|This morning I said
goodbye to the Maruyamas and they took me back to Higashi Shizuoka
station. I stashed my bag at Shizuoka station, returned to Yui,
and caught a cab to last night's stopping point.
(There is no bus, as I discovered last night!)
Last night as I walked toward the base of
Satta Pass I was regretting the darkness. This stretch of road
looks more like the Tokaido of imagination than anything I had seen so
far. So it was with real pleasure that I walked back a few hundred
meters and took the pictures shown here.
The road to the Pass begins
steeply, but levels out and becomes a beautiful walk before long.
That's an ichirizuka marker on the right, just where the slope
begins in earnest.
Yesterday I wrote that there were five Tokaidos.
From here I could see four of them. (The shinkansen is inland and
underground in a series of tunnels at this point.) The black arrows
indicate (from left to right):
- The "New Tokaido" Highway1
- Old Highway 1
- The Tokaido Honsen train line (only
the electrical wires--not the tracks--are visible here)
- The Old Tokaido--on which I'm
standing as I take the shot!
Satta Pass is well-known for what a
dangerous, scary crossing it was. Exaggeration. These days it is
being worked, mostly for citrus. Somebody--hikers?--stacked
this fallen fruit on one portion of the walk.
Yui, Station #16 on
the Old Tokaido
[Note: Hiroshige used
Satta Pass as his scene for Yui. Although I was in the station of
Yui yesterday, I didn't reach the pass until today. So I have
given Hiroshige's illustration twice: once yesterday, and again today.]
Ladies and gentlemen, Hiroshige is a
big fat liar. There is nothing like this on Satta Pass, his
illustration for Yui. It's steep, yes, but not that steep.
Anyway, the standard interpretation of it as dangerous and scary is
exaggerated, at least as regards the modern Old Tokaido.
Here is my example of a very famous
view. The only problem is, the star of the show is missing. As you
can see from Hiroshige's print above, and this shot of the signboard
along the way (below), you should be able to see Mount Fuji over
the lower mountain in the distance. Not today.
from Satta Toge
I looked back and saw Fuji
or was it a cloud?
Shizuoka Prefecture has really promoted
the Old Tokaido. Even the signs along the way pay respect
to the past.
Near the top of the pass, a
well-maintained hiking trail leaves the vehicle road and strikes off
through the citrus groves. Here is the marker for the pass.
I wouldn't exactly call this part of the
hike strenuous. I met a group of about 10 senior citizens
along the way. We had a nice chat; here they are heading away
afterward, probably talking about the goofy gaijin.
If you know Japan, you know that vending
machines are everywhere. Well, here's a "back country" vending
After the Pass: At the crossing of the
Okitsu River (depicted in Hiroshige's print below) I stopped at a shop
called "Hashimotoya." The shopkeeper was a jolly guy. He
told me a German about my size had stopped in yesterday, also walking
the Old Tokaido. He said the guy looked a lot like me--except he
was wearing normal clothes! The shopkeeper also explained that
this area--along the road, next to the river--was the hangout of Shimizu
The history of this area is dominated
by the fact that Shizuoka was the childhood home--and deathplace--of
Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa, who founded the Tokaido. (Maybe that's
why the Prefecture promotes it so much.) We'll take a look at him
tomorrow, when I actually walk through Shizuoka City. (Although I
will mention him once more today.) But to me, Jirocho was a far
more interesting character.
Sometimes called a "boss," he
was a real-life godfather: a hero to some, a villain to others.
True, he ran a "gang." But he also started Shimizu's
first English class! And when former President Grant visited
Japan--landing at Shimizu port--Jirocho was entrusted with the
preparations (he ran the docks), even though he wasn't considered
qualified to meet Grant personally.
He was quite a character, and is a
perennial favorite in Japanese films. Unfortunately, I couldn't
find much about him on the net in the way of biography.
Okitsu, Station #17 on
the Old Tokaido
Hiroshige shows two sumo wrestler
crossing the Okitsu River. Pity the bearers--and the horse!
On to Okitsu. This is where it all
began for me. Oliver Statler used to stay at an inn in Okitsu that
was a sub-honjin--an inn for those less than a daimyo.
He was inspired to write a book called Japanese
Inn, which tells 400 years of Japan's history from the
perspective of this inn. The Tokaido played host to some of the
most prominent figures and events of the time, and Statler fictionalizes
the historic inn owners and their brushes with history. (In fact,
the Japanese title is Tokaido no Yado--"Inn on the
I read this book upon my arrival in
Japan, and it fired me. By coincidence, one of my closest
friends--Tomoko, with whose family I stayed yesterday--was from
Shizuoka, near Okitsu. So in the spring of 1998 I visited here,
and saw a lot of the sites mentioned by Statler. This only whetted
my appetite. (Statler's other big book, Japanese Pilgrimage,
is part of the inspiration for the Shikoku part of my trip. He has
a lot to answer for.)
I haven't seen Statler's inn,
which--according to Patrick Carey's Rediscovering the Old Tokaido--is
now the offices of a company.
As for my experience of Okitsu as a
Tokaido walker: The shuku (station) was a bit disappointing after
the excellent scenes in Yui and Kambara. Just a few stone markers.
But Okitsu has a real gem:
SEIKENJI. This area between
the mountains and the sea was a natural location for one of the barrier
stations, which was called the Seiken seki (seki means barrier).
This establishment eventually gave rise to Seikenji. (The marker
for the barrier is in the parking lot of the temple.)
I visited here on that 1998 trip and
saw the interior of the rooms, including one where Tokugawa Ieyasu is
supposed to have studied as a boy. Today I said your prayers here.
It's another Rinzai (Myoshinji subsect) temple, with Shaka Nyorai as the
The Gohyakku Rakkan (500 arhats) are a
real treat. Enjoy the Words
Here is my official Okitsu shot, in
front of the hall where I prayed at Seikenji.
Walking in to Shimizu, I saw this example
of Pop art (!) along the way.
Not much remains of Ejiri, the old
station now within the city of Shimizu. My map showed the site of
Ejiri Castle near the route of the Old Tokaido; all I could find was a
shrine. Reasoning that it's the only "historic" thing in
the area (the site of the castle is now an elementary school), I decided
to do my "official shot" at the shrine. A
bunch of high schoolers were hanging out there, so I did the picture
with some of them (for a change).
Hiroshige's Tokaido: Ejiri, Station
the Old Tokaido
This bay view shows a little spit with
pine trees, called Miho no Matsubara. It's a truly beautiful place
(I went there in '98) with a truly beautiful story. It's said that
one day a fisherman found a gorgeous feathered robe hanging on a pine
tree at Miho. An angel had gone in swimming, and had left her robe
behind. When she came out of the water, he insisted that she dance
for him (nude?) before he returned the robe. The beauty of this
place makes one believe it's possible.
Weird encounters: As I left the shrine
I came to a new bridge (dated August of this year, and still not open to
cars) that was decorated with one of Japan's "big three"
supernatural creatures: the kappa, a kind of water spirit.
(The other two commonly mention are oni, a demon, and tengu,
a kind of mountain spirit. I'll tell you more about them if I meet
any.) Here are the kappa:
The kappa's power comes from a
reservoir of water on top of his head. If you can get him to bow,
the water will spill out, and he will be powerless.
There are lots of kappa stories.
He's kind of creepy, like Tolkien's Gollum. You can read some more
encounter: here's a shot of the popular tanuki statue that
I mentioned on Sunday. (This one is
I trudged on to Kusanagi station and
caught the train to Shizuoka, where I'm staying in a ryokan tonight.
Tomorrow: central Shizuoka and beyond.