I didn't sleep much on the bus to Kyoto, I was way too excited. Brimming over with the joy of starting something amazingly new, venturing off towards completely unknown adventure, I spent the night smiling in the dark of the bus and stepped off onto the streets of Kyoto at 7 AM. Even without service on my iphone, I was still able to download a brief glimpse of the route to Sanjo Ohashi from Kyoto Station. I was totally unprepared at this point, my bag was unbelievably heavy and awkward. I stopped at McDonald's for some breakfast and started walking. A few hours later I arrived at third avenue, found the bridge and tried to set up the camera to record.
My quest during this adventure was originally to follow in the footsteps of Ando Hiroshige and find the places depicted in his series of ukiyoe paintings The Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido. To me, Sanjo Ohashi was indeed the official start of this amazing, life changing experience. I stumbled down the stairs of the bridge to the riverside, already exhausted from the three hour walk from Kyoto Station. Just when I was about to start recording, a bunch of police men came running down the stairs apparently looking for some bad guy. Hoping to not attract any undue attention, I resisted the urge to record this moment, ah well.
Shortly thereafter, a drunk and somewhat crazy man sat down beside me and gave me some bread to feed the ducks with. Next I chatted with a man doing stretches by the river; he told me how he left the yakuza just a few years back, and gave up a life of drugs. I couldn't really understand his thick Kansai-ben but got the gist of what he wanted to tell me: life is just too beautiful to throw it away on drugs and money games, so take care of your health while you're young.
I picked up my bag again and started wandering through the city. I had until evening before I had to check in with Hitomi's friend Jamie. She met him only once before, but he agreed to let me stay in his place in Kyoto for the night. Well, that left me about 8 hours to do some sight seeing. I was determined to walk the whole thing and was really watching my spending at this time. Not sure what to do, I just kind of wandered through market streets, went in a few temples and shrines and exhausted myself early.
I found my way to the Imperial Palace, and took a nap in the park there. It was quite peaceful, but I got my first eight mosquito bites then. Had some oden for dinner, and crashed at Jamie's around 9 or 10. The next morning we left Jamie's place by 630, he gave me a big can of cola and I hit the road heading for Ginkakuji, the Silver Palace. It was a pretty popular sightseeing spot and had an entrance fee of 500 yen, so I didn't go in. Leaving there, I had a group of high school girls stop me to take their picture, then wandered along the "philosopher's path" towards Otsu, my next stop.
I think this is where I finally started to realize how crazy my whole idea really was. It finally dawned on me that finding a place to sleep wasn't going to be as easy as I had originally imagined. The physical strain of carrying the bag was really starting to weigh me down. Kyoto was beautiful, but I had no desire to go visit the temples or shrines at this point. Without mobility, there seemed little point to sightseeing. My mission was with Hiroshige after all, and the 503 kilometers ahead. More than anything, I wanted someone to talk to, not a building or park to look at, so I just walked. I walked more. I took breaks. I walked more.
Looking now at the raw footage of my journey at this point, I really had no idea what I was looking for, but I just recorded anything that looked fun. There was a point where suddenly I was completely out of the city, a little lost and looking at a steep, steep unmarked road heading through a thick bamboo forest.
Google maps was suggesting this route, so I shrugged and climbed forward. It was quite the climb, a good two hours of climbing this small road and I was covered in sweat, my legs were burning, my shoulders were in pain. Despite all this, it was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. The scenery was incredible: spiders the size of my palm, trees, grass, and moss on the rocks. There were also tiny shrines built on the side of the road, with little rocks decorated with these little red apron things and hats. (I have to figure out what the name for those are)
I was around noon when I arrived in Otsu. I was too tired to do anything at this point other than go in the first coffeshop I found to have some lunch. From here, things weren't going to be anything like I had originally imagined. I was discovering the reality that this journey would be insanely difficult. I was also beginning to shed my attachment to my predetermined conception of what this journey "should" be. I never could have planned what happened from this point.