Dispatch № 64: No Plan, Best Plan

A hillside trail leading through a bamboo grove in a park in Tokorozawa, Saitama
A hillside trail leading through a bamboo grove in a park in Tokorozawa, Saitama

35°48’6.11″N, 139°32’2.68″E

At about 8 o’clock in the morning, we decided the beach was out. Door to sand, it takes us at least two hours to get there, and on a day that threatened to be mostly rain, along with multiple typhoons in the area that could make the surf unswimmably high, we decided with a small sense of defeat to stay closer to home.

We didn’t have an alternate plan and didn’t make one. We had some small errands to run, and we figured would just wing it once those were done. Winging it tends to yield good results.

After stopping at the post office, we went to the station and boarded a train, still with no particular plan. We’d gone several stops by the time we decided to get off at Higashi Tokorozawa and walk from there to Niiza. We had spotted an extensive park from the train, and that was enough.

We followed the train tracks and meandered through quiet residential streets, then rested at a beautiful hilltop shrine that stood on the former site of a castle that had overlooked the area nearly five hundred years before.

Nearby, the park. It was large, with a lotus pond and shady, overgrown margins. A trail led up a hill, the trailhead marked with warning signs for mamushi, a small pit viper endemic to Japan.

The hillside was densely wooded, the trail in deep shade, with deciduous trees on one side and bamboo on the other. The wind, the residual fragments of the passing typhoon, bending branches and stalks halfway to the ground, rustling every leaf, the sound of it all combining into an unbelievable static, to which was added a spooky knocking of bamboo on a bamboo, the sound of which is something in between the ringing of bells and the hammering of wood. On top of it all was the combined song of innumerable cicadas, singing for mates, so many insect sounds layered and mixed that the din of it cancelled out thought. On that dark trail, the noise of it all leading the mind into a peaceful emptiness.

We lingered there for a time, suspended in the moment, before continuing on, enjoying the snails and mushrooms in the undergrowth, the swaying of the forest canopy, and the trickling of a hillside stream. After emerging back into the sun-drenched expanse of the park’s green center, we felt renewed.

That evening, we agreed that our time in the forest, relatively brief though it was, had been the highlight of the day.

It was a great day together, and all of it had been made possible by not having a plan. We did not know what we wanted to do, except that we wanted to go somewhere. We decided everything in the moment based on a gut feeling. It was one of the most enjoyable days we have shared in our years of wandering together, made possible by following the best, most reliable plan of action I know—having no plan at all.

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David R Munson

David R Munson

Photographer, essayist, wanderer, weirdo. Everything is interesting if you give it an honest chance to be.

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