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.


9 thoughts on “Ah the temptations…

      • Time and oomph mainly. Hehehe… Actually, we’ll see how expensive the one walk is in the first place too, but I think that should not be an issue. I’ve taken SO FEW vacations in the past 20 years, that I think I’m about due. On a side note, I have to say that trying to learn Japanese when the book does not come with the CD is HARD! The StudyJapan website is certainly helpful, though.

  1. Firstly, this is no criticism of Walk Japan (I printed off a lot of information from their http://www.nakasendoway.com/ website and took it with me when I walked the Nakasendo, and their tour would be incredibly informative and a lot of fun), but I think you’ll regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t walk the entire length of the Nakasendo (or the Tokaido).

    Like you, I was inspired to walk the Tokaido after reading a book. I did nothing about it for over 25 years, then one day I realized I had no more excuses not to do it. I had the time and money. I wasn’t very fit, but I knew I could fix that with some training. And like you, I then heard about the Nakasendo. I decided to walk that instead. I enjoyed it so much I went back two years later and walked the Tokaido.

    You mention taking wrong turns, language problems, etc. But as you say, it’s an adventure, and it wouldn’t be an adventure without the odd obstacle to overcome. The only thing you seem really concerned about is your age. But I saw many people older than you walking the Nakasendo. As long as you train properly (in my case, I just walked, starting at 5km or so and slowly building up to the point where I could walk 20km plus day after day) you shouldn’t have any problems.

    As to the choice between the Nakasendo or the Tokaido, you’ve given a good summary of the differences between the two. I would point out, however, that the Tokaido isn’t really “city, highway, city, highway.” There’s still areas of countryside between the cities, and plenty of quiet roads. If you do choose the Nakasendo, there is a Hiroshige link in the form of the Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kiso Kaido (the Kiso Kaido is just another name for the Nakasendo). See here: http://www.hiroshige.org.uk/hiroshige/kisokaido/kisokaido.htm

  2. Two excellent replies, and they are in line with my thinking.

    Yes, part of the adventure IS the possibility that I could be stuck somewhere not knowing what the heck I’m doing; from all I’ve read so far, though, there are loads of helpful landmarks and people, and I fully intend to learn enough Japanese to at least find someone who can understand, well, that much Japanese (hehehe). The real accomplishment, as WalkingFool points out, is accomplishing the WHOLE walk. In Patrick Carey’s book he “cheats” a couple of times, taking a car into town when it’s very late or he’s about to get caught in a typhoon or on a side trip, but he scrupulously has a car take him back to where he left off the previous day so that he does the entire walk.

    So I shall apply my brain to WHICH of the two to walk, and as Anita says, why not both? er…not at the same time.

    Thanks so much for the hiroshige.org link. And although I’m not quite ready for it yet, if you can give me some tips on how to get hold of those route maps, I’d appreciate it. I know enough people who know enough people in Japan that I should be able to have them bought and shipped, and I will plead with poor Ito Sensei to help me translate what Ii need translated.


    • On the subject of “cheating,” Alan Booth coined the term “the Protestant walk ethic” to refer to the rejection of all forms of road transport during a walk. The desire to complete every inch of a walk is definitely something I share. George Meegan was the same. In his case he walked every inch from the bottom of South America to the top of Alaska – the longest unbroken walk in history (19,000 miles). His is another book you might like to read. It’s called The Longest Walk.

    • Ah. If it’s the same edition I read, there are some terrible typos in the first dozen or so pages, but it’s fine after that. Meegan is a real character. I think he makes a brief appearance in that Tyler McNiven video, Kintaro Walks Japan (he’s the father of Tyler’s then girlfriend, Ayumi Meegan, who accompanied Tyler part of the way).

  3. I say go for ADVENTURE. Sometimes the guided trips are okay, but having been on a couple (one in Mexico and one in DR) I felt a bit like a herded sheep. Granted, I’m sure sticking with a tour group and not waltzing off on our own in Santo Domingo without knowing more than a thimbleful of Spanish was probably the WISE choice, it did not really have any ADVENTURE to it. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a guided trip before, but when we were in DR, the guide was trilingual but as the saying goes: Jack of all trades, master of none…I had a really hard time following what he was saying. In fact I was astonished to find that we stopped at a cigar factory on our way to Santo Domingo 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s