Today was so much fun! I got lost numerous times which made it even better.
Lets start from the beginning shall we? Getting out there was only a minor trouble. I had to switch trains once, so I got on the wrong train, went back a station, went forward again, ask someone, and took the right train.
I knew it was going to be fun as soon as I arrived. Sagamiko is beautiful small town with narrow streets, surrounding hills, and a lake. For the first 30 minutes or so I wandered around town (which gathers quite a few stares that far out from touristy locations). Imagine a Japanese guy wandering the back alleys of Gainesville taking pictures. Weird, right? That was me. Anyway, before heading out around the lake and to see the other small towns around I decided that lunch was a good idea. I picked a restaurant down by the water front and just ordered whatever she suggested (some sort of ramen that was quite delicious). Then I hit the road, just walking on the footpath of the main road connecting all the little towns I went to. About half a mile in though I see this little road winding up into the mountains with a sign that I can’t read; so of course I go.
Here is where the real hiking began. I walked up this hill until I to this small shrine next to someone’s house:
After that I continued up the path a little farther to discover it just plunged into the hill. Challenge accepted. Right off the bat I come across a little grave/shrine just a few feet off the path. I took tons of pictures (none of them any good) but you can get an idea for the terrain. It was breathe-taking and great exercise. Up and down hills, across streams on little foot bridges, 1 foot wide paths on the side of a hill, etc. The whole time you are walking under a canopy of trees, bamboo, and vines. The whole thing was wonderfully marked but obviously not too busy as I only came across one couple right at the beginning. I really had no idea where I was, I just figured I’d find my way back from wherever it dumped me out at. In perfect tune with Spirited Away (a Japanese movie that is really good btw) I stumble upon what else but a Paddington Bear theme park. Awesome. How can you complain about wandering an hour through the forest and ending up at a theme park?
At this point I realized that among all the things I packed in my backpack, water was not one of them. A definite lack of foresight that will have to be remedied next time. Luckily there was a facet (I think actually for watering the flowers at many little family graveyards scattered throughout all the towns). Hopefully that wasn’t sack religious (or dangerous) to drink. I’ll just chalk it up to picking wheat on the Sabbath.
I had yet to look at a map and I kept it that way for quite a while. On the assumption that I was in the little town I had been heading to, I took the general direction that would take me to a shrine. I was not in the town I thought I was in. I ran across a little shrine in town, but the one I was expecting to find was a bit into the hills. With that knowledge, I headed up the first path into the hills I found. This was an even less traveled path, made obvious by the trees and spider webs blocking the path every ten feet. For some reason that didn’t deter me. I just kept on walking up and up and up until the path ended. But there was such a nice little stream with huge boulders all around and little remnants of path here and there, so, even after the path ended, I thought I’d go just a little bit further. A “little bit further” turned out to be a 45 minute hike straight up hill into the middle of nowhere. At this point I decided I should maybe look at my map (tablet with gps). It told me not only was I in the middle of nowhere, I was about half a mile west of where I thought I was. Looking at the map of my path, that is the giant line going out straight into the hills. Nothing there but very pretty hills. And lots of climbing. Lots and lots of climbing with sandals and a backpack. A walking stick (and the fact that it was downhill) made the trip back much faster though. Here was my walking stick. It performed its duty admirably.
On the way back to the right city, I notice another little path. You woulda thought I learned my lesson right? Apparently not. I took this one too. It turned out to be much better kept though; more like a small dirt road than a mountain path. I think it was probably the road connection these cities to Sagamiko 50-100 years ago as all the old stone markers were labeled “Sagamiko” in kanji. This is actually one that was way up on that hill I got lost on:
After another hour or something, walla! Suddenly I was in another town. This time the right town and I was using my map so I even knew it was the right town. After a little help from a family of locals, I was on my way to the shrine I had been, in a very indirect way, heading towards since I got off the train. Completely worth it. The first thing I noticed walking up was this absolutely massive pine tree. The pictures cannot do it justice. I have no idea how old it was, but it was most certainly the largest tree other than a redwood I have ever seen. One of its roots (which I took a picture next to) is the size of a normal tree.
Besides that this temple had a little (washing?) room built under a massive boulder. How cool is that? To top it off they had a giant bell with paintings over it.
And when I got done looking at all that, I ran across a kid (who might be the son of whoever takes care of the shrine) playing out front. He had no idea I was there so I just stood and watched for a few seconds as he would throw up a ball, catch it, and yell and cheer like he just made the game-winning catch. Then I walked by and I’m not sure whether he was mad, embarrassed, or just totally confused as to what a white guy was doing 3 miles from the closest train station 40 miles outside Tokyo. Probably all three.
The long walk home wasn’t near as fun as everything else. I had to stick to the streets and walk as fast as I could. I realized that I had no idea when the last train left Sagamiko station and I was not planning on staying the night (although there was a Bed and Breakfast like thing). I booked it all the way back to the station but did get a wonderful view of the river.
And here is a pic of the hills I walked through. See that Ferris wheel? That is the one I walked out by.
Upon arriving huffing, puffing, and sore at the station I found that the trains run all night there. All that effort had to be rewarded somehow, so I bought a parfait at a little café run by a nice old couple. It was delightful but my exhaustion may have augmented my taste buds, especially for ice cream and chocolate.
It was a great day of exploring and I am going to be sore for a few days I think. I’ve got to do it again. Maybe I’ll just pick another little town a little farther down the line, or in a completely different direction. Probably both.
Forgot to add, this is my path (kinda, I think):