Down the east coast of Japan trails the East Sea Road, known as the Tokaido, linking the spiritual capital of Kyoto to the political capital in Tokyo, once known as Edo. The 500km Tokaido was the most important of the Five Routes in the Tokugawa period, and remains one of the busiest travel corridors in Japan linking Tokyo to Osaka through Honshu province.
The Tokaido was a pilgrimage route, of hugely personal significance to the Japanese people. A way to escape the pressures of life, the pilgrimage was a mark of distinction- something that marked the traveller as a cultured, enlightened person. Travellers journeying down the Tokaido over a two week period would typically do so on foot and would ensure their journey was a deeply cultural one, meeting interesting strangers, bringing souvenirs and gifts (known as Omiyage) for loved ones and sampling traditional foods.
This renewal of cultural ties inspired incredible works of art, such as Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido and even a beautiful modern day board game recreating that journey.
This week saw the beginning of many Scouts own pilgrimages through Japan on the way to the 23rd World Jamboree. This journey will be just as important, just as character building and crucially as personally defining as the original pilgrimages.
Our Scouts attending are ambassadors for our country. They epitomise the values we, as Scouts, believe in and take on an important responsibility in representing us in a key theme of this years Jamboree- a Spirit of Unity.
Already we’re seeing the first hints of what an amazing opportunity this is. And whilst I am unsure that I ever need to see again the image of Steve Clayton squatting before trying to charge down a Sumo Wrestler, I am incredibly envious of the adventure that lies before those out there.
Remember, sometimes it is the journey that is important, not the destination.