My most recent stage of walking the ÅŒyama KaidÅ was the longest single stage, at something over 20km, plus walking to and from the railway stations at the beginning and end. I did it on February 13th, because I was very tired, and needed a break. Since the tiredness was primarily mental, walking about 30km in a day was, in fact, an excellent way to deal with it; I felt much better afterwards. In fact, my legs weren’t even sore the next day, so my habit of walking to and from the stations on normal days has paid off.
This stage was still largely urban, but I was finally getting away from the Tokyo sprawl, so the amount of green space started to increase. In addition, as I was getting closer to ÅŒyama, it became a common sight on the journey. Indeed, there were quite a few stretches where the road was straight, and the mountain was clearly framed between the buildings lining the road. In this case, it’s easy to imagine that the straightness of the road isn’t due to careful planning, but due to people just walking straight towards the mountain so that they didn’t get lost, in the days before GPS-equipped smartphones.
Speaking of those, once again I had to use my smartphone to track down a ten-metre hill. It was hidden behind some buildings, and the indication of its location on the map in the guidebook wasn’t quite right, but the fact that this is the second time I’ve not been able to find a hill is a little frustrating.
This mound also had a small stone shrine on top, and it claimed to be “Mitake Shrine”. It was a bit small for that, but Google maps also recognise it as such, so it presumably played a more important role at some point in the past. The same could be said of a lot of the shrines that I passed. One in particular, a Hie Shrine, had two mikoshi and a small Inari Shrine that someone clearly paid a lot of attention to, because it had offerings of red rice with fried bean curd, hand-made flags, and bamboo stuck in the ground along the approach. However, the shrine had no precincts to speak of, sharing the ground with the store rooms for the local fire-fighting group (not the full-time fire service). In that case, the shrine may well have had a long association with the fire fighters, but, in any case, it was hard to escape the feeling that it had fallen on relatively hard times.
Another shrine I visited did not have that problem. This was Shimo Tsuruma Suwa Shrine. It wasn’t actually on the ÅŒyama KaidÅ, but I passed a sign indicating that a small side road was a short cut to it, so after debating for a bit whether I had time, I went to have a look.
I’m very glad I did. The shrine had a really good atmosphere, with the main shrine lined up with three sub-shrines (an Inari shrine, a Yasaka shrine, and a Furumine and Akiba shrine sharing the same structure), as well as an area set off as the old site of the shrine. There was a priest present, and I was able to get a goshuin, the only one I managed to get this time round. I also spoke to them a bit, explaining about my plan to walk along the ÅŒyama KaidÅ, and they seemed to think that was a good idea. They also said very nice things about my Japanese ability, so I’m clearly not that good yet. In any case, this is a shrine I’d quite like to go back to at some point.
I arrived in Atsugi in early evening, crossing the river into the town as the sun was setting behind ÅŒyama.
The walk is very interesting to me, but there isn’t a great deal to say about it, because the main interest comes from actually seeing more areas of Japan around here, and describing them in a blog just isn’t the same. I do plan to keep writing about it; two more stages should get me to ÅŒyama, and there might be a bit more to say about the shrine at the end of the journey. The journey may be the point, but the destination is likely to be easier to talk about.