19.5: Hedonistic Zen Monk -- Extradition
I returned to my hut on the riverbank last autumn, and by the
time I had swept away the cobwebs, the year was over.
The last hour of my journey back was on a local train through
the suburbs of Tokyo. I looked at the usually bland and gray
cityscape with fresh eyes, spotting the touches of whimsy here and
there: painted murals on an expressway noise barrier, an immense
piano mounted atop a piano factory, riots of color and neon at
pachinko parlors... Stifling tropical heat. The smell of moisture
and decay. Beautiful women in microskirts. Snippets of techno
beat emanating from doorways. 30 million people in motion, walking,
surging, crowding, noise and energy all around! And, to my own
surprise, I found it downright invigorating. I've had enough
mountains and temples for the moment, now I just want a good party.
Of the 100000 yen I left home with, precisely 105 yen remained.
The rest had gone up in a puff of onsen steam, except for two towels,
one T-shirt, a set of business cards and amazing memories. Someday,
somehow, I will return and take my time. Unfortunately, taking
3 months for the trip, the way Basho did it, would at current
rates cost approximately 1 million yen, if spending an average of
10000 yen per day for 100 days.
I was planning to release a separate hitching supplement, but I
ended up hitching so little that I'll just concatenate it here.
Getting from Tokyo onto the Toohoku Expressway was painless as far
as Tokyo departures go, the route outlined by ASS works quite well.
First, find your way to Hasuda on the JR Utsunomiya line (departures
from Tokyo and Shinjuku). At Hasuda station, take the east exit
and take Tobu bus #4 from platform #3 -- the information scattered
around the station was contradictory and out of date, but as long
as your bus is going to Shiyakusho-mae you'll be OK. The bus
actually goes under the expressway and then stops a few meters down
at Shiyakusho-mae. Retrace your steps to the expressway (don't go
under it) and then go up/north a few hundred meters to the Hasuda
PA itself. And off you go!
One route that would've been very nice to hitch is Route 47, from
Furukawa to Tsuruoka via Naruko Onsen. As it was, weather and
time constraints didn't permit me to, but the trains rode along
the highway for much of the way. If you try it, be forewarned
that in the mountaineous sections traffic is very light indeed.
Presumably the hitching would be faster on a weekend, when everybody
and their dog Flippy is going to the onsens.
An interesting access point for the Toohoku Expressway would be
Fukushima, some 75 km to the south of Sendai, which is where the
Yamagata line merges with the Toohoku mainline. A major road
leads straight out from Fukushima station to the Azuma service
area. Again, had it not rained I would've tried this, but now
I ended up taking the Shinkansen instead.
And up next, a journey of equal length in the opposite direction,
down to Kyoto and Nara. Stay tuned...
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