Aki Meguri Old
September 6th, 2001 (Thursday):
From Shinagawa to Kawasaki
Note: In the original
Meguri pages, the Old Tokaido stage had separate journal
entries on most days. These have now been added at the bottom of
|Today's Words and
Pictures: Honsenji, Suzugamori
|The day began with one
haunting thought: the words of other walkers whose accounts I had
read--"Another late start..."
This one was aggravated by the late
night I spent making my first real Logbook entry. Then I had to
backtrack first to Shinagawa (my ryokan was in Gotanda) and then over an
hour round trip to get the photo below. I hope you enjoy it
considering the time and effort it cost! I also stopped and put
some things in a locker at Shinagawa station for my friend Takeshi to
pick up later--my first ejection of cargo, but surely not my last.
This wall in my
official shot for Shinagawa is all that remains of the famed Shinagawa
barrier. It sometimes
took days to "clear customs" here. The Tokugawa Shoguns
were notoriously paranoid, and the gate was well-known for two
purposes: to keep women in and guns out. The "guns out"
is, I think, obvious: this was the age of the sword, and a gun was an
unfair advantage. But the "women in" might need some
In order to keep the country's lords (daimyo)
in line, the Tokugawas instituted Draconian measures. Every daimyo
had to maintain an expensive house in Edo, as well as his country
estate. He had to live in Edo in alternate years, and conduct
costly processions to and from his home. The whole idea was to
keep the daimyos poor--and unable to raise an effective challenge to the
shogunate. The farther away he lived--thus the less under the
Tokugawa thumb--the more was spent on processions.
Finally, as an added measure of
protection, the daimyos had to leave their wives in Edo at all times,
under virtual house arrest. Thus, "women in."
How did I miss this barrier?
After all, it's in the middle of a sidewalk! In fact, I had
remembered it as being in front of Shinagawa station, but it's in front
of Sengakuji station--before yesterday's prayer-and-shower stop!
Going back and forth to find it took a lot of time.
no one stands guard now
but circumstances kept me
from passing the gate
Shinagawa, Station #1 on the
I have chosen to show the old
barrier gate. Hiroshige's view is similar to the one below--a
busy, narrow street. To the left of the modern road there is a
drop-off to a larger street. A look at Hiroshige's print shows
this used to be the bay.
finally, at 12:30 I reached my "starting point"! That
is, a turn-off just past Shinagawa station, where the Old Tokaido leaves
the new and follows a quiet shopping street. Despite the phone
poles--and the piped reggae!--this was the first stretch of road that
had a slight feeling of the old road. There are also small parks
along the way. One commemorates--on the English signboard--"A
crowd in former Tokaido Road." Japanese "Kyuu Tokaido no
nigiwai"--my dictionary indicates that "nigiwai" can mean
"a crowd" or "prosperity" depending on the Chinese
characters used. Unfortunately, the sign uses the phonetic
symbols, not the Chinese characters, so I don't know what was meant. But
on this shopping street, "The prosperity of the Old Tokaido"
makes more sense.
(By the way, I took a nap in
"crowd park"--cutting into my time even more.)
Along the shopping street, there are
banners proclaiming this the 400th anniversary of the road, as well as a
little "mailman" for a rubber-stamp campaign. These
mailmen were actually runners who carried messages along the Tokaido and
roads like it. The main purpose of the 53
Stations of the Tokaido was their use as post stations for these
runners, as well as to provide "official accommodations" for
the processions mentioned above.
This stretch of road features many small
shrines and temples.
were said at Honsenji, and I've written a Words
and Pictures page about it..
The Chinese characters for "Honsen" are the same as
"Shinagawa," but honsen is the more Chinese-style
pronunciation (onyomi, or "sound-reading") and shinagawa
is more Japanese style (kuniyomi, or
"national-reading"). It's a small temple in size, but an
architectural jewel. It's clearly prosperous: in the garage are
two Mercedes' of the kind my friend Etsuko calls a "Yakuza
Benz." (She has one; the Yakuza are the Japanese
After Honsenji and my prayers, my
spirits rose dramatically.
The next site I
encountered was an area called Suzugamori, subject of another Words
and Pictures page. It is
Edo's old execution ground. All that's left are some statues and
grave stones, some of which also came from the old Daikyouji Temple.
My friend and translator Naoko told me
that rents in the area tend to be cheaper--to entice people to move here
despite their fear of ghosts.
The rest of the day can be summed up
quickly: I walked and walked.
I reached the "Rokugo
Ferry"--the Tama River--at sundown More on that tomorrow.
I met my friend Takeshi in Kawasaki
station and gave him the key to the locker in Shinagawa, so he could
pick up the cargo I ejected this morning and take it for safe-keeping.
And I slept outside. One ryokan
and three business hotels were full; the love hoteliers chased me away.
So I slept in the bicycle parking area of a brand new apartment
building. As I was falling asleep--with an anti-mosquito towel
over my face--someone walked up, said "Oh...oh..." and walked
away. I later heard the same voice assigning bicycle parking space
numbers, so he was probably the manager. But I slept undisturbed
through the night. [Little did I realize that my first night
outside would also be my last!]
Walking with the Buddha: Thinking vs. Walking
Things I'm learning about LIFE by walking
My friend Bob likes to say, "It is one thing to talk
about bulls; it is another to face the bull." (It
sounds better with his put-on Spanish accent.) The idea
here is simple: talkin' ain't doin'. So if I sit and
plan, and estimate, and revise, and guess--I don't move
forward a millimeter. But if I walk, it's amazing how
fast the mileposts fly by.
This is as true of life as it is of walking. Many of
us spend more time planning than we do doing. We think
instead of act. The two are different. Sure,
thinking has a purpose, but one of the central tenets of most
religions is that the mind can be an enemy, tricking us
into doing the wrong thing--or, more often I suspect, tricking
us out of doing the right one.
Gotta go. Gotta walk.
My Companions on the Road
I plan to walk this road basically alone (although friends
may join me occasionally). But I've discovered I'm not
alone. Spiritually, I'm with everyone I know. Some
have made requests; others have made donations. Still
others are with me for various other reasons. But you're
However, I also have physical companions. The
Shikoku pilgrim carries a stick; in the words of Bishop
Miyata, "Be sure it is the Daishi." That is,
the stick is Kobo Daishi, founder of the pilgrimage.
This set me thinking about my stick as a companion.
Like any companion, it has pluses and minuses.
Sometimes, I wish I could leave it behind, and swing my arms
freely as I walk. At other times, though--especially at
the end of the day--it's nice to have "somebody to lean
If the stick is a companion, a support, what about the hat?
It, too, is a companion, one who protects me. It
shelters me from the sun and the rain. It, too, can be
annoying, like when a big truck goes by and blows it back, and
the string catches around my neck and chokes me! Other
times, though, it makes me laugh, like when a light breeze
lifts it an inch off my head. It must look like I'm
parachuting in for a landing.
These two companions, while sometimes annoying, are mostly
givers, not takers. My other two companions, although
useful, have been taking a lot. They are my two
bags, a backpack and a shoulder bag. As described in the
for today, I have gotten rid of some things, but before I did
my bags had a combined weight of 30 kilos (66 pounds).
These are like those friends, then, that you have to carry
through life. They give a little (they hold my things),
but everything they give is something I gave them in the first
Teachers including Jesus and Buddha have often said that
you must leave everything and everyone who holds you back from
the journey. I'm thinking about these bags. When
is it better to continue to support a companion, and when is
it better to set them free? Or modify the relationship?
More on this tomorrow.