|Shiojiri, north of the Kiso Valley.|
Saturday morning, and I’m on a train headed for Nagoya. The guy in the seat in front of me is dressed in a suit. His head turns side to side, slowly, barely perceptible as he peruses the newspaper in his hands. Watching him, I think of how each of us takes in the world around us.
For the next twenty minutes we’ll be passing through fields of rice, soba and grapes. Then the land will rise up and close in on both sides and we'll be rolling down into the steep, narrow Kiso Valley. We’ll follow the line cut by the ancient the Kiso River, along the Kyoto-Tokyo path the daimyo traveled when these places were known by different names.
|The Kiso Valley|
South of Nakatsugawa the land will open up again, bringing more fields and towns I fear are slowly sinking toward extinction. The generations are no longer content with small-town tradition. By the time I get off this train we’ll be in Japan’s third largest city, a place that, though I’ve been to and through it many times, has left me with few lasting memories.
I do recall the time I bumped into my friend Hiroshi as we were both changing trains at Nagoya Station. He was on his way to nearby Gifu, to visit family still living in the town he grew up in. I was on my way further south with my then-girlfriend. All three of us were living in Fukushima at the time. In the middle of a crowded platform we laughed at our chance meeting. We snapped a quick picture to memorialize it. Then we continued on our respective ways.
If not for Hiroshi I might not remember I’d gone through Nagoya at all.