Thursday 5 November 2015

Utsunoya, Meiji tunnel and the Old Tokaido - Shizuoka Part 3

This is part 3 of a post about a recent trip to Shizuoka.  You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.  

It took us about 75 minutes to cover the distance to Utsunoya and the first thing we saw was the "Row of Houses", a stretch of old Edo Era houses that served as resting places for those travelling along the Tokaido.

As those of you who read regularly know, I love these little old towns that provide a glimpse into the past.  The town was deadly quiet and respecting the silence and taking it all in, Tetsuya and I made our way along the street wordlessly.  Nestled among the houses were a couple of businesses.  I think the one below is a soba restaurant

and this one a shop of some kind.

We got to the top of the street and turned around to take a look at the village spread out below us.

We were getting closer and closer to today's final goal and the anticipation was building.  Working our way up a path that lead away from the village we came across these signs.

We were approaching the Meiji tunnel that goes under the Utsunoya Pass.  The Meiji tunnel was originally completed in 1876 as part of the Meiji Era government's efforts to make the passage from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo) easier.  At the time it was Japan's first toll tunnel.  It was made of wood and, unfortunately, was destroyed in a fire in 1896.  It remained closed until 1904 when it was re-opened as a brick tunnel.

We approached it and I don't know about Tetsuya, but I was holding my breath in anticipation. 

Suddenly we rounded a corner, and there it was.

It was an amazing thrill to see something so historic and to think that we were just about to walk through the same tunnel that people had done so almost 140 years ago and a tunnel that had been so important at the time, I must say, I had shivers of excitement running down my spine.

We stepped inside and we were suddenly enveloped in a cloud of silence.  The only sound you could hear was the sound of water dripping from the ceiling onto the floor.  I turned around and looked back at the entrance we had come in moments before

and then looked ahead to what we had in front of us.

I think most people would forgive me if I said that at that point, things were a little spooky.  But I had Tetsuya with me, and he's a big guy, so I was fine.......until Tetsuya looked at me and said "This is pretty spooky"......

But we pushed on, the breeze blowing through the tunnel into our faces (I would say blowing through our hair, but both of us don't have much hair happening on top!) and soon enough we exited the other side.

The light was starting to fade now and there was one more thing that I wanted to see before dark fell and it was back on the other side of the tunnel so we turned around and walked back into the tunnel again

and out the other side.  The second time through was just as good as the first!  Walking back around to the left we came across this sign.

The arrow on the right was the one that I was after so we continued on and suddenly, without warning, it was there.

The old Tokaido, the most important of the 5 old Edo period highways, and we were just about to set foot on one of the only original sections that remain today!  Step after step, the shivers continued running up and down my spine.  Now walking through the tunnel had been amazing, but now we were walking along a path over 400 years old!  The history that had passed along here and the sights that these trees had seen!  Who knows who had walked along this path before us!

We got to the top of the (more recently installed) steps and turned a right bend onto this.

Absolutely incredible!  I stood still with a huge silly smile on my face and looked at Tetsuya and said "This is why I do what I do, for moments just like this".

The light was starting to fade so we pushed on, wanting to be able to finish this experience in daylight so we could see everything.

All too soon it was over and we had reached the other side.  The walk had taken about 20 minutes but it had seemed like a lifetime.  Every step had been an experience and an adventure.  This had been one of the most wonderful moments I have had since I started writing this blog.

However, darkness was upon us and we made our way back to the more modern highway and back to Shizuoka by bus.

We decided to go back to the Oden street that we had been to the previous night and chose a different restaurant this time.

We walked into this restaurant and the man looked at us with a panicked expression and said "No English....".  Tetsuya responded in Japanese and he breathed a sigh of relief!  The food here was good also.

With our bellies half full we decided to try one last restaurant.

The food at this one was probably the best of the three that we tried although after a few drinks already I forgot to take some photos here.  However, the owner did take my camera and took this photo.....


I will end this post on that note.  It had been an incredible day that had started at Mariko-juku, moved on to Utsunoya and finished in a haze.  What remained with me, clear as crystal were the moments walking through the tunnel and along the Tokaido.  A very special day.

Thanks again for reading.  Please leave a comment below and check back soon for the final part of the trip to Shizuoka.  Until next time, bye!


  1. Well Jason,you certainly put the wind up my sails.Interesting that you will no doubt remember fro a long time.I can imagine that there are many "secrets" still waiting for your footsteps in to the little known world of the days Japan was not know to the outside world.
    The Japanese Horses .as you probably know by now,ran on empty tanks...possibly you saw the race and had a bet.I do every year,but after winning a tidy sum the last 2 years,handed some of it back this year to the TAB.
    Dewa mata and all the best...Noel.

    1. Hi Noel,
      I think I will remember and look back on that day for a long time to come!

      I did have a little wager on the Japanese favourite to win, but, as you said, to no avail. I didn't see the race, but saw the footage of the delightful young lady who pushed the police officer into the flower bed..... I hope they return the favour and teach her a lesson!
      Take care,

  2. Hello Jason,
    I'm Moto, Japanese. This is my first time to leave a comment.
    I really like this post. You are definitely a wonderful story teller. I followed nice photos with feeling as if I was in the place!
    Especially when I see the photo of the tunnel, I was excited. It looked so scary -even if there is a drop on my head from the ceiling it's already scary, but amazing! I feel the atomosphere with your photos and text.
    It's also very informative to learn a history from your atricle even though it's our history. (To be honest I wasn't familiar with them.)
    I like your phrase: Who knows who had walked along this path before us!
    I realize an adventure is near us. The only thing is to go or not I think. So this post stimulated me very much as I can be a traveller anytime. I'd like to discover something new.
    Anyway, thank you for sharing your great experience, great point of view, Jason. I'm looking forward to reading your next one. Take care.

    1. Hi Moto,
      thank you so much for leaving such a nice a comment. It is special for me to read your comment. Your feelings about the tunnel were exactly the feelings that I was experiencing! It felt like a place so full of history!
      I hope you go on an adventure soon!
      If you have any suggestions of places that I should visit, I would love you to share them with me so I can go there.
      Take care,

    2. Hi Jason,
      I am sure you really like Odaiba!
      Have you ever heard 'Shuraku (集落)' in Japanese? It's a traditional type of residence and we can still see them especially everywhere in a countryside. To be honest some of them have probrems such as under population or aging. However others have a lot of attractive aspects. You can search a place with words such as "shuraku countryside." In my case, I truely like Akita and Niigata. The best season is definitely summer (There are so many traditional festivals!) but you can go there to fun during the winter if you don't care the coldness. The images of Shuraku is as follows:

      Aside from that I have suggestions as a specific place.
      a) Oshino Hakkai Springs (忍野八海) in Yamanashi

      b) Nakatajima Sakyu (中田島砂丘) in Shizuoka

      Both have a beautiful scenery and we can be relaxed there. Particularly I like nature, ancient things like ruins very much.
      I am not sure those meet your preference, but I hope they are helpful.
      Take care,

    3. Hi again Moto.
      I spend a lot of time at Odaiba. I do some work there, so I am there 2 or three times a month. It is a nice area, exciting and lots of space!
      Those Shuraku look great. I enjoy going to places like those. There are some nice old villages in Nagano and I am planning to go to some more old places in Gifu in the future.
      Nakatajima looks amazing! So much sand! And the springs in Yamanashi look beautiful. I will have to do some research on them and maybe plan to go there! I am always happy to get suggestions on places to visit!
      Take care,