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From past Mariko to almost Shimada
(Fri., Sep. 21st, 2001)

 Friday, September 21, 2001 (click to see all posts from this day)
 The Old Tokaido

Utsunoya Pass

Well, today I faced down the third-baddest part of the Old Tokaido: Utsunoya Pass. Naturally, I won. (Third baddest, but not third worst. English is funny, ain't it?)

I arrived at the truck stop on the Mariko side and girded for battle. At that point, modern Highway 1 enters a long tunnel. Interestingly, above that tunnel, there's a Meiji-era tunnel on part of the Old Tokaido. But true to my Edo-era mission, I took the old footpath that goes over the top of that tunnel. I missed seeing the Meiji-era brickwork, but as the Japanese say, "Shoganai" (It can't be helped). You can read Patrick Carey's brief description of his walk through the Meiji tunnel in his book Rediscovering the Old Tokaido.

I started out from the truck stop on a bridge across the new highway. After a brief climb, the old road turns off, paved in modern colored brick. Climb again--with great views back...

...and there's a turn off for a footpath. A brief climb through the woods, and you reach the summit.

Now, this summit is a summit. On Hakone Pass and Satta Pass, I was never quite sure where the "pass" was. On this one, it was very clear: a steep uphill portion, a three-meter-long saddle, and you start steeply down again. Very fulfilling.

The downhill part was mostly hiking path, with a bit of road in the center. Then back onto asphalt and a re-merge with Highway 1. Total time: well under 40 minutes! To tell the truth, it was a bit anti-climactic. I could recommend Hakone--up and down again--as a weekend walk. From Yui to Okitsu over Satta Pass could be a day hike, transportation to and from Tokyo included, and you'd still be home for supper. But this? Don't bother, unless you're in the neighborhood. (But admittedly, the neighborhood is quite beautiful.)

The rest of the day there wasn't much to see. I mean, if you don't count distant green hills, flowing water, crumbling buildings, and smiling people. It was mostly just plod-plod-plod along flat land. (I've gotta get some new shoes. I passed the 200-kilometer point today; that plus the 100km I did in Chichibu in July--plus some general walking around--has left no more "give" in the soles of my sandals, and it's starting to pain me. It's all about soles.)

Okabe, Station #21 on the Old Tokaido

Okabe is a pretty, small town in a beautiful natural setting, squeezed between hills. While there are quite a few old buildings, there's virtually nothing of the Old Tokaido above ground level. If I had known that, I might have done my "official shot" like Hiroshige's, up in Utsunoya Pass. Instead, here I am in front of someone's gate. The marker next to me indicates that this is the old site of Okabe's honjin (official inn). It's the best I could do.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Okabe, Station #21 on the Old Tokaido

Here is the view of the pass just mentioned.

Today I said your prayers in a parking lot. No, really. I stopped at a "Daily Yamazaki" convenience store between Okabe and Fujieda for a late lunch. Looking around for a place to sit, I noticed five guys in the parking lot. They turned out to be Gochi Nyorai Zo, the Statues of the Buddhas of the Five Directions. You can learn more about them in this Words and Pictures. (Because they were in a parking lot, not a temple, there will be no signature in the stamp book.)

Fujieda, Station #22 on the Old Tokaido

If Okabe was bad in terms of visible remnants, Fujieda was terrible! The 22nd station had a map showing where things were, posted in the center of town; but I couldn't even find markers to indicate the locations! Hiroshige shows people getting ready for a trip; I suppose I could have shot a gas station or something.

Instead, I went for Alternate Hiroshige. The prints that I've been showing you are from the Hoeido Edition, the most reproduced of them all. But he did several other series, including one called the Gyosho.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Fujieda, Station #22 on the Old Tokaido

The image above is from the Hoeido Edition showing the activity of transport professionals at the Fujieda station. The one below, from the Gyosho series, shows people crossing the nearby Seto River.

And here I am on the bridge across the Seto, for my official picture at Fujieda, station 22 of the Old Tokaido.

I pushed on until darkness fell and rain started--the beginning of another typhoon, as it turned out. I jumped on the train at Rokugo station--about 30 minutes' walk from Shimada, the next station of the Tokaido--and headed back to my room in Shizuoka.

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Posted October 1, 2019

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