The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part IV – The Silver Line

.. My train arrived at Urasa Station twenty minutes behind schedule. Shinkansen trains also stop here, so I was expecting modern amenity, but when I tried to pass through the wicket, I could not find a touchpad for my Suica travel card. The ticket officer told me that travelcards had not yet been introduced. I had to pay the fare in cash and ask the officer to erase my card’s embarkation memory, which he did at once. My hotel was on the east side of the station. I walked through a long corridor and went down some steps to get to the ground level. The hotel was visible two blocks away, but there was nothing in between except grass-covered land. Fortunately, the rain had stopped, so I walked to the hotel, and found it comfortably equipped.
.. Next morning, waking early, I looked out at the Uono River that ran close to the hotel. It was indeed a beautiful sight, though smaller than the Toné River. A friend of mine had told me that in winter, they set a weir to catch salmon, but it was not the season for that. I went to the station fifteen minutes earlier than the departure time of my bus, for if I had missed this bus for some reason, I would have spoiled my whole journey.
………. More like an hour
………. Every minute seems, waiting
………. For a country bus.
.. To my great relief, the bus came exactly on time. It followed the River Uono for twenty minutes or so, and then turned right and started to move along a country road. After about an hour, the bus arrived at a hot spring resort called Oyu Onsen. I saw a beautiful river coursing along the deep valley and classy hotels standing here and there on the cliffs overlooking the river. The bus made a roundtrip of this resort, but no one got off or on. In fact, I was the sole passenger on the bus.
………. A hot spring resort,
………. Too quiet in the morning
………. To prompt cheer in me.
.. I wondered why and when they had built so many hotels here, but before I could find an answer, the bus went through what seemed to be a former toll gate and began to ascend sharply. This road was called The Silver Line, but contrary to its name it was dark and rough. It covered a stretch of some twenty-two kilometres and had nineteen tunnels. More than two-thirds of the way would be in darkness. It was bumpy and dangerous with many sharp turns. Big red warning arrows appeared one after another like ghosts. Originally made to assist construction of the Okutadami Dam, it was completed in 1957 after three years of hard work and with a heavy toll of forty-four lives. The dam was finished in 1961, but it was not until 1977 that The Silver Line was opened to the public. The bus driver steered calmly through the tunnels and took me to the dam site. I thanked him sincerely when I got off.
………. Between two tunnels,
………. A glimpse of silver pampas
………. Shining in the sun.
………………………… The autumn wind blows
………………………… Sheets of fog into its mouth–
………………………… A long, dark tunnel.


To be continued …

2 responses to “The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part IV – The Silver Line

  1. I love the final part of this episode, with the gallant bus driver passing all those red warning signs, yet delivering Nobuyuki safely to his destination, and its two impressive glimpsed scenes depicted in haiku (susuki grass and fog). It reminds me of Basho entering the province of Dewa by hiring a strongman guide with stick and sword, who led him along the uncertain path across the mountains. I’m looking forward to the next instalment!

  2. The ‘silver pampas ‘ and ‘the autumn wind blow[ing] sheets of fog’ into ‘the mough of the, longdark tunnel’ are stunning images and sensations. Being between two tunnels makes this eerie..

    Recently I saw a b&w movie set on a bus – literally a road movie.
    It was called’Arigatou-san’ (name of the driver). While it was character driven, there was also the atmosphere of older Japan. This travel piece reminded me of that also – it evokes the atmosphere of an older time (evidenced by the wicket at Suica Stn. not accepting the travel card. A nice touch of the new dashing through the old- the Shinkansen passes through, but the station has not yet caught up with modern technology.)

    Then the change of the image and mood with the clasy hotels followed by the suddenly dangerous, bumpy journey. The warning arrow ‘ghosts’ – an echo of the lives given to the dam.

    An evocative journey.