These Walking Dreams: Day 67 (June 18, 2017)

Kiso Fukushima, Nagano → 📍 Torii Pass → Shiojiri, Nagano

Map of Nagano with author’s route from Kiso Fukushima to Shiojiri highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS ⇝

Hallway of a Japanese village school.

Old Japanese school books.

Two pairs of straw boots.

Heads of millet in a woven basket. 📍 Shinkai, Nagano

There were no children now, and I wandered the corridors of the great mountain school in silence, its classrooms turned into workshops for country crafts. The building was magical, all dark wood and morning light, all creaks and echoes, pinball tables built of wood, empty, silent, and I wondered what was happening to this country, and to mine.

A roadside sumo arena.

A woman in the distance works in a rice field against a forested hillside.

Lichen-covered medieval road markers flanked by pink flowers. 📍 Shinkai, Nagano

Post towns like dark pearls on an old string dot the Nakasendō, the medieval mountain road connecting Edo with Kyōto, and lichen-covered milestones show the way. In these caravanserais of old Japan, the roads are surfaced with cobblestones, the houses are weather-darkened machiya, the food is buckwheat, and I walked in centuries-old footsteps, and drank from centuries-old springs. The past was still here — it just wasn’t very evenly distributed.

A roadside store called American Drug.

An alligator made of yarns of green wool rests on a polished wooden floor. 📍 Hiyoshi, Nagano

Photographed from a distance, a Japanese chef eats noodles at the kitchen counter of a restaurant. 📍 Oginoya Restaurant, Yabuhara, Nagano

So you don’t have a car, and you walked here?” the woman asked. We sat around the fireplace of an Edo-era restaurant, warming our feet on a cool mountain day, the high ceiling receding into the darkness. How far was it from the train station?” About ten minutes, and another two months from Kagoshima to there. Her face froze, and she immediately turned back to her husband.

The food was mountain food turned into haute cuisine, warm duck soup with hints of yuzu, cold buckwheat noodles of springy perfection. I sat in silence, the last customer of the day, and when Mr. Jinmura was satisfied that I had eaten, he cooked his own basket of noodles, shared it with his assistant, and closed his restaurant.

A yellow sign warns against bears in a forest.

Wooden planks covered in Japanese scribbles.

A view from a mountain pass reveals a village in a valley and snow-covered mountains in the distance. 📍 Torii Pass, Nagano

Storefront of an Edo-era Japanese house. 📍 Narai, Nagano

Next → Day 68, June 19

Prev. ← Day 66, June 17

These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.