I’m walking along the Nakasendo Way somewhere between Hosokute and Sekigahara, Japan…in the rain. The slow, persistent drizzle has pruned my hands as I futilely clutch my five-dollar umbrella that I’ve dragged 6,800 miles from New York City. I was told that rain apparel would be necessary and I half-listened, making sure that my jacket and hiking shoes were waterproof, but forgoing what I now realize is another essential piece of gear—a sturdy umbrella.
So I simply get wet. I’ve given up on the idea that a local taxi will whisk our small band of travelers to the warm comfort of the next ryokan. The traditional Japanese inns that have served as our accommodations along this ancient trade route that dates back to the seventh century. There are blossoming cherry trees, rice paddy fields, and rolling grey clouds for as far as the eye can see, but not a ryokan in sight. I venture on, one muddy step at a time. My mind asks, “What the hell am I doing here?” And then it answers: “You’re here because there is a world beyond your own. Get out of your comfort zone.”
THE ROAD THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS
Celebrating 25 years of off-the-beaten-path itineraries throughout the country’s most picturesque landscapes, Walk Japan (www.walkjapan.com) has pioneered an exciting range of immersive experiences available for adventure-seeking tourists from all around the world. From guided tours along the coastal Izu Geo Trail to Ise Shrine and Shikoku temple pilgrimages, more than a dozen specialized excursions offer something for everyone, from the occasional walker to the experienced hiker (I’m the former). While I give myself credit for navigating New York City’s concrete jungle on a daily basis, I have a quick learning curve when it comes to the 80-mile walk that lies ahead.