Saturday, 25 September 2010

Day 8: Otsuki - Uenohara

Distance covered: 21.3km
Weather: Cloudy then fine

It was raining when I peeked out my hotel room window at 5am, but by the time I got up at 6am the rain had stopped. I breakfasted from 7am (as at the other Route Inn hotel I'd stayed in at Nirasaki, the bread selection was poor and I went Japanese-style: squid rings, mini-omelets, salad, fruit, rice and miso soup). I then packed a few essentials in my bum bag and donned my rain jacket (it was the coolest morning so far) before walking to the station to catch the train back to Otsuki. The departure information board showed a train bound for Otsuki and Fujinomiya departing at 8.06am, but thinking I was at Otsuki instead of Uenohara I didn't get on. I had to wait for the next train to Otsuki, which didn't leave until 8.26am.

I reached Otsuki at 8.45am and rejoined the Koshu Kaido. A few kilometres down the road I came to the Sarubashi, or Monkey Bridge, which officially ranks as one of Japan's "three most unusual bridges". The present bridge is a 1984 replica of the original, which was probably built in the early 7th century. The unusual design is a result of the support mechanism necessitated by the inability to use columns given the distance (31 metres) between the bridge and the river below.

A Hiroshige print showing Sarubashi

I followed Route 20 to Torisawa, where I bought some hot chips at a convenience store before leaving the busy main road. For the rest of the day I was walking on much quieter roads which, after an initial steep climb, took me through pleasant, rolling countryside including the old post towns of Inume and Nodajiri.

A couple of times I crossed the Chuo Expressway, one of the two main highways connecting Tokyo and Nagoya. After the second of these crossings I spotted a large "service area" - a covered mall-like complex containing souvenir shops and restaurants for people traveling on the expressway - and decided to have lunch there. However, eating at one of the restaurants required queuing to buy a ticket, so I bought some bread at a bakery and ate outside instead. It felt strange rubbing shoulders with all the city folk with their fine clothes and lap dogs. Sweaty and wearing casual walking gear, I felt even more out of place than usual.

View of the service area where I had lunch (behind the trees on the
right) and the Kanto plain (through the gap in the hills on the horizon)

By now the cloud had mostly disappeared and it was fine and warm. I left the service area and continued on to Uenohara, arriving at around 3.30pm. For dinner I bought some cold soba noodles, sushi, and a purin at a convenience store and ate in my room.

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