Sunday, 7 June 2009

Day 19: Okitsu - Fuji (27.1km)

I got up at six and went up to the restaurant on the 12th floor for breakfast at 6.45am. There was a queue of people waiting to be seated. The queue moved quickly, however, and I soon made it to the front and was given a table number. I then helped myself to some things from the rather uninspiring buffet and found my table, which unfortunately didn’t have much of a view.

I checked out and by 7.45am I was back on the Tokaido. After crossing the Okitsu River, I began the climb up Satta Pass. The weather was fine, and I was hopeful I'd get a good view of Mount Fuji at the top. The road up to the pass was paved for most of the way. I came to a cemetery (not a good omen!) where there was a supply of walking poles by the side of the road. The only other place I’d seen this was at Wada Pass, the highest point on the Nakasendo, and I took this as a sign that I was in for a long and steep climb. I took one of the poles and pressed on.

In fact, although beyond the cemetery the road gave way to a narrow track and some very steep steps, it didn't take me long to get to the top, which came as a bit of an anticlimax.

I reached the summit at about 8.30am. My disappointment at the ease of the climb turned to amazement as I took in the scene in front of me. The view of Mount Fuji was stunning. I took lots of photos before realizing there was a viewing platform a little further on from where one could get an even better view of the mountain. There were several people there already, most of them day hikers or people who had simply walked up from the other side to enjoy the view, and I had to wait my turn to take a photo from the most favoured position.

Attached to the platform was a sign comparing Satta Pass today with Satta Pass in the Edo period, as depicted in Hiroshige's famous print.

I eventually dragged myself away and descended into the post town of Yui. I arrived in Yui at 10.30am and went straight to the Tokaido Hiroshige Art Museum, where there was an exhibition of the Gyosho Edition of the series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido. (In addition to the famous Hoeido Edition, Hiroshige produced at least a dozen other editions of this series. See here for details.) There was also a small section of the museum dedicated to Hiroshige's life and the history and technique of woodblock printing. Prospective overseas visitors should note, however, that there are no explanations in English.

I left the museum at 11.10am. It had clouded over while I was inside and Mount Fuji was no longer visible. I pushed on and reached the next post town of Kanbara at 11.55am. There was nowhere to eat, however, so I decided to continue walking. I wasn't prepared for any more climbing, so it came as an unpleasant surprise when I had to leave the main road and ascend quite a steep hill soon after leaving Kanbara. Just after 2pm, after crossing the Fuji River, I found a Yumean restaurant. I went in and again had some sakura-ebi, this time cold with various other toppings on a bowl of cold soba. From the restaurant, it wasn't far to my hotel in front of Fuji station. I arrived at about 3.30pm.

After checking in I did a load of washing and then went to a nearby Ito Yokado department store to buy some things for dinner. At the check out I was told I'd won a lottery which meant I was entitled to get back all the money I'd just spent. I took my receipt up to a counter on the fourth floor where the cash (1225 yen) was ceremoniously handed to me in a special red and white envelope. I resisted the temptation to go back downstairs and blow it all on a bottle of wine to celebrate.

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