Sunday, 31 May 2009

Day 12: Yoshida - Maisaka (28.8km)

I got up at 5.45am, showered, shaved and got my things together ready for a speedy getaway straight after breakfast. I had 28.8km to cover, but I also had two museums I wanted to see: the one at Futagawa with the Hiroshige exhibition and one at the old sekisho (checkpoint) at Arai.

As breakfast wasn't included in my accommodation package, I went downstairs to the station building just after 7am and quickly found a café that was open. I had a muffin set, which consisted of two muffins and a cup of coffee. Back in my room, I ate the yoghurt with fruit I'd bought the night before.

I checked out and was back on the Tokaido at 8.15am. I followed National Route 1 all the way to the next post town of Futagawa. Along the way I saw a big drug store and decided to pop in to get some more bandages for my toe. The automatic doors wouldn't open, but there was a woman inside who opened them for me and let me in. I looked at my watch and saw it was 9.25am. "Thanks," I said. "I guess you don’t open till 9.30." "Actually, we don’t open till 10," the woman replied, "but please come in."

I reached Futagawa at 10.05am and quickly found the honjin and museum. I left my pack at the reception area and went straight to the back of the museum where the Hiroshige exhibition was being held. The exhibition featured prints from the series Famous Views of the 60-odd Provinces. Many of the prints were accompanied by sketches of the scenes concerned. It was fascinating to compare the sketches with the final prints and see how Hiroshige took the main features in each scene and rearranged them to fit into the portrait (i.e. vertical) orientation of the final print. I could only marvel at his skills as an artist.

After viewing the exhibition I took a quick look around the rest of the museum. It was the kind of museum I like, with lots of models and dioramas. Among the exhibits was a huge 3D map showing the routes of all five Edo-period "highways", including the Nakasendo and the Tokaido.

I wanted to stay longer but was mindful of the distance I still had to cover. In the end I didn’t even have time to look inside the honjin, and had to be content with taking a couple of photos from the street as I left. It was spitting by the time I left Futagawa just before 11am, although not enough to warrant putting on my raingear. I soon began the gradual climb to the next post town of Shirasuka. I reached the lookout at the top of the pass at around 12.30pm and stopped to admire the view out over the Pacific Ocean. I then negotiated the steep climb down Shiomizaka, which features in Hiroshige's print of Shirasuka from the series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido.

I was now at sea level just a few hundred metres from the coast following the Tokaido east towards Lake Hamana. There didn’t seem to be any restaurants in the vicinity, so at 1pm I left the Tokaido and found a convenience store right by the beach. I bought some food and ate it in the convenience store car park surrounded by a bunch of surfers.

I got underway again at 1.30pm and passed through another famous avenue of old pine trees along a stretch of the Tokaido known as the Hamana-kaido. It was now fine and pretty hot. I arrived in Arai at 2.45pm and had a look around the sekisho museum, the reconstructed checkpoint building, and the hatago (which I also gathered is largely a reconstruction as it looked surprisingly new). There was very little of interest in the sekisho museum, and I regretted not having spent more time at the museum and honjin at Futagawa.

Arai Sekisho

I continued on and reached my hotel (which was located part way between Arai and the next post town of Maisaka) just after 4pm. There was free coffee in the lobby, so I helped myself to a couple of cups before heading to my room. There were few places to eat in the immediate vicinity of the hotel and I was too tired even to walk down to the nearby convenience store, so I phoned a pizza place and had them deliver some seafood pizza, salad, and mango ice cream to my room. The pizza turned out to be the best seafood pizza I've ever tasted. The ice cream, on the other hand, was horrible.

My hotel was right next to a railway line. I knew this when I booked it, but figured that it wouldn’t be a problem as passenger trains stop running around midnight. I'd forgotten about freight trains, however, and was woken several times in the middle of the night by loud rumbling noises.


Lanthir said...

Aww, it's a shame you didn't enjoy the Arai Sekisho more. I found the guided tour of the museum quite enlightening. But maybe they don't do the guided tours anymore? It's been far to long since I've been back...

Walking fool said...

The sekisho itself was nice. There was a tour, but I didn't join it (I like to see such places at my own pace). The main reason I was so disappointed with the museum was that I'd seen the wonderful museum at Futagawa earlier the same day.