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!