中山道<第11日>(行田駅)~熊谷~深谷2007年05月26日

熊谷市内の中山道右手に広がる麦畑 画像
熊谷堤の上 画像 9:50AM、行田駅を下車。
熊谷堤に上る。
広大な田園風景。虫の音、鳥のさえずりが心地よい。
ここが今日の出発点。
今日はここから熊谷を経て深谷までの約14Kmを歩く予定。
熊谷といえば夏が来るたびにとんでもない最高気温をたたき出してニュースになる恐るべき土地だ。
そういえば以前にラジオで熊谷の人から「鉢植えのサボテンが枯れてしまいました」という話を聞いたことがある。
熊谷の暑さはアリゾナやメキシコの荒野で咲くサボテンさえ枯らしてしまうのだ。
今日の天気予報も東京やさいたま市が最高気温27℃なのに熊谷だけは32℃である。
きつい行程になりそうだ。

熊谷堤を下りた旧道 堤を下りるとすぐに旧道らしいくねった道が現れた。
沿道左手の家々から堤までの間には広々とした田園が広がる。
そのせいで家々の背後はすぐ空という景観には独特の開放感がある。ちょっと海辺の集落の雰囲気に似ているような。

旧中山道に立ちふさがる八木橋デパート 画像 熊谷市街地で昼食を摂って再出発した午後からは暑さのせいか、それとも旧道に立ちふさがるようにそびえる八木橋デパートの威容に目を奪われたのか高札場跡、本陣跡、本陣の別邸である星渓園を立て続けに見逃して通り過ぎてしまった。
しかも最も頼りにしているガイドブック『中山道の歩き方 武州路・上州路をゆく』(学研)の地図や解説文の誤りのため秩父道の道標を見逃したり、間違った脇道に入って迷ったりと散々であった。

新島の一里塚 画像 気温はぐんぐん上がる。足取りは重くなる。
そんな時にたどり着いたのが新島の一里塚。
樹齢300年の大ケヤキの下で休憩。
木陰を通り抜ける風が心地よい。
いにしえの旅人もこの木陰で同じように休憩し、同じような心地よさを感じたことであろう。

見返りの松 画像 間もなく深谷宿だ。
かつて熊谷宿が飯盛女という遊女を置くことを禁じたせいで隣の深谷宿に集まり、そのおかげで深谷宿は大繁盛したらしい。
宿場の入り口付近には旅人が一夜を共にした遊女との名残を惜しんだという「見返り松」がある。
しかし樹齢500年を誇ったこの松も昨年2月に枯れてしまい、今は細っちい若松が代わりに植えられている。
これではなんのありがたみもない。
しかしこのすぐ近くには小学校、中学校、高校が立ち並んでいるというのに大人たちはこの松をどのように子供に説明しているのだろうか。
深谷の子供は学校を上がるごとにこの松の意味をだんだんと知って大人になるのだろう。

深谷駅 画像 さて今日の予定はここまで。深谷駅に向かう。
するとそこで僕らは驚愕した。
深谷駅の余りにも場違いな威容に。
これならエキナカでコーヒーでも飲めるだろうと期待して中に入ると、そんなものは何もない。
せいぜい自販機コーナーがあるくらいのプレーンな駅だ。
乗降客は余り多くなく、はやっていない博物館のように靴音がよく響く。
ますますわからん、なぜここにこんなものが?

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