Thoughts on Walking

I put on my white Adidas shoes as this is the only pair of sneakers that goes fashionably well with skirts, dresses, and suits.  I hurriedly went down the stairs of my apartment trying to make it to the main street before the school hymn of the nearby school came to an end.  It’s normally my cue to leave the apartment already or else I’d be late for work.

My workplace is a 30-minute walk from my apartment.  I’ve been walking to school for more than a year already, so I usually make it one or two minutes before my log-in time.  And that includes grabbing lunch and snacks in the supermarket next to my workplace.  My apartment is situated uphill and my workplace is located in another uphill ground.  It’s like going from one valley to another valley.  On regular weekdays, I walk a total of almost 5 kilometers.  I’ve walked in different seasons and I’ve realized that the different seasons play a big part on what I feel and what I think while walking.

SUMMER

Summer is unforgiving.  The heat is intense and the wind does not even let its presence be known.  I start to pity myself.  My upper clothing is drenched in sweat.  And because of that, I usually bring a towel and an extra blouse.  There seems to be no point wearing make-up.  By the time I arrive in the workplace, I look as if I’d just completed a morning workout.  My hair is messy, which is enough to be stressed out for the day.  Walking in summer feels like never ending especially if it’s an upward slope.  Every turn I take, I would wish it were the last.  And in every step, I’d repeatedly question why I placed myself in this situation.

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Summer – Shirotori Garden, Aichi Prefecture

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AUTUMN

Autumn is the beginning.  I’d like to think of autumn as the start of good things to come.  It’s much more comfortable walking in autumn.  It is when the feel of the cold temperature seems so much more inviting.  The color of the autumn leaves is striking—- may it be yellow, red, or orange.  There is a gingko tree with dark yellow leaves alongside the street I pass by.  I used to hate that tree not knowing what it was because its fruits would fall all over the ground and smell so bad.  Sometimes I would see its owner cleaning up the ground with a broom and I used to pity her.  It made me wonder why she would go through the hassle of sweeping the ground early in the morning.  Sometimes she’d collect a total of four garbage bags full of rotten fruits.  I didn’t understand then that that tree is like a shining star in the autumn daylight.

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Autumn- Tachikawa, Tokyo Prefecture

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WINTER

Winter is depressing and lonely.  That’s when all the dark thoughts occupy the mind.  It’s five in the afternoon and the light has retired early.  I shiver in cold as I walk my way uphill with nobody in sight.  Sometimes I daydream I am in the setting of M. Night Shyamalan’s chiller movie The Village.  On rare occasions, I see some students on their way home.  It sometimes boggles me how the female high school students can manage the cold in their mini skirt uniform whereas I, completely bundled up in my coat, scarf and gloves, can still feel the biting cold.  But if I’d have to choose, I’d pick winter over summer because I still look exactly the same as when I leave the apartment—- make-up intact and strands of hair still in place.

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Winter- Shirakawago, Gifu Prefecture

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SPRING

Spring is salvation.  The light after the dark.  It’s the season that constantly makes me want to freeze time even just for a minute, so I could appreciate the beauty of cherry blossom trees that line the street.  There are times when the wind would blow and the cherry blossom petals would rain on me.  And in my mind I’d be doing a twirl in my cute dress.  Or sometimes I wish someone would film me in slow motion as I gaze up completely amazed at the falling white pinkish petals.  But, nope.  None of that as I need to hurriedly get to the workplace. But my hopes are still high as I know there are two more blossom trees on the way.  It’s only in spring when I wish that the traffic lights would remain red, so I could enjoy the view of the cherry blossom tree standing near the stop lights.  And as I completely enter the compound of my workplace, another cherry blossom tree lifts my mood up.

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Spring- Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture

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Walking throughout the four seasons allows me to think of different things.  It’s not just a routine to reach my destination.  It’s a process that allows me to talk to myself and solve my worries.  Sometimes I’d go home filled with problems that only people living abroad would face.  In the whole 30-minute walk, I’m usually able to analyze the why’s and how’s of my situation.  By the time I reach home, the negative thoughts don’t linger anymore.  Walking is an invisible friend.  It’s solitary, yet, it brings me solace.

Sakura at Kakamigahara

This is my favorite place to see the cherry blossoms because it has a romantic, jdrama-ish feel to it. During the sakura season, the park ground gets covered with a carpet of pink petals. My favorite part is the pathway where you can see pink paper lanterns hanging on the cherry blossom trees. This year, unfortunately, I visited a little too late. Thus, when I stepped out of the train station, this area was unrecognizable. Almost all cherry blossom petals have already fallen on the ground. It’s been four years since I last saw this place, and it’s disheartening that I have to wait again for another year to see its beauty. Sakura, you are so beautiful but you fade away so quickly.

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Cherry Blossoms at Yamazakigawa River

DSCF3423 “This weekend is the best time to see the cherry blossoms,” mentioned the woman I work with.  It might be true but I wasn’t planning to have my hanami on said weekend because I had a dental appointment.  Come Saturday, I was patiently waiting for my teeth to be examined when the dentist assistant engaged me in a chitchat.  “Today is the best time to see the cherry blossoms,” she said cheerfully.  Two Japanese women randomly telling me that that Saturday was the perfect time to see the cherry blossoms made me decide to finally go to Yamizakigawa River: the best viewing spot in Aichi prefecture.

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It was the first weekend of April. Most people probably scheduled their hanami on that day if I base it on the number of people around.  It was rainy the day prior to that and the days after which made it the perfect day.  It was a sunny spring day so I didn’t have to wear my long coat.  It was a comfortable long walk because the sun’s heat was not intense.  This is my second time to live in Japan and also my second time to experience spring.

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Since my arrival in August of last year, I started having a deep fascination with flowers.  Cherry Blossom, being the most beautiful and beloved in this country, is always a must-see.  The sight of just one or two trees is not enough for ne anymore as I always spot them on my way to work every week.  Thus, I longed to see a hundred of them in a park or lining a river.  Yamazakigawa is a perfect choice and a recommended spot in most of my online searches.

I reached the subway station but since it’s still a 10-minute walk, my problem started to arise.  I didn’t know which way to go so I just followed the direction where most people went.  Unfortunately, almost ten minutes had passed but there was still no sign of cherry blossoms.  That was when I finally decided to use google map to bring me to Nagoya Women’s University which is near the river.  When I reached Nagoya University, I saw many people going in one direction so I just started following them.  Lines of cherry blossoms can also be found along the road.  By the time I saw a bridge, I knew that I found the Yamazakigawa River.

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I went to Yamazakigawa with the intention of photographing only the beauty of the place.  When I include myself into the picture, I usually become a little stressed because I tend to focus on getting a good angle for my portrait.  But on that rare day, my mind was just on the cherry blossoms.  I walked the long kilometer of the riverside.  The place was packed with people.  It amuses me how the Japanese celebrate hanami.  I saw people with their family, friends, and partners eating lunch or having snacks under the cherry blossom trees.  Because it was too crowded, I think some of them didn’t mind at all even if they weren’t able to set-up a plastic blanket on the ground for their hanami.  Some brought a cooler and even had wine.  Some had bento boxes which were probably bought from a convenience store on their way to the river.  There were also two or three small vans selling street food.  Although there weren’t a lot, the restaurants near the area were also full.

I was glad I did go on that particular day.  Thanks to the two Japanese women who unconsciously prodded me.  The cherry blossoms were at their best.  The rain partnered with the strong wind of the succeeding days would have hastened the falling of the petals.  Ymazakigawa River, undeniably, had the most number of cherry blossom trees that I’ve seen in my region so far.

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Shikizakura (Cherry Blossoms in Autumn)

I saw cherry blossoms blooming in November of last year.  It was rare.  I think it defied seasons.  Tourists go all over Japan in autumn to see the beauty of maple leaves in deep red and crimson orange or the gingko leaves in brilliant yellow.  How did I even manage to get a glimpse of cherry blossoms when spring was like five months away?

It took almost an hour and two train transfers before I reached Toyotashi Station.  I had to wait for another hour before the bus bound to Kaminigi arrived.   Just before I boarded the bus, one of the ladies from a very noisy tourist group asked me something in her own native language.  I didn’t understand her question, of course, but told her the bus was going to Kaminigi.  Her group joined in and all throughout the ride, I was trying to decipher what Asian language she was using.  I thought the group was also going to see the cherry blossoms, but they got off at a different place.  I was supposed to alight at Obara Fureai Park, but I missed it.  The kind bus driver recommended another place where I could view the cherry blossoms, and that was how I ended up in Senmi Shikizakura no Sato.

Senmi Shikizakura no Sato is somehow like a park with a number of Shikizakura trees.  You have to climb a hill to see the trees up close.  It was steep that I still tried to rest for a few seconds before I continued my ascent.  Many of the visitors were old Japanese people, and there were some foreign tourists, too.  There were food stalls in the area but only a limited number of benches where you could stop to take a rest.  There was also a bus schedule posted near the entrance, so you wouldn’t miss the last bus home.

At Senmi Shikizakura no Sato , you can find shikizakura which refers to cherry blossoms that bloom in two seasons—spring and autumn.  Shikizakura in Toyotashi can be seen from October to early December.  The best viewing season is around late November.  Based on what I’ve noticed, the flowers of Shikizakura are much smaller than the cherry blossoms that grow in spring.  They somehow remind me of ‘ume’ or the Japanese plum blossoms. The view of Shikizakura and maple trees in Senmi Shikizakura no Sato is like combining spring and autumn into one season.

Seeing the cherry blossoms in autumn was a surprising thing.  It gives tourists an opportunity to see the sakura in case they missed it in spring.  For those who love nature and flowers, Shikizakura is such a beautiful wonder.

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How To Go There:

From Nagoya, you can take the Nagoya City Subway Higashiyama Line for Fujigaoka and get off at Fushimi Station.  From Fushimi Station, you can ride the Nagoya City Subway Tsurumai Line for Toyotashi and alight at Akaike.  From Akaike Station, take the Meitetsu Toyota Line for Toyotashi and get off at Toyotashi Station.  The over-all cost is 760 yen, and it takes 53 minutes.  From Toyotashi, ride a bus bound for Kaminigi.  You can tell the driver to drop you off at Senmi Shikizakura no Sato. There are actually many routes that you can take from Nagoya.  The one I mentioned is just one of the possible routes that you can follow.