Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Day 7: Imaichi - Nikko

Distance covered: 8.5 km
Weather: Cool and cloudy with drizzle

After a well-earned sleep-in, I got up at 7 am and checked my toe. It was fine. I showered, shaved and dressed and headed down to the restaurant for breakfast. Now I've had some wonderful buffet breakfasts over the years. The breakfast at the Amari Koh Samui hotel was so beautiful I videoed it and set it to a Mozart violin concerto. The Amari Phuket breakfast was probably even more lavish. They even had porridge! While nowhere near as impressive as the breakfast buffets at these Thai hotels, the spread at my hotel in Kinugawa Onsen was definitely a step up from what I had experienced at the other hotels I stayed at along the Nikko Kaido. The waitpersons were also a lot nicer. After being shown to my table, I went and toasted some wholegrain bread (sans pink swirls) on top of which I piled a couple of spoonfuls of scrambled eggs. I then filled a bowl with cereal, fruit, fruit juice, yoghurt and milk. When I finished eating this, I got a couple of pastries to have with my second cup of coffee. There were others things available, including waffles, but seeing as I was staying here three nights I decided to leave those for another day. On my way out, I asked at reception if I could change rooms. Though I had asked for a non-smoking room, the one they had put me in smelled of cigarette smoke.

I left the hotel at around 8:30 wearing my rain gear and with my bum bag around my waist but without my pack. I caught the 8:50 train back to Shimo-Imaichi and rejoined the Nikko Kaido where I had left it the previous day. There was another long avenue of cryptomerias, followed by a short stretch of narrow road clogged with cars and trucks. Unusually, there was no footpath here, making it quite unpleasant to walk along. As I approached Nikko, a man coming in the other direction stopped and asked me if I was lost. Nikko is a popular tourist destination visited by lots of foreigners, but I guess not many of them venture out this way. We chatted for a bit, and he told me he was a kind of self-appointed volunteer guide who liked helping foreign tourists find their way around. Before we parted, he gave me a detailed map of Nikko, which was helpful since my walking map only showed the parts of Nikko adjacent to the Nikko Kaido.

I arrived in central Nikko at around 11 am and had lunch at a restaurant near Tobu Nikko Station. After lunch I walked the final few kilometres of the Nikko Kaido to its end point by the Shinkyo Bridge. This final stretch was uphill, but it wasn't too steep. I took a bunch of photos of the bridge before climbing the hill on the other side of the bridge to the Toshogu Shrine. By this time the drizzle had stopped, but there was low cloud all around me, producing quite a mystical atmosphere. The autumn colours were also nice, though I had read reports that they were even nicer around Senjogahara, where I was planning to head the following day. 

Toshogu shrine is the final resting place of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. Like military strongmen and dictators the world over, Ieyasu was cruel and ruthless. But the Edo period (1603-1868), which he founded and which his clan ruled over for two and half centuries, is one of my favourite periods in Japanese history. It was during the Edo period that many aspects of Japanese popular culture that I admire, including woodblock prints, or ukiyoe, flourished. And it was Ieyasu who ordered the construction of the Nikko Kaido and the other routes that make up the Gokaido. In short, if it had not been for Tokugawa Ieyasu, I probably wouldn't have become interested in Japan, nor would I have thought of walking the Gokaido, which wouldn't have existed anyway! These were some of the thoughts that went through my mind as I wandered around the Toshogu with the hundreds of other tourists, both Japanese and foreign.

Later in the afternoon, I walked back to Tobu Nikko Station and caught the train back to my hotel at Kinugawa Onsen. That night I dined at a nearby Gusto restaurant. Back in my hotel room, I quietly celebrated the completion of my fourth epic walk in Japan with a can of Sapporo beer and some scrummy mix.

The End


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bro. What's next?

Walking fool said...

Well, there's only one left, isn't there!

Anonymous said...

Hello from Australia!

I wanted to find a way to email you directly instead of posting a comment on your blog. I could not find the way to do this, so here goes for all to read a compliment or two...

You have been a fantastic source of information for me from blog to blog. I came across your blogs while gathering info to walk the Nakasendo. I walked it in 2014, and, of course, when planning to walk the Tokaido, I went back to my favourite source: The Walking Fool. I walked the Tokaido in August/September last year. Each time, I started from Kyoto like you.

I keep hiking blogs on Tumblr, but I tend to keep them private as there are many photos of people I meet along the way. I try to protect their privacy as well as mine. I apologise about this, but, should you wish to contact me, you can email me and I will be happy to reply.. Another thing, my google address is obsolete, and t is too complicated to update it. Please, use this yahoo address instead:
francoisedx at yahoo dot com.

I can't wait to read your next blog. My Japanese is limited to simple (lower intermediate?) conversations. It is difficult for me to lfind out historical facts about the places I walk through. Reading your blog, helps me fill the gaps.

Thank you again for writing such great blogs in a style which I love: genuine, informative, empathetic, with many funny spot-on observations, and a good coverage of food consumed along the way - ha ha, my favourite part, I think!

who is 58 and not so fit, a fellow pescatarian, born in France, migrated to Australia, and spent over 5 years in Nagoya.

Walking fool said...

Hi Francoise
Thank you for your comment, and the compliments! I'm very happy to hear you found my blog not only useful, but entertaining. And congratulations on successfully walking the Nakasendo and Tokaido. I would love to see your photos. And to hear about your time in Nagoya (as you probably gathered, I lived there myself for a couple of years). So I will definitely be emailing you.