Wake to an overcast, misty morning at Asagiri Kogen, Michi no eki. Immediately we move further away from the stench, emanating from the manholes, so we can attempt breakfast.
Set off for Kuonji, as the day brightens into sunshine. Shy, Fujisan continues to drape its elegant form in cloud. By 9.30am it is 30 degrees C.
The road to Kuonji passes Motosuko, Motosu Lake, and then climbs into the mountains before deciding to follow the wide but shallow Fujigawa. Fuji River.
Kuonji is approached through a traditional temple gate and then, a narrow street, climbing past the usual shops and restaurants associated with major temples. The temple, at the lower level, is very large and of recent construction. Although new, it is built in traditional style and, I thought, very tastefully done. There is a good deal of carved and painted woodwork, mostly of phoenix and other assorted Aves, but it is muted. It doesn’t hit you as gaudy or overdone.
It is possible to stroll through various temple buildings, and, in so doing, come across numerous monks attending to their affairs. This is relatively unusual, though Eiheiji in Fukui is another example. Most temples appear as museum pieces with no or very few monks around, not as living monasteries. Noticeably, all the monks we encounter greet us, again unusual. Greeting visitors is definitely in the Nichiren manual.
We spent some time exploring this interesting, diverse and beautiful temple; from its dark red pagoda, to its stylish, sleek administration building. On enquiry, a monk informs us that to walk to the upper temple takes two and a half hours rather than the two we were expecting. This walk is, it is obvious, through cedar forest. Not exactly inviting in the sultry heat. Not up for such a trek, we content ourselves with what we have already seen; knowing Fujisan will not be visible even if we make it to the top.
Naraijuku on the Nakasendo
As an alternative, we make for Naraijuku, a way station on the Nakasendo, an important route in Edo times. Wandering along the ancient street with its beautiful, old houses cum gift shops, restaurants and B&Bs is pleasant enough but, having lived in Kyoto for a number of years, I am, I confess, jaded in this area.
Michi no eki ‘Fuketsu no sato’
To find somewhere to spend the night is our next objective, so we make for Fuketsu no sato, michi no eki. This road proves to be a very demanding drive, long stretches of narrow road and many tight bends. Today for the first time we spotted a road sign the warned not of the usual “Kyu” curve, but “Cho Kyu” curve – so not just tight but, extremely tight
Around the Nagawado Dam on Route 26/158 prefectural roads, the number of long, narrow, dark tunnels is a surprise. On reaching the other end, of these narrow mountain roads and stopping at the michi no eki, we are even more surprised to realize the number of buses on this route. I am not sure how they can pass each other in some of the older tunnels.
A young monkey we met on this road, hesitated, at our approach, before scuttling to safety. Such indecision could prove fatal.
＊michi-no-eki ‘Fuketsu no sato’ elevation ; 800m.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.