Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Day 15: Kakegawa - Fujieda (27.8km)

The air conditioner in my room seemed to be faulty. It worked to the extent that it blew out cold air, but I was unable to adjust the temperature, and to make things worse it made a horrible racket. In the end, thinking that my room on the sixth floor was above mosquito range, I turned the A/C off and opened a window slightly.

At 12.30am I was woken by a buzzing sound by my ear. I quickly detected two mosquito bites on my shoulder. I closed the window and applied some Oronine ointment to the wounds. At 1am I was again woken by buzzing. I spent the next few minutes stalking two mosquitoes, killing both by swatting them with my notebook, which bears my blood as a gruesome reminder of the night's events.

I slept fitfully for the rest of the night. I got up at 5.30am and went down for breakfast at 6.45. There was no yoghurt, and no eggs, so I filled up on bread and salad. I left my hotel on the dot of eight.

The first thing I had to do was rejoin the Tokaido on the other side of the station. Rather than retrace my steps from the day before, which would have been the logical thing to do, I decided to take a different route which I thought would save me time. I ended up getting lost, and had to ask someone for directions.

I took my first break of the day at 9am. After that it was a gradual climb to the next post town of Nissaka. I arrived there at 10.10am, and spent 20 minutes taking photos of some of the town's old buildings (including two old hatago) and using the lovely new public toilet.

Before leaving Nissaka I filled my water bottle. I was glad I did so, because soon after leaving the post town I hit one of the most difficult sections of the Tokaido: Nanamagari-no-kyuhan, literally "the Steep Slope with Seven Bends"! I struggled up, stopping at least three times to catch my breath and gulp down water. There was even more climbing once I reached the top of the slope, although it wasn't nearly as steep and even included the odd flat bit as I made my way along a kind of plateau. The scenery was quite beautiful, with tea plantations on both sides of the road (which was narrow and devoid of traffic) and all over the surrounding hills, and magnificent views down into the valleys below.

I reached the top of the pass (known as Saya-no-nakayama) at 11.30am and quickly descended into Kikugawa, one of several ai-no-shuku (unofficial post towns that sprang up between official post towns, usually because the distance between the two was too far or there was a difficult pass in the area) along the Tokaido. Judging from my map and the terrain around me, I was resigned to the fact that I faced another climb before reaching Fujieda. It came sooner than I expected. At 12 noon I headed up again, this time leaving the road altogether to follow an old pathway with ishidatami (stone paving) up Kikugawa-zaka. I ran out of water halfway up, but it wasn’t as demanding as the previous climb and I made it safely to the top at 12.20pm.


I spotted a rest area with a tap so I stopped to drink some water and fill my bottle. I little further on I passed a nice looking café and art gallery called Komorebi. I went inside and ordered the seafood curry and a coffee. There was jazz music playing on the sound system and I noticed some jazz CDs and DVDs for sale by the counter, including a live Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers DVD (with Wynton and Branford Marsalis) that I hadn’t seen before. I talked to the owner briefly before leaving and wasn’t surprised to learn that he was a jazz fan.

I left Komorebi at 1.15pm and descended into the town of Kanaya, again following a track with ishidatami, reaching Kanaya station at 1.45pm. Fifteen minutes later I came to the Oi River. After crossing the river using the modern bridge, I left the main road and walked a few hundred metres south to the point where people used to wade or be carried across the river in the Edo period. Many of the buildings in this area have been restored, including the office of the official responsible for collecting the toll from people crossing the river, the amount of which varied depending on the depth of the water at the time. It started raining as I was looking around but it didn’t bother me.

Hiroshige's print for Shimada

Poster advertising a local marathon

There were no more hills between the Oi River and Fujieda, and I made good time in the afternoon. I passed through the post town of Shimada at 3pm and, after a break for coffee, rolled into Fujieda at around 5pm. I checked into my hotel. I learned that there was live jazz in the hotel restaurant that night, so I decided to dine in. The musicians (a duo of guitar and double bass) were a bit late turning up, but at least they both showed. I'd finished my spaghetti and salad before they even started playing, so I ordered a sherbert and a non-alcoholic cocktail and nursed these till the end of the first set, when I called it a night.

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