Monday, 8 June 2009

Day 20: Fuji - Mishima (21.9km)

I got up at 6am, showered, shaved, and dressed. I checked the washing I'd done the night before and found it hadn’t fully dried overnight. I decided to leave it for a bit longer while I went and had breakfast.

Of the three Super Hotels I stayed in (Kyoto/Shijo-Kawaramachi, Yokkaichi, and Fuji), Fuji was the most disappointing in terms of the breakfast. The bread and salad were average. The coffee, however, was awful. I got back to my room and found my washing was still damp. There was nothing more I could do about it, so I put it all in a sealable plastic bag and then into my pack.

I left at 8.30 and after rejoining the Tokaido made my way to the next post town of Yoshiwara. There, while walking down an old-fashioned shopping arcade, I heard someone call out to me from the side of the road. The man, Mr Nishikawa, and a woman, whose name I didn't catch, ran a souvenir shop and gallery called Omote Fuji, which specializes in products with a Mount Fuji theme. We chatted for a bit, and as I'd been going almost an hour and was therefore due for a break, I accepted Mr Nishikawa's invitation to look around inside. I mentioned how Yoshiwara seemed devoid of old buildings and other reminders of its Edo period past, and Mr Nishikawa explained that this might have been due to that fact that the post town was moved inland twice after being hit by tsunami, as illustrated in the map below.

I thought it would have been rude to leave without buying something. There were quite a few items relating to Hiroshige and The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido. In the end I settled on a series of four postcards featuring a reproduction of Utagwa Yoshitora's Tokaido meisho zue (Guide to Famous Sites Along the Tokaido), which consisted of twelve separate woodblock prints that together presented a unique bird's eye view of the entire Tokaido from Tokyo to Kyoto.

A few minutes after leaving Omote Fuji I passed a monument marking one of the two spots where, due to the layout of the road, Mount Fuji appears on the left hand side of the Tokaido as seen by the traveler heading from Tokyo to Kyoto (the other is near Chigasaki in Kanagawa prefecture). These views are known as hidari Fuji ("Fuji on the left"), and the one near Yoshiwara is captured in Hiroshige's print of Yoshiwara from The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido, which itself is often referred to as Hidari Fuji. Unfortunately Mount Fuji was covered in a thick layer of cloud when I passed this spot.

I've always thought it ironic that Fuji, the city that shares its name with the most sacred mountain in Japan, has a reputation as one of the most polluted places in the entire country. At one time the city was home to as many as 200 paper mills and plagued by serious air and water pollution. Although things have improved over the years, it's still difficult to take a photo in Fuji without at least one of the area's towering smokestacks getting into the picture. In the end I gave up and started taking photos of the smokestacks themselves. If it weren't for the fact that they belch out so much smoke, perhaps it might even be possible to regard them as beautiful.

Soon ater passing Yoshiwara station (near the original site of the post town of the same name) I hit the coast again and followed it east all the way to the next post town of Numazu, although the sea itself wasn't visible from the road. To my left I could make out the base of Mount Fuji. Although it had fined up considerably, the top half of the mountain was still hidden by cloud, and would remain so for the rest of the day.

I arrived in Hara at 1pm and left the Tokaido to find a lunch place. I ended up eating a huge meal of deep-fried seafood at a Tonkatsu restaurant. I then continued on to Numazau, arriving there just after 3pm. I bought an iced coffee at a convenience store and drank it by the river.

As I was leaving Numazu I heard a siren and turned around to see an ambulance approaching from behind me. It passed me and stopped in front of a petrol station on the other side of the road. I noticed someone lying face up on the petrol station forecourt. From what I could make out, he was a motorcyclist who'd be knocked off his bike by a woman driving a small car. She'd been standing over him when the ambulance arrived. This was actually the second accident I'd witnessed during my walk, although the first one was very minor. A car had edged out into the road along which I was walking from a side street and bumped into a truck coming towards me. No one was hurt and there was only slight damage to both vehicles.

Although I was expecting it to be a fairly easy day, it took longer than I expected and I was pretty tired by the time I struggled into Mishima at 4.45pm. I stopped at Hirokoji station to take a couple of photos, including one of the Mister Donut Erik and I used to frequent back in the 1990s, when I lived in Mishima and he worked at an English conversation school in Numazu. From there I walked to Mrs Fool's parents' house, where I was staying the night. I arrived there at 5.30pm. It had been a long, hot day (all my T-shirts were either dirty or damp, so I'd been wearing a long-sleeved top). To make matters worse, my left calf was sore for most of the afternoon. Not good considering I was about to tackle the most difficult part of the Tokaido: Hakone Pass.


ted said...

Wow, another bit of serendipity. I too know Nishikawa-san, detailed in a three part series that begins here:

(My own Nakasendo walk can be found on the same site.)

I'm not even going to mention the further serendipity, that I too studied Shorinji Kempo for ten years...

Walking fool said...

Nishikawa-san was a nice guy - super friendly, and passionate about promoting the local economy. Never would have picked him as a Yamabushi!

I found your Nakasendo posts. Look forward to reading them over the coming days.