Ah the temptations…

I’ve read WalkingFool’s Nakasendo Diary, and I must say there are things tugging at my resolve to walk the Old Tokaido. The more I read and chat with folks who’ve done one or the other or both roads between Kyoto and Tokyo, the more attractive the Nakasendo is sounding. It’s got the more picturesque areas, including a couple of carefully-restored post towns and a fair amount of nature, as opposed to city, highway, city, highway.

From what I understand both roads are nearly gone; there are bits of original paving and lined paths and markers along each route, but modernization, industrialization have covered up most of each path with highways, trains, buildings. Of the two, the Old Tokaido seems to have been covered up more than the Nakasendo.

And then there was the link I got (maybe it was on WalkingFool’s site, though I’m not sure) for WalkJapan’s. Their solution is to take small groups of hikers on trains and buses over the paved-over bits and spill them out onto the more picturesque sites. Rooms are arranged; the language is not a problem (guides are, at least, bilingual), and there aren’t problems taking wrong turns. This is such a temptations for the aging English teacher. On the other hand, the hike itself is supposedly easier along the more-traveled Tokaido.

But the convenience comes at a price: it’s certainly an adventure, but it’s not an ADVENTURE. It’s got my head in a dither.

I’ll field more opinions on which route would be the better choice (keeping in mind that my original inspiration was the Hiroshige prints but trying to be reasonably flexible). I’ll keep up the (weak but better-than-nothing) Japanese lessons, read, look at maps, follow the diaries of others, and plan. All thoughts are most welcome.


Where I walk…

The Old Tokaido is a long walk, 303 miles. And I need to be in shape. Fortunately, I’ve read several accounts of “retired people” walking the route, though many walk a bit one weekend, another the next, and so on, and I’m intending to do the whole trek in one trip. I’m going to embrace the luxury of a summer off (most CA colleges have suspended summer sessions because of budget cuts) and take my time. If I pace myself, I imagine I will have to average just about 10 miles a day. But even that will take some conditioning. I am no longer sixteen and tossing on a humongous backpack to toil up switchbacks in the Sierras.

But I love walking along the beach.  Sometimes I stay on the strand and/or bike path; at other times I’ll kick off my Van’s and walk along the sand (sometimes even letting the cool Pacific wash over my feet, though there’s always the chance that some yucky bits of tar or drink cups or worse will be in the foam).

My favorite bits are between Venice Pier and Will Rogers State Beach; if I’ve little time, though, I’ll do a quick maunder between Ocean Park and go under or onto the Santa Monica Pier and back.

OK, I could add some ground by walking from my home (about a mile from the beach), but that takes me through dull, suburban landscape.  Maybe that’s good practice.  By all accounts much of what I’ll be walking on will be highways, dense urban scapes, industrial sprawl, suburban doldrums.  The pine-tree-shaded paths and Edo-era villages with carp ponds and ancient post markers are part of the trip, but I’d better get used to the less-picturesque parts in-between.  The problem is, there are only so many ways I can get from home to the beach and back, so I’ll be looking at the same liquour-mart on 7th and Marine, the same Albertson’s on Lincoln and Ocean Park, the same soup kitchen on Rose and Bernard over and over and over.

I don’t find this a problem with the ocean.  Yes, it’s the same ocean, but it’s always moving, changing, alive, and the ozone-rich breeze, the reflection of morning light off the glossy wetsuits of surfers, the multi-colored spokes of Pacific Park’s ferris wheel–I don’t tire of these.


Well, when I get time (what’s that?), I intend to add some of the local pop nature walks (Temescal Canyon, Tuna Canyon, Will Rogers State Park) And I’m urging myself (will I listen to myself?) to exhume my t’ai chi ch’uan (Yang style) and maybe mix in a bit of work with weights. Last night I helped strike the set of the high school musical production of The Wizard of Oz; there was plenty of weight lifting involved, and I learned (again) that I am no longer sixteen.

Kintaro Walks Japan

This amazing? inspiring? humorous? informative? video was recommended to me by The Walking Fool (who has been incredibly helpful with ideas and sources):

I’ve only included part one of the video; it’s in six parts (or you can watch the entire hour-and-seven-minute video at I’ll let the YouTube blurb speak for me here:

Kintaro Walks Japan —film 67 min Kintaro Walks Japan is the meticulously filmed and edited story of Tyler MacNiven’s 2,000 mile trek from the bottom of Japan to the very top. His five-month odyssey was meant to impress a girl and to find his American father’s Japanese birthplace. Tyler arm wrestled 100-year old ladies, dodged trains in tunnels and walked into the hearts of the Japanese people, quickly becoming a celebrity. Kintarowalksjapan.com