nocuous pleasure


The third day of my random trip found me in Atami at dawn, wondering where to go next. (You can read here about the first and second days of the trip.)



So first thing in the morning at Atami station, I rolled a random number to decide:

1, 4, or 7: Ito line
2, 5, or 8: Tokaido line, inbound
3, 6, or 9: Tokaido line, outbound
0: Hang around Atami till hot springs open and take a bath


I got a 3.28, so Tokaido inbound it was. I asked my stopwatch how many stations to go, and it told me eight (1.08).


I noticed around this time that my stopwatch app was giving me eights with suspicious regularity. (Irrelevant, perhaps: on my last random trip, the app had only gone out to tenths of a second, but Apple must have updated it since then, because now it was going to hundredths.) I began to doubt whether the numbers were genuinely random, so from here on, whenever I got an 8 in the hundredths digit, I often disregarded it and rolled again.


The eighth station was Ninomiya, a charming little town with nothing in it. I got a bit of breakfast from a grocer across from the station and walked about a bit. The weather was warmer that morning than it had been any time this trip. I noticed that the buses departing from Ninomiya station were headed someplace called Hadano, so that's where I decided to go.


On the bus that morning, there were lots of people communting. I wasn't commuting.


At Hadano, the weather cleared all the way up. It was so pleasant that I decided to have a seat in front of the station (on what was either a chair or a modern art sculpture), and before I knew it I’d fallen asleep. My nap lasted about an hour.




Only one train line ran through Hadano station. I rolled a random number to decide my direction:

Even number: Odawara-bound
Odd number: Sagami-Ono-bound

I got a 2.50.




At the last stop, Odawara, I rolled again:

1, 4, or 7: Daiyuzan line
2, 5, or 8: Tokaido line
3, 6 or 9: Hakone-Tozan line
0: Get off here and explore

I got 5.34.


I’d never heard of Daiyuzan, but when I got there I saw a big statue of Kintaro, so perhaps this place figures into that folktale.


There was a bus running up to a place called Doryoson, a temple compound in the mountains. A map at the station also showed a hot spring in the vicinity, and I felt ready for a bath, so I got on the bus and went up.


The temple is actually two temples in a single compound, Saijoji and Doryoson, deep in an old growth cedar forest. I wandered among the numerous temples and shrines on the compound, going slowly. Everything seemed worth a slow, considered look.


At one of the temples, what looked like a memorial ceremony was underway, with beating of drum and chanting of sutra. It felt strange, perhaps indiscreet, to stand and watch as a tourist, though these things are open for anyone to wander in.


Everything was quiet, and the rain had let up. Buddhist temples in Japan always have a long approach, lots of steps leading up to the next temple building. Perhaps this is to emphasize a humble approach, or to give time to ready the heart to encounter the numinous.


At the far end of the compound I reached the approach to the last, highest temple. Up and up you climb, stairway after stairway, till you’re near the top of the mountain. The temple there is smaller and humbler than those below.


I went in and sat down. I was alone. I don’t meditate, but I suppose I did something like meditating. Not like praying, where one must think of what to say next; but rather trying not to think of what to say next. Emptying out.


Back at the base of the temple complex there were a few shops and a place to eat, so I had some quite good tengu soba and a beer. Then I walked back down the road to where the hot spring is.


I normally never go to hot springs by myself, but once inside I like to soak for a good long time. I had my first bath in three days, and my first tipple in two hours. The lady in the cafe there was so surprised to see a white guy speaking Japanese that she forgot to charge me for my beer.


There was a shuttle van back to the station. It actually stops at two stations, the one I came from and another one called Kaisei. I got off at Kaisei.




There were four directions I could go from Kaisei station. I rolled a random number to decide:

0: Odawara-bound
1–3: Shinjuku-bound
4–6: Mishima-bound
7–9: Kozu-bound

(I set the odds for Odawara low because I’d already been that way. Call it a cheat.)
I got 2.85, so toward Mishima I went.


The train I was on terminated at Gotemba. I thought about waiting for one that goes farther on the same line, but a co-worker of mine often talks about loving Gotemba, so I decided to stop there for supper.

そして圧倒的な衝動を感じた… インドカレーを喰わざるを得ない。御殿場に来るほとんどの客はインドカレー狙いではないだろうが…

And I had an irresistable impulse: I must eat Indian curry. Most visitors to Gotemba are probably not there for the Indian curry, but…


In a gross violation of my no-phone rule, I googled it and found two Indian places, one about 30 minutes’ walk from the station, the other about 40 minutes in the opposite direction. Just for laughs, I chose the farther one.


(I later learned, by the way, that there is another Indian place not five minutes from the station, which that mischievous Google for some reason concealed from me.)


When I got to the farther restaurant, I discovered that the place had been closed down. Ha! So I headed to the other. It was open, and the Nepalese guys running it were very friendly. I had mutton saag, naan and a Nepalese beer, which were all superb.


Now, what happened next was a little odd. As I finished my meal and started to wonder where my random trip would take me next, a thought came very clear to mind: “home”.


I don’t know why, but all at once I had decided to go home.


I’d originally planned to stay on the road another couple of days, but once I decided, I’d decided. From Gotemba it’s easier than I’d have thought to get back to Shimokitazawa—I only had to change trains once.


And that was it.