Photo above. The Torii gate at shichiri-no-watashi, Kuwana, Mie Prefecture.
These little day trips are proving to be just the ticket. A dip into history, a new corner of Japan, and exercise to boot. Being fairly central, I get to choose. Last time it was east, this time west, to Kuwana.
I’ve passed through Kuwana (桑名) zillions of times on the highway heading elsewhere but have never considered hopping off for a look around. I once met a friend in the local Apita on the way home from this, but that’s about it.
But then I read the Tōkaidō by John McBride (available only, I believe, if you are a Craig Mod Special Projects member) which aroused my curiosity.
According to John, the Kuwana section of the Tōkaidō:
…still impressed with a 4 kilometre stretch of the Tokaido through the Post-town from the ferry alightment area. Despite the town being burnt in WWII it still retains its post-town charm and atmosphere.Tōkaidō by John McBride
That was enough to scratch it into my notebook for a future trip.
Kuwana was a major town on the Old Tōkaidō and the main ferry station for crossing the three rivers that join the Pacific Ocean at the Bay of Ise — the Kiso (木曽川), the Ibi (揖斐川), and the Nagara (長良川). It was also the gateway to Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮) to the south. And if it still retains its ‘post-town charm’ as McBride claims (it does) then spending a morning roaming would be worth the time.
I managed to persuade my wife — and by default my daughter as well — to come along so kept the day’s walking short and manageable. Starting at the first gate into the old Province of Ise — the shichiri-no-watashi (七里の渡し) — we stuck to the Tōkaidō streets through central Kuwana for roughly four kilometres, passing shrine after shrine, temple after temple. My wife described the abundance of these as akin to old convenience stores, places where travellers could rest and recuperate on their long journeys. I wonder what those travellers would make of a modern day 7/11 or Lawson? I dread to think.
To our delight our daughter seemed to love it, her legs bobbing along enthusiastically in her stroller and running freely around the windswept Kyoka Park near the river, while also charming us over and over with her ability to greet strangers wherever we were. Smiles, smiles, smiles.
If you’re in Japan and near the Tōkaidō, the Nakasendō, or any other historical road (there are more than you think) why not get out and walk a stretch? Despite the current state of emergency, small adventures can still be had without going too far from home.