Saturday, 10 November 2007

Day 19: Isobe Onsen - Shinmachi

Distance covered: 32.6km
Weather: Rain

Breakfast at Miharashikan resembled breakfast at most of the Japanese inns we stayed at, except this time we each got a raw egg to break over our bowl of rice. Unlike Erik (who on more than one occasion helped himself to two portions of natto at breakfast time), this is one Japanese custom I've never gotten used to. The proprietress offered us fried eggs instead, but I was too proud to say anything. So my raw egg lay on its wee saucer untouched.

As an experiment, I decided to see how long I could last without a cup of coffee in the morning. The experiment was a dismal failure. By around 9am I was feeling quite fatigued, so I got an iced coffee from a 7/11 and gulped it down on the spot. I felt a lot better.

The rest of the journey to Shinmachi was pretty uneventful. We made good time on the flat and reached the city of Takasaki by lunchtime. It rained most of the day, so I didn't take a lot of photos. Also, because the scenery tended to be a little monotonous once we got onto the Kanto plain, I started taking photos of some of the statues, monuments and route markers we passed along the way. The one below marks a fork in the old road, the path to the left leading to Nikko and the path to the right leading to Edo (Tokyo). Luckily we chose the path to the right.

The only real incident occurred in the afternoon when we were about 5km from our destination of Shinmachi. A man in a van stopped beside us and asked us where we were going. When we told him, he said there was nothing to see along the way and offered us a ride in his van. He didn't want any money, he assured us. We thanked him but explained that we wanted to walk because it was important that we walk the entire route of the Nakasendo. He didn't seem to understand, and insisted we get in his van. In the end we had to walk away. It was indeed a strange encounter.

We arrived in Shinmachi around 3.45pm and checked into the Shinmachi Station Hotel, a rather dreary little business hotel that was probably the most depressing place we stayed in during the entire journey. In fact the whole town was rather depressing. We did have a nice meal at an okonomiyaki restaurant, though. The proprietor was very friendly, and even cooked the okonomiyaki for us.

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