For Christmas 2010 a good friend gave me a copy (1959, third edition) of Hiroshige’s Tokaido in Prints and Poetry.

A Southern-California English teacher since the mid-70’s, I guess I’ve got a bit of an imagination (who doesn’t).  I’m not a “bucket list” kind of guy, but there’s just something so alluring about the idea of walking the 53 posts of Japan’s eastern-sea-view road captured so stunningly in Hiroshige’s prints, that I’ve decided to work my way up to it by Summer 2012.

It’s not unique; it’s been written about in books, such as Patrick Carey’s Rediscovering the Old Tokaido: in the Footsteps of Hiroshige, but it will be new to me.  I’m older and creakier than Carey and some of my predecessors (such as Christchurch’s The Walking Fool–see link on the home page), but, as I said, I’m a teacher, and that means I have time off to do such things.  My daughter, off to college in Fall, says she wants to make the trek with me, and she would be amazing company, AND she speaks some Japanese.

So this blog will be my journal.  I’ll see what information I can gather, grab the gear I need, make plans (and maybe some fall-backs), and, I hope, keep a log of a 303-mile journey along the coast of a country I’ve never been to.

It should be a blast!

🙂 John Corbally

17 thoughts on “About

  1. John
    I was delighted to stumble upon your website (I was busy googling my own name on the Huff Post – no result – but followed the Post’s links and found my name on your site. I don’t want tocrash in on your journey but

    • What an amazing honor. Thanks so much. Actually, I initially looked for a means of contacting you through the school you taught (teach?) at, but I reached a dead end. After I’d seen that you beat me to finding Hiroshige’s views years ago, I thought I might record what’s there now–a lovely rice field might now be a multi-tiered car park. As I get closer to the “poring over maps” stage, I may have questions. Not speaking Japanese (I’m learning bits, but I won’t have any sort of fluency by next year) will make it harder for me to ask locals where I can pick up remnants of the old road, but you and walkingfool (from Christchurch) and some others have unraveled some of the maze-like sections in your book, his blog.

    • That’s a great question. Walkingfool (from New Zealand) said he got a series of maps from Japan; they are in Japanese and are from a walking club.

      I’ve found sections of the Tokaido mapped by tourist organizations, and other sections I sort of have to guess from start/end spots.

      Patrick Carey (quite a few years ago) found that some areas of the walk are not consistent with
      older maps, and he spent a fair amount of times asking older individuals in confusing areas where the path took up again. But I think that the best day-to-day description comes from WalkingFool’s tour of the old Tokaido. He went from south to north (I’m planning going from north to south), and he has a lot of detail on his site.


  2. Also, I’ve apparently been living quite close to the Yoshiwara post for the past couple of years without knowing the significance of it. My dingy old bus station is right next to a ryokan that’s been housing travelers since the Edo era.

  3. AHA! I was just going to suggest you click the link on my blog’s homepage to the Shizuoka site; there are indeed detailed maps of all of the stations in that stretch, and I was going to search out LIKE maps/comments on the rest of the route. I’m guessing this is the work of your colleague. It’s in Japanese AND English. I’m guessing that it’s designed for tourism, but that’s super; after all, I’ll be a tourist!


  4. Hi John, in doing research for a photo grant proposal that involves photographing the Tokaido, I found your blog and have just finished reading through your entries. Thank you for your tip, links, and thoughts. Have you gone on the trip yet? How is your Japanese going? Best to you.

    • The trip has not been forgotten, but I’ve been focused on kids in college, and I’m hoping that my daughter will be able to accompany me once she completes here B.A. (of course, as I get older, she may have to DRAG me the length of the road, but I am heartened by many stories of folks much older than I walking the Tokaido. If i get too creaky, then I may just have to make it an extended trip when I retire and do what Shif is doing, walking segments. There is an advantage living in Japan (which I don’t have), but once I have gobs of free time, I suppose I can stay as long as I like (or as long as they will have me).
      I’d love to see your photo-work once you’ve done your trip.

      • My late wife and I walked selected portions of the Kyu-Kaido in 1967 for a week, staying in Ryokans, mostly found as we arrived there. We had the great benefit of selections and detailed instructions from a close friend, Ted Wassam, who had hiked the entire trail from Edo to Kyoto one summer with a Japanese friend. One of the fondest memories we have. Your web site inspires me to go back and find our old Kodachrome slides and have them digitized. It was the little experiences on the route that are so memorable, like the train conductor at one town where we arrived without clear directions for finding the path. We asked him directions and he said “Choto Matte”–wait a minute if I have spelled it correctly. He changed into his civilian clothes and accompanied us the entire 10 mile walk, translating signs such as the inscription on the old temple bell at a shrine that identified it as a 7th century bell.


      • Your memory paints a picture of a terrific trip. It also brought to mind MY Kodachrome slide trays (and projector) which have been in a closet for decades now. My walking tours of England back in the 70’s fill several trays, and I really should get those re-formatted.

        My daughter and I watched a French documentary (I will post an item on it because it really is a very current “walk” of the Old Tokaido) that has re-energized both of us to do the walk. Tentatively, when she gets a break in her graduate school research, we plan to see what we can do. Thank goodness she speaks a little Japanese, and she offers great encouragement. For now she has me in the gym getting in shape 🙂

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