31 October: a Kagayaki whisks me from Hokuriku back to Tokyo. This super-express does indeed move like a flash. Although I’m on the look-out for famous mountains, the volcanic tump of Asama is sliding away astern by the time I’ve managed to lift my camera.
The photographic results are, as you’d expect, nugatory. Fukada Kyūya, the Hyakumeizan author had more leisure to appreciate the scenery when he travelled this same route during the 1920s:-
Before there was a Hokuriku express on the Jōetsu line, I used to take the Shinetsu line on the way to Tōkyō from my home town. If I boarded the train in the evening, I would see the first glimmerings of dawn near Karuizawa. Floating in the steel-grey sky would be a stocky, round-headed mountain. That was Asama. After the long night’s journey, this eminence would welcome me back to the realm of nature. And this was the moment that most reassured me that, now at last, we were closing on the Kantō plain.
While I was studying at Tokyo, I must have passed by Asama a score of times in the university vacation. There it would be, with its huge mass, its unique shape, its scoured flanks, smoke wisping unfailingly from its summit cone. From the train’s windows, I would look up at the mountain, close, high, vast, ineffable. No other mountain is like it.
Probably I’m not the first to reflect that living life faster does not necessarily enrich it. To be fair to this high-speed Kagayaki, though, it does win me thirty-six hours in Tokyo before my flight back to Europe. Time for one lunch and two suppers with old friends. But how to spend the intervening hours in a meizanologically productive way? That is the question …