Sunday, 14 May 2017

Day 5: Shirakawa

Distance covered: 4 km
Weather: Cloudy

Day 5 dawned cloudy but minus rain. Thankfully, my shoes and most of my clothes had dried overnight. Those items that were still damp I put in a laundry bag and attacked with a hairdryer. After breakfast, I packed and checked out of my hotel, leaving my backpack at reception to pick up before returning to Tokyo by train later in the afternoon.

With just the clothes I was wearing and my bumbag, I set off just before 9 am to rejoin the Oshu Kaido. Being a Sunday morning, apart from a few people out walking their dogs, the streets were practically deserted. It felt strange not having the weight of my pack on my shoulders. I even felt slightly guilty, as if I was somehow cheating. As I neared Komine castle, the streets became narrower and I noticed the odd ancient-looking kura. There was also the occasional dogleg, a feature still common in former castle towns and originally designed to slow and confuse attacking armies.

With less than a hundred meters to go and the castle in sight, the reality of what I was about to achieve, not just in completing this walk but in completing the task I had set myself nearly ten years earlier of walking all the go-kaido (the five Edo period highways) hit home. A feeling of pride and  contentment washed over me, but I also felt a pang of sadness, as if without that goal my life had lost some meaning. These mixed feelings stuck wth me as I passed through the gate and into the park that now surrounds the castle.

Like the majority of castles in Japan, Komine castle is a modern reconstruction. The original castle was built in the mid 14th century. It was reconstructed and expanded in the mid 17th century, only to be destroyed some two centuries later in the civil war between the forces that supported the Tokugawa shogunate and those that favoured the return of political power to the Imperial court. The three-story keep was reconstructed in 1991, and three years later one of the gates was restored. However, these structures and some of the surrounding stonework were damaged in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, and while I was able to look around inside the keep, some areas of the grounds were still being repaired and were fenced off.  

After a leisurely lunch, I walked to the nearby Shirakawa station and took a train one stop to Shin-Shirakawa station. I walked to my hotel, picked up my pack, and returned to the station to catch the 1.56 pm bullet train back to Tokyo. The journey back to Tokyo took just under an hour and a half. Along the way we made a brief stop at Utsunomiya, where four days earlier I began this walk. The bullet train covered the 90 km in 25 minutes!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do not fret, the path is the goal.