Old Stones at the Totomi Kokubunji
(as seen on
September 25th, 2001, on the Old Tokaido
stage of the Aki Meguri)
The remains of the
Totomi Kokubunji are located near Iwate station in the Old Tokaido
station of Mitsuke, which is Station #28 (from Tokyo). You can
read about my visit to the ruins in my Logbook.
You may also choose to start reading about my Tokaido
journey at the beginning, or start at the top of my Aki
Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveler from an antique land
I spent a lot of time in America
chasing after old stones. I have been to just about all of the major
ruins in the Southwest, and a lot of the minor ones. I have seen
walls of standing stones, fallen stones, scattered stones and excavated
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Why do I do it? I don't know. I get a feeling from these
stones. I mean, all stones are old, but to think that a human
being--virtually indistinguishable from me--labored to place this
stone just so...
I often am engulfed in a feeling
of elemental sadness when I encounter such stones. Listen: I once
approached a temple in Kansai from the wrong direction. I ended up
climbing a hill and there, standing among old stones, I suddenly burst
into sobs. When the storm passed, I walked down the other side of
the hill and saw a sign indicating that these stones were the foundation
stones of a pagoda.
So this Kokubunji I saw today had a special meaning for me. I
prayed in front of these statues, then walked the grounds, thinking...
||When the gardener planted this tree,
did he know that it would long outlast the buildings around it?
|When the mason laid these stones,
did he know a man from an unknown land across the sea would someday walk
||When this wash basin was carved
out, did the stone cutter know that it would become one of the last
vestiges of this holy site?
|Did the caretakers of this place,
in a time of hope, exuberance, expansion, and faith in the future, did
they know that someday casual strollers would need to be reminded to pick
up their dogs' poo before leaving this sacred ground?
Seriously, I felt a haiku coming on
until I saw the ubiquitous dog poo sign.
But in a way that just
underscores my point: History is
cyclical. Nations rise and fall and rise again (if they're lucky).
This place was built in one boom, then failed. Other booms have come
and gone since. As I strolled among the ruins, it was hard not to
think of the rubble in the streets of New York. Has a downswing begun?