Sunday, 16 April 2017

Ten years old today!

Dear blog

Happy birthday! I can't believe you're ten years old already. I know I've been neglecting you a bit of late. But let's be honest. You're a bit passé. A bit behind the times. A bit old-fogeyish. I've been hanging out with some new, hipper friends. Perhaps you've heard of them? Their names are Facebook and Twitter.

But don't worry. I promise I won't abandon you completely. After all, you're my firstborn, and as such you'll always have special place in my heart. You brought me out of my shell, gave me the confidence to share my views not only on walking, but on other topics such as music, art, books, cones, philosophy and munted body parts.

And through you I've gotten to meet lots of interesting people. Sure, some of them are a bit ill-mannered. They ask me for advice and when I give it to them they disappear and I never hear from them again. Not even a thank you. But most of them are good people. Some have even become friends. I like to think that walking brings out the best in us.

So once again, happy birthday, blog, and thanks for everything.

Walking Fool

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Kaz's epic adventure

As a New Zealander who's spent a lot of time thinking about walking the length of Japan, it was great late last year to follow the progress of Kazushi Noiri, a Japanese nursing student at Otago Polytechnic who walked the length of New Zealand, over 2000km in 66 days, to raise money for Arthritis New Zealand. As I've mentioned previously, I'm not a huge fan of the concept of walking for charity (I believe walking *for* something is tantamount to asserting that walking has no value in and of itself), but I was mightily impressed by this achievement. Well done, Kaz!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

There's an app for that...

I get quite a few enquiries from readers of this blog about maps. Usually they're from people who want to walk the Nakasendo or Tokaido but can't find maps of the route in English. I read Japanese, so while I can sympathise, it's not a problem I've had do deal with personally. When I walked the Nakasendo, Tokaido and Koshu Kaido I used Japanese language maps produced by Gokaido Walk, and when I walked the Nikko Kaido I used a map I found on the internet and printed off. As for my upcoming Oshu Kaido walk, I've plotted the route on MapMyHike (as mentioned in my last post) and plan to access this on my iPhone while I'm waking. As well, I've printed the route out on paper for use if rain prevents me from using my phone (which wouldn't be a problem if I'd bought the new water-resistant iPhone 7).

The other day, while doing an internet search in response to yet another enquiry about walking maps, I came across a series of iPhone apps called "Go-Kaido wo Aruku" (Walk the Go-Kaido). There are five apps in the series covering the Tokaido, Nakasendo, Koshu Kaido, Nikko Kaido and Oshu Kaido. They're on sale at the App Store for $5.99 each. They're published by a company called Ground-Base Inc, whose main business appears to be music and video production. The "Go-Kaido wo Aruku" apps are the only apps they've produced.

Partly out of curiosity, I decided to download the Oshu Kaido app. The app uses Google maps, and on my iPhone and iPad most of the names of places and railways stations appear with English text as well as Japanese. The walkable route is marked in red, while those parts of the original route that are no longer walkable due to road realignments and so on are marked in green. The screen is very uncluttered, which I like. Basically it's just the map with three buttons at the bottom: one for turning GPS on and off (turning it off saves your phone battery); one for turning map markers on and off; and one for settings. The map markers are in four colours: red for posttowns; blue for famous sites; green for ichirizuka (distance markers); and orange for mitsuke (gates). In addition, the Tokaido and Nakasendo apps have markers for the locations of Hiroshige's prints. Clicking on these markers brings up a screen with more detailed information (in Japanese only).

The app works on iPhone and iPad. As a hiking app it's fairly basic. For example, it doesn't give elevations (none that I can find, anyway), which is not so important on the Niko Kaido or Oshu Kaido where there are no major passes, but very important on the Nakasendo and Tokaido. And there's no way of checking how far you've walked or how far to your destination (again, as far as I can find). Obviously, if you can't read Japanese, then all the information about the posttowns and so on is going to be wasted, but if all you're after is an app showing the route, then these apps could be of use.

You can find the apps at the App Store by searching for "Ground-Base Inc."

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Back on Twitter

After an absence of nearly eight years (caused by my account apparently being hijacked by someone in Finland), I'm back on Twitter under my original username, @thewalkingfool. As I mentioned in 2009 (!), I was originally going to use Twitter to post real-time reports on my progress as I walked the Tokaido. Now I'm thinking of using it to report on my upcoming Oshu Kaido walk. If you want to follow me, you'll find a "follow" button at the top left.

Sunday, 30 October 2016


A couple of months ago, feeling especially motivated after reading a book on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, I made a list of my dreams/aims for the next few years. Included in this list under such headings as "Health & Fitness," "Work" and "Writing" are such goals as running the City-to-Surf (an annual 14 km run held here in Christchurch), reducing my cholesterole (I guess those two are kind of related), working more while making sure I keep regular hours and take days off, getting my first novel published, and attending the Melbourne Jazz Festival.

Naturally, one of the headings is "Walking." Under it I wrote three goals: walk the Oshu Kaido, walk Route 16 (the 241 km beltway around Tokyo), and walk the length of Japan (aka The Big One). According to the book, it's important that you not only write down your goals and refer to them regularly, but also that you set dates by which you intend to achieve them. And so next to "Walk the Oshu Kaido" I wrote "May 2017." A few days later I booked my flights to Japan.

All of this is by way of an announcement that in May next year I will be walking the Oshu Kaido, the fifth of the go-kaido, or five old highways of Japan (labelled A on the by-now-familiar map below). Walking all five of these highways has been a kind of unconscious goal of mine for a while now. I don't remember when I came up with the idea exactly, but it was probably after I walked the Nakasendo and was thinking of what to do next.

At just 90 km, the Oshu Kaido is the shortest of the go-kaido. I plan to walk it over three days. As usually, I'll be posting updates on my training up until I leave and reporting on the walk after I get back. Otanoshimi ni!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

It flies!

For years, artist Kazuhiko Hachiya has been working on building an outlandish personal jet plane modelled on one that appeared in an animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. When I first shared a video of it back in 2009, it didn't even have an engine. In 2010 I posted a new video of it, engine attached, taxiing down a runway. Well, guess what? It now flies!