PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 The oddly pleasant smell of burning mosquito coils wafted through the upstairs-room window as I slipped into chu-hi-enhanced sleep. Then sometime after midnight I was shaken awake by tremors rippling through the tatami — wondered in the morning if I’d dreamed them till Andrew told me they’d originated up north, somewhere near the site of the Fukushima disaster. Advertisements
Spider, are you crying, or the Autumn wind? ~ Basho I’ve been in a mental Nowheresville lately. Lou Reed’s passing hit me harder than I can explain or even understand, and of late my day-to-day routine here in south-eastern Korea seems even less meaningful than before. Haven’t felt like blogging or doing anything much at all except listening to old songs, skyping my girlfriend and sighing a lot while I shuffle around.
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOKYO, 2013 I seemed to spend half my waking life on the Chuo Line when I lived in Tokyo. Now I was once again jumping into one of the familiar orange carriages at Nishi Kokubunji, playing a little game of Guess the Next Station from Memory as our kaisoku (rapid) train sped inbound: Kokubunji, Musashi-Koganei, Higashi-Koganei, Musashi-Sakai, Mitaka — and then the next stop on my high-speed visit to places from my Tokyo past: Kichijoji.
PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR TOKYO, SEPTEMBER 2013 The flight to Japan was the easy part. A couple of hours from Busan we were swooping over a green and crumpled landscape. With a surge of long-dormant affection I gazed down on the farmland and mountains that, even from that height, seemed comfortingly familiar. And what a thrill to recognise an old pal (and on one occasion a formidable foe) in the last light of Wednesday:
Tokyo was a trip. I’m still recovering: my calves are sore, I’m rundown and cranky — and waking from a dream adventure to find yours is the only discernible pulse in a classroom full of dead-eyed rag dolls is the cruelest of reality crashes. What I really need, though, is a post-holiday holiday to grab some sleep. I spent one night in a wet sleeping bag on a 1,364m mountaintop harassed by God’s searchlight, a Chuseok full moon (just as I was a year ago on the third-highest peak in Korea). The following night, my last in Tokyo, was likewise far from restful. Bedding down in the bushes in a buzzing megalopolitan park seldom is.
This afternoon I collapse onto another plane to begin my Chuseok holiday; a mercifully brief two hours later I’ll be landing at Narita for three days and four nights in Tokyo. I can’t wait.
Hey, all. It’s been a while, eh? Well, first the bad news (with me, you always get the bad news first): my significant other is no more. Relax, not Kate — we’re doing fine! At least, we were last time I checked. No, my once-trusty MacBook Pro bit the dust yesterday, a crippling blow to the world of medium-quality blogging. She just up and died after a mere three years of (admittedly heavy-duty) service. Suddenly I feel like the Lone Ranger without his Native American trusty steed.
Back to Japan this post, folks: freezing Hokkaido and the beginning of my ill-fated and immediately disastrous attempt to walk the length of Japan from top to bottom in 2008 (my friend Chris was down in the tropical south, walking north).
..a queasy, disorienting feeling came over me. Something was missing. I stood there on the roadside, checked for wallet, sunglasses, lens cap, glasses: all present. I clicked on the camera, reviewed the last shots from my Sineo-San walk, trying to spark a memory, saw this one of the cherry-bordered mountain road I’d just descended…
I was much disturbed by the barking of a dog, an animal that I fear more than any wolf. A dog is vastly braver, and is besides supported by the sense of duty. If you kill a wolf, you meet with encouragement and praise; but if you kill a dog, the sacred rights of property and the domestic affections come clamouring round you for redress.
Back to Japan this time, folks — back to that endless, awful, spectacularly beautiful road snaking into the centre of silent, eerie Hokkaido…
You’re probably as relieved as I am that my latest Moreton saga has concluded. Now I’m left with a knife-gouge in my belly where I dug out the tick, a sea-turtle breast-plate on my kitchen shelf, assorted souvenir molluscs, sand still turning up in odd places, and some very pleasant memories.
Imagine being sued by a poet — could there be any crueller indignity?
I was on the pilgrim path. The real one. My own personal, spontaneously devised pilgrimage through southern Shikoku had wound up the day before. But that’s another story. This one started in a ratty park in a worn-down fishing town, a secret tent-site in the bushes.
Walking through Hokkaido, and then Shikoku, Japan, in 2008, I would often pause for a quick snap of the hilarious warning signs so common along roadsides, on creek banks and electrical facilities, and at trailheads. For me, with my feeble Japanese-language skills, the seemingly infantile imagery was a useful aid in comprehending the supposed danger looming ahead.
APRIL, 2008 I start hard and early and won’t let myself pause till I’ve cleared the outer edge of Sapporo. So much frustration and worry to burn off. The city emerges as the sluggish late-winter sun crawls above the snowy peaks…
There is something about my appearance that brings out the worst even in a normally well-mannered dog. It may have to do with my hunched-up pack or rapid gait. Or the way I swing my arms. Perhaps dogs know intuitively that I dislike the sound of a bark as much as the cry of babies or Siamese cats. Or it could be that I just look and smell a bit trampish. Whatever the reason I view all dogs on the loose as potential assailants… ~ John Hillaby, ‘Journey Through Europe‘ I have been harassed by dogs while walking on four continents.They are easily my least-favourite local fauna. I have nothing against the creatures in theory — the idea of them. I’ve had a few mutts in my life and we got along nicely. But Mr Hillaby might be right about the pack: It sets the buggers off. Many’s the time I’ve been grateful that I usually walk with trekking poles. But even pack-less, they will often take me on, or at least give me a …
These days, much of Iya has been devoured by what [Alex] Kerr calls the Moloch, with the silence broken by the sound of jackhammers as multi-lane highways and ghastly concrete hotels sprang up to serve people flocking to see the view.
April Fool’s Day had seemed like a good joke when I chose it as my starting date back in Tokyo. Plus, I really couldn’t wait anymore.
Japan suffers from a severe case of “pave and build” mentality. “Pave and build” is the idea that huge, expensive, man-made monuments are a priori wonderful, that natural surfaces smoothed over and covered with concrete mean wealth, progress, and modernism” ~ Alex Kerr, ‘Dogs and Demons’