Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Sugar Road II

The other day Mrs Fool glanced up from the book she was reading and asked, "What was the name of that route in Kyushu you mentioned the other day?"
"The Nagasaki Kaido," I replied. "Why?"
"Well, it's mentioned in this book I'm reading."

Ubazakari hana no tabigasa: Oda Ieko no Azumaji nikki by Tanabe Seiko is a historical novel based on the diary of Oda Ieko, the wife of a Kyushu merchant who in 1840 set off with three women friends and several porters and bodyguards on a 3200-kilometre, five-month journey on foot that took them to among other places Miyajima, Osaka, Nara, Ise, Nikko, and Edo. Along the way they composed traditional Japanese poems, or waka, which are also included in the book. Oda was 52 years old at time, making her quite elderly given that the average life expectancy in Japan in the late-Edo period was somewhere in the late thirties. This explains the ubazakari of the title, which means something like "the prime of old-womanhood".

A couple of days after this conversation, Mrs Fool again brought up the subject of the Nagasaki Kaido.
"How long would it take to walk?" she asked.
"About ten days. Why?"
"Why don't we walk it together?"

It turns out she had been discussing the book with some Japanese friends over lunch, and they all agreed it would be a wonderful experience to do something like the walk undertaken by the women in the novel. Then Mrs Fool told them about my walking exploits, and they convinced her she should join me if and when I walk the Nagasaki Kaido.

Mrs Fool and I have done a few short walks together, but I never imagined the two of us would attempt anything on this scale. Things are still very much in the early planning stage. Mrs Fool doesn't want to be in Kyushu in autumn as it gets quite a few typhoons at that time of the year, and summer and winter are out for obvious reasons (too hot and too cold respectively), so the earliest we would consider doing it is the northern hemisphere spring of 2011. That would give me time to walk the Koshu Kaido on my own first, perhaps in October this year.


Anonymous said...

Walking Fool,

I have read through your posts over the last year. I have cycled the Nakasendo twice, Hokkaido, Shikoku and am working on a new route for this August. As I don't live in Japan and can not read Japanese, it takes me hundreds of hours to put together the Nakasendo route for example. (nice to see someone has generated a .kmz file lately) Moving forward... I am working on the Shio no Michi as a plan for this year... can you point me in the direction of a map publication or some general ideas which helps me plot the exact route? Such an easy task becomes complicated without the local access to a book store or not being able to read say 99% of the web information on all old roads in Japan. I did my last Nakasendo trip in 2007 and found your blog last year... a great read. Look forward to your reaching out to me.

Walking fool said...

Cycling the Nakasendo must have been interesting. Did you do it in the opposite direction the second time? Did you cycle up/down the hiking trail over Usui Pass?

I must admit I don't know much about the Shio no Michi. I have a few ideas about maps etc, for non-Japanese readers. I'll send you an email soonish.