I decided to make a world class collection of photographs that captured the life at Kanto’s final stations, or “Shuuten”. The task was large, difficult and expensive. But the rewards were great.
Day 1: It all began rather ambitiously and turned sour almost immediately. At 5 am I was on one of the first trains out, headed on the first of three long journeys. I stood the whole way from Koshigaya to Haneda, nervous and excited. I had on my 20 kilo backback, my camera case, and my windbreaker. I instantly went from local Gaijin to tourist, but I didn’t care.
The information girls in Haneda were more than happy to pose for me and the day started great, until their boss came and made me delete the photos. Apparently, I had broken security protocol. I was allowed to photograph the main entry way only and no staff. I lost most of my allocated 2 hours at Haneda in a debate. I was feeling low. I went up the escalator second guessing the whole trip when I saw the magnificent empty lobby. I went photo crazy. Got my shots and got out.
Then I headed for Kawasaki. If you’ve never been to the far off, isolated lines in Kawasaki, don’t go. I’m only half joking. I found myself in the depths of Tokyo’s industrial heart. These were places that were quite reminiscent of ‘Deliverance’ meets ‘Akira’. Almost nobody in sight, buildings that should be condemned everywhere, and cats. My God, the cats. Ogimachi station was particularly depressing, nothing but walled in, high security factories and a two hour wait between trains. But I couldn’t pout. My investors were counting on me, I forced myself to find interesting shots.
After 3 let downs and one security breach, I arrived at Umi-Shibaura, just as the sun was setting. Wow. The sense of relief was only dwarfed by my awe of the sea port which laid before me. Beautiful. With a renewed sense of hope. I pressed on.
Day 2: I hit the streets of Yokohama at 5 am, dead tired, super hungry and really sore. I had never carried a pack all day and the effects were new to me. But I had renewed faith and was going to put day 1 out of my mind.
I began to notice things. Little things. Things you wouldn’t ordinarily notice. My photographer’s eyes had finally joined me. There was beautiful stuff all around, all I had to do was to see it. And the day only got better.
Uraga, Miura, Shinzushi were all wonderfully unique. They each had local originality and small town charm. Like New England slapped in the face with Japanese culture. And it was in Uraga, while aimlessly wandering about, shooting anything I could find, I learned my first lesson about the rules of Japan…
If you come across a staircase, take it. You will be rewarded at the top.
Day 3: Odawara, Gora, and Daiyuzan. Odawara was magnificent and the castle was gorgeous. I was the first one there, but within minutes of my arrival, the place was full. I was lucky enough to met a “Holy Man” traveling on foot from Kyoto to Nikko.
Gora, at Hakone, was tough. A storm had settled in over Hakone. I got stuck on the ropeway to the top, alone, for 5 minutes, but it felt like 20 minutes, due to wind. The car seemed to sway several meters in either direction about 70 meters above the ground.
I have never been so terrified.
With no scenery, I went on a quest for portraits. The same in Daiyuzan. Then 3 hours on the train, off to the distant town of Shimoda where I would relax and spend the night.
Day 4: I awoke stiff and tired. I didn’t get out of bed until 7 am. I went outside to find a ghost town. But soon, I found a staircase and was rewarded again. I found a 3 kilometer mountain course that lead me around the hills. The forest was full of morning hikers and statues of nude women.
Next was Enoshima. At the beginning I thought only a fool would pay to take the escalator, by the time I reached halfway up with a 20 kilogram pack, I realized I was the fool. I had already done a 3K hiking course that morning and my legs were throbbing. But I made it to the top, heart racing, knees shaking. Totally worth it. Enoshima is a very cool, very crowded place. The temple makes anything in Kyoto seem unimpressive.
Day 5: The big climb. After spending the night in Tama Center and exploring the interesting world of “Hello Kitty”, I headed to Kara Kida. It was a simple place with not much to offer beyond suburban life. But they did have beautiful sculptures made from recycled materials and super nice residents. I got in, got my shots and got out. Today, was the true test.
I went to the Takao Sanguchi station alone and unprepared. Nobody told me about this behemoth of a mountain, “Takao San”. Once I passed the peaceful Tengu Garden, I began my climb to the summit. Already fatigued from two massive climbs the day before, and carrying weight. I was passed by everyone. Children and old folks laughed at me. Nearly two hours to the top, but again, take the stairs and be rewarded.
Words can’t express the sense of smallness one feels when they stand at the summit of Takao. The door step to Fuji on one side, the ocean of metal that is Tokyo on the other. What a way to end my first trip.