Sunday, 10 August 2014

Unfinished business

I started thinking about walking the Nikko Kaido (labeled B in the graphic below) in October 2010, soon after returning to Christchurch from walking the Koshu Kaido. I had already walked the Nakasendo (in 2007) and the Tokaido (in 2009), and it had become my goal to walk the remaining two gokaido (the five "highways" connecting Tokyo with the provinces in the Edo period) over the next few years.


On 22 February 2011, Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, resulting in 185 deaths (including 28 Japanese) and widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure across the city. Mrs Fool and I escaped uninjured, but our house, already badly damaged in the September 2010 earthquake, was further damaged and deemed unrepairable. And so began our long battle, familiar to so many people in Christchurch, with EQC and our insurance company to receive the compensation we were entitled to.

The very next month, on 11 March 2011, the Tohoku region of Japan was struck by a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. The death toll currently stands at over fifteen thousand, with 2612 people still listed as "missing." The tsunami engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, triggering the largest nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster and leading to the evacuation of some 300,000 people.

In the wake of these two disasters, I put out of my mind any thoughts of walking the Nikko Kaido. It didn't seem right to leave Mrs Fool and go off on a solo walk while our insurance claim remained unsettled, and although Nikko (which is some 140 kilometres southwest of Fukushima) was unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami, the fate of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was uncertain, and I was nervous about walking anywhere near it as long as there was even a hint of a threat from radiation.

Fast-forward to 2014. Mrs Fool and I have settled with our insurance company and moved into a new house. The old house has been demolished and the land is up for sale. In Japan, while the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is far from resolved, and while radiation continues to leak into the ocean, the threat of the widespread release of radiation into the air appears to have abated, and I feel "relaxed" about walking from Tokyo to Nikko.

And so in October this year I plan to walk the Nikko Kaido. At a mere 147 kilometres, it's less than a third the length of the Tokaido and Nakasendo and more than 60 kilometres shorter than the Koshu Kaido. I plan to do the walk in a week, averaging 21 kilometres a day. My flights are booked, as is a hotel room at Kinugawa Onsen, a hot spring resort not far from Nikko where I intend to spend a couple of days recuperating before heading back to Tokyo (by train).

I leave in just over two months. I'm far from fit. I have a dodgy groin, a dodgy kidney, and dodgy toenails. I will be 53 years old in October. Will I make it to the finishing line in Nikko? Will I even make it to the starting line in Tokyo? Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Naked Rambler (update)

I first wrote about Stephen Gough (aka the Naked Rambler) nearly five years ago. In fact, I mentioned him in my very first post, as it was a TV documentary about him that was one of the main catalysts for my Nakasendo walk in 2007. Since that first post in April 2007 I've completed two epic walks and one not-so-epic walk. Gough, meanwhile, has been languishing in a Scottish prison, serving a succession of sentences for breach of the peace and contempt of court. All the sentences stem from his refusal to wear clothes. As the The Guardian's Neil Forsyth puts it, "he's effectively been in custody for nearly six years for refusing to get dressed."

You can read the article here.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Irony?

From the House of Travel website:

Top 5 Things to do in Asia:
• Barter at the local markets in Thailand for a great bargain
Personally I found I got better bargains if I paid for things with actual money.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Summer holiday reading

One evening in early March, when she went to the Rockefeller Library to pick up the reserve reading for Semiotics 211, she found Leonard there as well. He was leaning against the counter, speaking animatedly to the girl on duty, who was unfortunately rather cute in a busty Bettie Page way.
"Think about it, though," Leonard was saying to the girl, "Think about it from the point of view of the fly."
"O.K., I'm a fly," the girl said with a throaty laugh.
"We move in slow motion to them. They can see the swatter coming from a million miles away. The flies are like, 'Wake me when the swatter gets close.'"
Noticing Madeleine, the girl told Leonard, "Just a sec."
Madeleine held out her call order slip, and the girl took it and went off into the stacks.
"Picking up the Balzac?" Leonard said.
"Yes."
"Balzac to the rescue."
Normally, Madeleine would have had many things to say to this, many comments about Balzac to make. But her mind was a blank. She didn't even remember to smile until he'd looked away.
Bettie Page came back with Madeleine's order, sliding it toward her and immediately turning back to Leonard. He seemed different than he did in class, more exuberant, supercharged. He raised his eyebrows in a crazed, Jack Nicholson way and said, "My housefly theory is related to my theory about why time seems to go faster as you get older."
"Why's that?" the girl asked.
"It's proportional," Leonard explained. "When you're five, you've only been alive a couple thousand days. But by the time you're fifty, you've lived around twenty thousand days. So a day when you're five seems longer because it's a greater percentage of the whole."
"Yeah, sure," the girl teased, "that follows."
But Madeleine had understood. "That makes sense," she said. "I always wondered why that was."
"It's just a theory," Leonard said.
Bettie Page tapped Leonard's hand to get his attention. "Flies aren't always so fast," she said. "I've caught flies in my bare hands before."
"Especially in winter," Leonard said. "That's probably the kind of fly I'd be. One of those knucklehead winter flies."
There was no good excuse for Madeleine to hang around the reserve reading room, and so she put the Balzac into her bag and headed out.
From The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
 





Monday, 2 January 2012

New Year's quiz

Which famous singer, who was once a maths teacher, walked across Japan in the early 1980s?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Living in the material world

From the Wikipedia article on George Harrison:
In a complaint later brought on behalf of Harrison's estate, it was alleged that while under the care of Staten Island University Hospital [where he was undergoing radiotherapy for lung cancer], Dr Gilbert Lederman, a radiation oncologist, repeatedly revealed Harrison's confidential medical information during television interviews and forced him to autograph a guitar. The complaint alleged that Lederman and his family came to visit Harrison and began singing, and that, in laboured breaths, Harrison said, "Please stop talking." Later, Lederman allegedly had his son play the guitar for Harrison. The complaint alleged that after the performance, Lederman asked Harrison for an autograph on the guitar, and that Harrison responded, "I do not even know if I know how to sign my name any more." Lederman then allegedly took Harrison's hand and guided his hand along to spell his name while encouraging him by saying, "Come on, George. You can do this. G-E-O...". The suit was ultimately settled out of court under the condition that the guitar be "disposed of".

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Te Araroa revisited

Back in August 2007 (yes, this blog really has been going that long) I wrote about Te Araroa, the proposed walking track running the length of New Zealand. I mentioned that it was due to open in 2008.

Well, today, some three years behind schedule, it was officially opened. In this story on the Radio New Zealand website, the chief executive of Te Araroa Trust, Geoff Chapple, who conceived the idea of the track, is quoted as saying he'd like to see all New Zealanders make it their goal to walk it.

"I remember Mao Zedong saying every Chinese has to see the Great Wall at some time," he says. "Cultural goals are fun...so we'll put it up as a goal: walk New Zealand in your lifetime."

The official Te Araroa website is here.