Saturday, 13 June 2009

Day 24: Kawasaki - Nihonbashi (19.7km)

I got up at 5.30am, showered, shaved and dressed, and then breakfasted on the bread, yoghurt, and iced coffee I'd bought at a convenience store the night before. My toe hadn’t given me any trouble for several days, so I left the bandage off and put a simple plaster on it.

I left at 8.30am. A couple of kilometres down the road I crossed the Tama River, which marks the boundary between Kanagawa prefecture and metropolitan Tokyo. On the other side of the bridge I paused for a few minutes to watch people at a golf practice range below. There were three tractor-like vehicles going around sweeping up the balls. Imagine driving one of those for a living!

I followed Route 15 for a while, eventually turning off at a memorial marking the location of the old Suzugamori execution ground, described on a nearby plaque as one of the "hundred scenic spots in Shinagawa". For the next couple of kilometres I followed a quiet shopping street. This is probably the only place within metropolitan Tokyo where people can experience something of the atmosphere of the old Tokaido, and I noticed quite a few people with maps and small backpacks exploring the area.

At noon I passed Shinagawa station. I'd been walking for three and a half hours without a proper break. It was time for lunch but I couldn’t find a place I liked the look of. I eventually stopped at a Segafredo coffee shop near the Sengakuji subway station and had a panini, a salad, and a cup of coffee. Soon after getting underway again I spotted Tokyo Tower and climbed a pedestrian overbridge to get a better view.

My surroundings were starting to look very familiar. At 1pm I found myself in front of Tamachi station, very close to my old university. At 1.20pm I passed Hamamatsu-cho station, just along from the hotel where I once worked. Then at 1.40 I reached Ginza. I was delighted to find that, being a Saturday, the street was blocked to traffic. I was able to walk down the middle of the street, although I noticed that a lot of the Japanese people around me still stuck to the footpaths.

My attention was drawn to a sumo wrestler in a yukata and I took his photo just in case he was famous. (It turns out he was an up-and-coming young wrestler by the name of Toyohibiki.)

I continued my parade through Ginza. I passed the famous Matsuya department store on my right and the Apple store on my left.

At 2.05pm I turned the final bend before Nihonbashi, which I could now see ahead of me in the distance. The brilliant weather, the lack of traffic, the knowledge that I was near my goal all combined to make me feel pretty elated. A few hours earlier I was eager to get to Nihonbashi, but now I wanted to make these final moments last. I saw an Excelsior coffee shop and decided to stop for one last iced coffee and a slice of cheesecake.

I got underway again at 2.30pm and slowly walked the final few hundred metres to the bridge that marks the eastern terminus of the Tokaido. It felt strange coming to the end of such a marathon journey alone. In 2007 I'd approached the same spot from the opposite direction after walking the Nakasendo with my friend Erik. Back then we'd hugged and congratulated ourselves when we got to the bridge before getting a passerby to take a couple of photos of us together. This time there would be no such celebrations.

I decided that I'd mark the occasion by taking some photos of myself with Nihonbashi in the background. Then I realized that I'd never photographed myself before with my still camera, so I took a few test shots as I neared my goal. When I reached the bridge it took me several tries before I managed to take a photo with both my face and the nameplate clearly visible. I hung around for a few minutes taking some more photos and then headed to my hotel down the road.

That evening I dined in my hotel room on a packet of potato crisps and a can of beer, followed by some fresh bread I'd bought at a bakery, an assortment of cheeses, a salad, some strawberry panna cotta, and a small bottle of white wine. I fell asleep in front of the TV at 8.30pm.

The End


Walking fool said...

Although he has the name Toyohibiki on his yukata, the sumo wrestler in the photo isn't actually Toyohibiki, but probably one of his attendants.

Coco said...

Hi thank you for your blog. I have just found it while doing research for my epic Japan thru hike in 2016. (Based on Alan Booth's book but making up my own trail)

I can't decide if I should take the Nakasendo route or the Tokai route to get from Tokyo to Kyoto, and since you walked both maybe you could be so kind and tell me which one you think I should chose.

Your input would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you and kind regards from Switzerland

web01 (at) truan (dot) org

Walking fool said...

Hi Olivier
Thanks for your comment. I will send you an email with some thoughts on your questions. Let me know if you don't hear from me in the next few days.

Millardi said...

Dear Sir,

I am so enchanted by your journey. Thank you very much for writing the blog. It has now become my biggest goal to go through the tokaido route like you did. I have been reading about it for a few weeks and I don't find much information in English. May I know what map/road atlas do you use? Where did you buy it from?

I'm planning to do the reverse, from Kyoto to Tokyo, on bicycle, hopefully in March 2015. Thank you for your kind attention and I wish you a good day.

Warm regards,
m (dot) nadesul (at) gmail (dot) com

Walking fool said...

Hi Millardi

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you found this blog helpful.

I used a Japanese walking map, similar to the map I used when I walked the Nakasendo, which I wrote about here:
I ordered this by email and had it delivered to a Japanese address.

If you search google you will also find various online versions. I am going to use a map I found online when I walk the Niko Kiado later this year.

Note that you will not be able to cycle some sections of the original Tokaido, as they are walking tracks only, sometimes with steps. But if you don't mind avoiding these sections (by cycling on the road, for example), you can still do it. I'm sure there are lots of people who have cycled from Kyoto to Tokyo roughly following the original Tokaido. Reading about their experiences may be more helpful than those of someone who walked the route.

Anyway, good luck!

Millardi said...

Dear Sir,

Thank you very much for your response! I wish you all the best for your next journeys!

With kind regards,