Day 2 – Walking The Nakasendo, Japan
I am surprised to see how achy we are after only one long day of walking.
I thought we were in better shape.
We have been walking long hours for days recently, yet here we are: I have developed a small blister on my right foot, and Jules has a big blister between his toes.
By midday, we have achy feet and achy shoulders from carrying our bags, and I am feeling moody and admittedly grumpy.
I try to understand why I am feeling grumpy.
The answer is that it is not fun walking this long stretch of road.
No wonder everyone who intends to walk The Nakasendo skips this part of the road, and starts in the mountains, where the scenery is lovely and nature provides some diversion from the tedious boredom of walking.
There is nothing to see but a long stretch of hair salons, food chain restaurants, clinics, pet hospitals, bike shops, huge beauty supply shops and convenience shops.
At least it is easy to find places to pee, and plenty of choices of places to eat.
Last night I dreamt of long asphalt streets, stone markers, and Shinto shrines with Vermilion gates.
The scenery we walked through passed through my mind like a motion picture with no narrative.
I am weary of the idea of the long road ahead….
It is only the beginning of April, but the days feel so hot here, maybe because
it is the long walk on the hot asphalt that makes it feel so hot.
At our hotel, I enjoyed a Japanese breakfast of salty pickles, steamed rice, miso soup, steamed tofu, a small salad, natto (fermented soybeans) and a tofu patty.
We walked from the post town of Warabi through the post town of Uwara to the post town of Omiya, ending our day of walking in the post town of Ageo.
We began our walk today at 10:30 am, and ended late, at 9pm.
It was possible to do this because we were staying at a hotel, not in a Ryokan or guest house, where they want the guests there no later than 5PM or 6PM, for dinner.
After two days of walking late, we decided that we shall not do it any more.
We plan to begin walking at around 9:00am, and finish walking at 5:00pm.
This will include an hour break for lunch, and another hour divided into two half hours, for coffee or tea breaks during the day.
In this way, we will walk about eight hours per day, but only six of them will be actual active walking time.
We should be able to cover between 20-24 km per day, based on our average speed of about 4 km per hour, including time for sightseeing and photographing.
We took a long break in a cafe to enjoy some iced coffees, and I didn’t want to leave the cafe and start walking again.
The break at the Tully’s Cafe (a chain of cafes similar to Starbucks) felt very rejuvenating.
We walked further northwards, through the old post towns that are now fairly large cities with dense populations.
From Warabi to Ageo, there were a few small Shinto shrines, but not much else to remind us of the history of the Nakasendo.
The small trading villages that we passed through were calmer and quieter, but with very few older, preserved houses or other buildings.
Some of the shops we passed included pet grooming salons, homes for the elderly and many small clinics.
I felt very sad to see the condition of the human race, forgetting its own spiritual glory and submitting to a sad life, believing they are at the mercy of lack and fleeting arbitrary health.
How sad that the end of a life, will be so frail and affected so greatly by the passing of time, which does not even exist….
I felt sad seeing the fragile elderly in wheelchairs, being lifted into the van by a mechanical device.
They were told to hold their hands at their chest, to avoid hurting their fingers.
How sad….what happened to the young strong mothers they used to be, raising children, carrying babies and juggling jobs…. why, in such a few short years, did they become. such old and incapable beings?…..
But then, often an elderly lady would pass me, cycling on her bike, carrying food that she had bought in the supermarket, speeding up sidewalks and mingling perfectly into the busy traffic.
Some old people are so strong and active, while others are so frail and needy….
By 3:30pm, we have walked 16 km and were ready for a late lunch.
Since it was past lunchtime the choices of places open to eat were small.
We stopped in a chain of restaurants called Yayoi, in Omiya.
They have pictures of the dishes, and you have to buy them through a machine.
We ordered eggplant stewed in miso, along with a small piece of chargrilled mackerel, a bit of tofu, miso soup and a salad.
Our orders then got delivered to our table by a waitress.
Like we knew, very few people outside of the major tourist areas in Japan speak any English.
Mournful jazz was playing in the restaurant.
We ate our food quietly, listening to the piano accompanying the singer performing in the background.
There is no use complaining or even sharing and talking about our boredom and pain.
There was something charming, and a bit quaint about the place, and the food was basic but very good!
After lunch we walked another four hours and it was already dark when we reached Ageo.
From Ageo, we had to take the train to our hotel.
By the time we arrived at our hotel area, we were so tired and with such painful feet, that all we wanted to do was shower and rest.
I had no appetite for dinner.
Usually walking makes one hungry, but here I was, after hours of walking, completely unable to eat.
We picked up some fruits and nuts at a local supermarket and went back to the room to take a shower.
Ten minutes after his shower, Jules was asleep.
I was unable to fall asleep until past midnight.
It must have been the two iced coffees I had…
I looked at Jules with his raw blisters, and hoped he will be fine…
Day 2 – Stats:
Stations/ Post Towns visited – Warabi to Urawa to Omiya to Ageo- all in Saitama Prefecture
Total walking time 9 hours
Active walking time 6.5 hours
Total steps: 37,063 steps
Daily Kilometer 27 Kilometers
Total Kilometers walked up to date: 56 Kilometers
Accommodation: Royal Pines hotel Urawa