the "symbol of Kyoto," widely used in tourism ads. Originally built by Kobo Daishi in 826, it was recently remodeled--in 1644! At 57 meters, it's the tallest pagoda in Japan. But who cares? It's stunning.

Second, I want you to know that--by a fluke--it's the first landmark I ever saw in Kyoto. I had taken a night bus years ago, and I couldn't get one that came directly into Kyoto. Instead, I got off somewhere to the south--around 6 a.m.--and took a train up to the city. At eye level, straight out the window, stood this unbelievable beauty. I'll never forget how it looked in the early morning light. I've seen it since in moonlight, night-lighting, sunset glow, and even lit up by lightening, but the first time will always be the best.

Third: That first 6-day trip to Kyoto, I stayed at a place called Toji-an, virtually in the shadow of this pagoda.

As for the rest of Toji, take a look at the Words and Pictures page.

Kyoto: A Short List

Now, about Kyoto: It would be silly of me to try to convey much about that city to you. I have spent two dozen nights there and have only scratched the surface. But--being the guy I am--I will give you my "Top Sights" list in case you ever get to go there. (But really, western Nara is better!)

Here they are, not in order:
  • Kinkakuji
  • Ginkakuji
  • Ryoanji
  • Sanjusangendo
  • Kiyomizudera
  • Toji, of course
If you know Kyoto, your list will differ. Write and tell me what you think. If you don't know Kyoto, even Words and Pictures can't convey what you feel in these places, so that's all I'm gonna say.

Wrapping Up

Well, that's it. Peculiar day, peculiar page. I took a train directly from Toji to Nara, where I walked to the Youth Hostel. Odd: I went to Kyoto, and never entered Kyoto Station! Many locals would say "Good on ya" as they hate this modern behemoth. I, however, love it. In a city that is furukusai--stinking of age--it's kind of a relief to be inside a chrome and glass high rise. Sorry I missed it this time.

One more item of vague interest: regular readers will know that my system has been to stash my big bag someplace, walk, then go back and get it later. Well, today I mailed some unnecessary items back to my representative in Tokyo, and actually carried the bag the last little leg of the trip. After all, I'll have to do so on Shikoku. It was a bit hard on my ankles and knees, but it's doable. And it saved a lot of time.

Tomorrow: The Big Buddha and western Nara--perhaps in the rain, as things look now.

    ← Previous Day Back to Old Tokaido Guide Next Day →    

Posted October 5, 2019

No comments:

Post a Comment