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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 18th, 2001 (Tuesday):
From somewhere in Yoshiwara to past Yui

Note: In the original Aki Meguri pages, the Old Tokaido stage had separate journal entries on most days.  These have now been added at the bottom of this page.

 
My day started and ended with kindness from old women.

Remember that I was lost last night?  Well, I found the station at last, but it wasn't where I expected it to be.  So this morning I walked back from that station to last night's end point.

Wrong.

The station was right where it should have been.  But where I ended up wasn't where I thought it was!

Get it?  I thought I was on Aobadori last night, and that the station was mis-marked on my map, and was in actuality well south of Aobadori.  But I wasn't on Aobadori, which runs right next to the station--just as the map says. Lesson: Where the map and I differ, I'm almost always wrong.  (Actually, ALWAYS so far!)

So I spent my first 45 minutes backtracking to the wrong place, then back-backtracking to the right place.

But along the way, something cool happened.  A skinny, toothless old lady in a big floppy hat passed me on a bicycle.  She smiled and bowed at me so much--while riding--that I thought she was going to fall off.  She didn't, though, and rode on past.

Well, a few minutes later, she rode back up behind me.  "Tomato tabeta?" she asked.  "Do you [want to] eat tomatoes?"  And she proceeded to give me ten tomatoes, of varying size and quality, as a kind of osettai.

If I hadn't gotten lost etc., etc., blah-blah-blah you know what I mean.

Well, here it is at long last, the picture you've all been waiting for: [fanfare] My official shot of Yoshiwara.  Far from the center of the shuku, but still within its bounds, I am at a monument to the ferry that used to cross the Fujikawa River here.  The marker is on the grounds of a small shrine, named "Suijinja" or Water Shrine.

 

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Yoshiwara, Station #14 on the Old Tokaido

Another pines-by-water scene.  The print shows Fuji on the left, as mentioned yesterday.

All during my time at the shrine, I could here the river thundering nearby.  When I actually got to the bridge, I was stunned by how wide the river was, and by how much water was pouring over this little falls.  It was stupendous!

After crossing the river, one jogs right-and-left quickly and heads up the slope to a beautiful, quiet neighborhood named Fujikawacho.  The road follows along a hill, about halfway between the bottom (which in the past must surely have been submerged by the sea) and the top; then up a slope, and along another hill.

Here where the mountains squeeze up against the sea, it's clear that there are actually five Tokaidos: there's the Old Tokaido, the one I'm walking; there's the "Old National Highway 1" which I sometimes walk on as part of the Old Tokaido; there's an expressway, "New Highway 1," and there are two train lines, the regular Tokaido Honsen, and the Tokaido Shinkansen ("Bullet Train").  There's a picture of four out of these five on tomorrow's page.

On this part of the walk, the Old Tokaido passed both over and under the expressway, passed under the Shinkansen tracks, and came down and paralleled both the "Old National" and the Honsen--all in the space of 20 minutes!  The five are woven together here like a rope.

I thought the underpass for the Shinkansen looked rather old.  It was, in fact, built in 1963--the year before the Olympics brought hordes of sightseers to Japan.  Though the Olympics were around Tokyo, surely a lot of visitors took side trips to Kyoto.  Japan was ready for them.  What will take me a month can be done in under 2-1/2 hours on the Shinkansen!  (depressing)

And now back to the walk.  Here is one of the two Iwabuchi ichirizuka, with charming looks befitting the Fujikawacho neighbor.  Both ichirizuka are intact.

From the ichirizuka you can see the roof of this house, so I walked over and took this shot.  It's some kind of community history center, from what I could gather.

Local government being what it is, signage practices change when you enter a new neighborhood, and some seem quite funny to me.

This one means "Grannies and Children Ballroom Dancing Ahead."

And I don't know where to begin with this one.  How about the fact that it's an advertisement placed in the back of a garbage collection bin?  Then what about using Napoleon to advertise English lessons?  I mean, he wasn't exactly well-known for his love of the English!

Yes, another ichirizuka. But this one intrigued me because the house behind it surrounds it on three sides.  Respect?  Maybe.

Kambara station couldn't be more different from Yoshiwara.  From the east gate marker (shown here) to the excellent signs (alas in Japanese) along the way, to the well-preserved buildings, respect for the past clearly has been a priority.

Several deep lots display these old okura or storehouses.  Some--like the one on the left in the second picture--are now located in back yards.

Here is my official shot for Kambara station, number 15 of the Old Tokaido.  I am walking in front of a beautiful old house on the site of the honjin, or official inn.

[Does this look familiar?  With a change to the attitude of the stick, it was the model for the "Temple Guy" figure found on these pages!]

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Kambara, Station #15 on the Old Tokaido

Although this is a well-loved print, it is doubtful that it ever snowed in Kambara.  I may add snow to my official shot later!  (One good fake deserves another.)

Here's another in my growing collection of unique dosojin--figures of great interest to me, since they protect travelers.

On to the official shot for station number 16: Yui.  This is a kind of museum in Honjin Ato Koen--"Official Inn Site Park."  In fact, it's the first authentic honjin area I've seen--and I first saw it over three years ago with my friends the Maruyamas, whose house I'm writing this in tonight.  In the car coming from the station, I told my buddy T-chan that this is the first extended conversation I've had in English in NINE DAYS!

Next to the honjin museum is the museum dedicated to the woodblock prints of Hiroshige.  When I visited before, I saw a full set of authentic Tokaido prints, and more, such as a demonstration of ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock) printing.

If you're in the neighborhood, this place is a must.  Here's more information.

A couple of times I've mentioned Yaji-san and Kita-san, the main characters in Ikku Jippensha's comic novel about the Tokaido, Shank's Mare.  Here I am with them, looking at something shocking.  (As nearly as I could tell, they were looking at the menu of the restaurant they stand in front of.  Was it the pictures?  or the prices?)  The building they stand in front of also houses an Edo-Tokaido museum and a gift shop.

This picture is also a candidate for "official shot."  Which one do you like better, this or the one in front of the honjin?

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Yui, Station #16 on the Old Tokaido

[Note: Hiroshige used Satta Pass as his scene for Yui.  Although I reached the station of Yui today, I wouldn't reach the pass until tomorrow.  So I have given Hiroshige's illustration twice: once today, and again tomorrow.]

This is Satta Pass, which I'll tackle first thing tomorrow.

 Today's prayers involve a good story.  As I walked up to the temple behind the honjin park in Yui, I passed an old woman gardening.  I said my prayers as usual, and when I was finished she approached and said, "Your prayers were good, weren't they?"  I said thank you, and asked where I could have my book signed.  "Oh, I'll do it," she said.  She was the priest's wife!

So she took me into the offer, showed me the interior of the hondo, and answered the usual questions: the temple is named Daihoji, it is part of the Myoshinji subsect of Rinzai Zen, and the main image is Nyoirin Kannon.  I later learned that this is "Wish-fulfilling Kannon"--a good one to express your wishes to!  In a room behind the main altar--filled mostly with plaques bearing posthumous names--is another sequestered statue of Bato Kannon, or "Horse-Headed Kannon," useful especially to animals and farmers.

These "hidden Buddhas" are pretty common in Japan, being revealed only once in so-many years.  Imagine my surprise, then, when she offered to take me in again and show them to me!  I was so touched.

So we went in, and I saw the Nyoirin Kannon.  This is a gold lady about a foot high, with six arms, and seated on a lotus.  I now know that the arms are there to grant the various wishes she hears.

The Bato Kannon was more unusual.  Every one that I've seen has a fairly standard-looking Kannon, with a sort of horse's-head hat coming up from the crown of her head.  Not this one. It was a fearsome black six-armed creature looking much like Fudo Myoo.  This one had flames coming out of the top of its head like a crown.  And within these black flames was the white relief of a horse's head.

Of course I couldn't take pictures.  But these images are etched firmly in my mind.

One final "adventure" to relate: Leaving the shuku area, I walked through Yui station to get a map, then started toward Satta Pass.  Because of the time I spent at Daihoji, I reached the bottom of the pass after dark.  I really wanted to see the view, so I decided to break off and continue tomorrow.  Heading down to "Old Highway 1," I noticed a bus lane marked on the street, but no signs or timetables.  So I waited for over a half-hour, then decided to walk on down the road and take my chances.

I entered a restaurant a few hundred meters down the road, and explained that I needed to know the name of the place so I could call a taxi.  As I secretly hoped, the lady in the restaurant called one for me!  Fifteen minutes later I was at Okitsu station, where I had stowed my bag this morning.

The lady cab driver, by the way, had seen me walking through Yui station, and I had seen her chatting with another driver.  She said they had commented on me not being Japanese!  Small world.

So Tomoko and her brother brought me home, I played with my 2-year-old buddy Luka (Tomo's boy, who calls me "Jay-Jay"), had a shower and some dinner, showed the family my homepage (and the dead tanuki picture from day-before-yesterday), and now it's bedtime.

 

Journal
Entry

Maybe Bishop Berkeley was right!

Back in my school days, we used to have some fun at the expense of old Bishop Berkeley.

Berkeley was a philosopher who lived around the turn of the 18th century.  Whatever the good Bishop really taught, this is what we thought he said: things only exist if they are perceived.  If no one sees, hears, smells, tastes, or feels a material thing, that thing does not have any reality.  He wiggled out of the obvious problems with this by saying God is someone, and is always perceiving everything; so even if no one is a room where a table is located, the table still exists because God perceives it.  (What he was really addressing was the question of whether tings have an independent reality, or only exist as ideas.)

We used to do stuff like plug our ears and turn our backs on our friends and say "I can't perceive you!  You don't exist!" and other mature philosophical gambits like that.

The Bishop, then, would say that if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it--or perceives it in any other way--than the tree doesn't exist!

Why was I thinking about this today?  Well, as I walk, I read.  I'm reading a small book now called The Pocket Buddha Reader, edited by Anne Bancroft.  It's simply a selection from the Sutras, the Buddha's own words.  And it's mind expanding.

Today I read this:

...everything, including ourselves, depends on everything else and has no permanent self-existence.

Pause and think about it.  Are you permanently self-existent?  No way.  What brought you to where you are today?  Ancestry, genetics, social structures, education, nutrition, etc.  What is necessary to sustain you?  At then very least, water, which has been in millions of other living beings in  its time.  You cannot exist without an entire universe of supporting players.

Back to Berkeley.  An old song occurs to me: "You're nobody 'til somebody loves you."  Without connection, without relationship, without everything else can I be said to truly exist?

 
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