Home    Deep Asia    Articles    Photos    Blogs/What's New

Check out the new site from The Temple Guy!

AKI MEGURIHISTORYTOKAIDOYAMATOSHIKOKU


 

Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 19th, 2001 (Wednesday):
From Yui (Satta Pass)
to somewhere past Ejiri (Shimizu).

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.

 
Today's Words and Pictures: Seikenji
 
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 (expressway)
  • 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.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: 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.

This slide warning sign features a man in old-fashioned dress.  (Or does this sign mean, "It's dangerous to throw rocks at a samurai"?) These two signs are on the restrooms at the beginning of the hiking trail (described below).

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 machine!

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 no Jirocho.

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.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: 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 Tokaido.")

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 main image.

The Gohyakku Rakkan (500 arhats) are a real treat.  Enjoy the Words and Pictures.

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 #18 on 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 lore.

Another weird encounter: here's a shot of the popular tanuki statue that I mentioned on Sunday.  (This one is gigantic!)

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.

 

Journal
Entry

Home

As Dorothy said, there's no place like it.

By Western reckoning, my birth sign is Cancer.  Among the strongest traits of the Cancerian is a love of home.  In the Japanese/Chinese zodiac, I'm a sheep--also a homebody.

So what's a home-lover like me doing living in a foreign country?  Even more, why did I choose to become homeless for three months?  When I sign in to lodging, I have to give my former office address, because I don't live anywhere.

How can this be?

My buddy Eric made a cogent observation once.  He told me that even though I've opted for a sort of alternate home (this was before my current homelessness, when I lived in an apartment), I seemed to really crave time alone in that home.

Put another way: whatever situation I have defined my "home" to be, I grow really attached to it.

I accept this observation.

When I was a little kid, pre-school age, my aunt took me to visit my grandmother a day's drive from home.  Everyone marveled that I didn't cry to go home.  Someone said, though, that it meant I was secure enough about home that I wasn't troubled by being away from it.

Maybe.  All I know is that for as long as I can remember, wherever I'm going to sleep that night is "home."  And I do love it.

In 1995 I put my things in storage and moved in with actor Robert Urich and his family.  (That's another story.)  My stuff is still in storage.  I lived with the Urichs in Park City, Utah, for half a year, then with my folks, then in a Urich-sponsored apartment in Santa Fe while I worked on a show with Robert. Then back to Mom and Dad's, then to Japan, where my apartments were arranged by Aeon, the language school I worked for here.

I haven't signed a housing agreement, or paid rent directly to a landlord, in almost seven years.  Yet every night, I love to get into my room and shut the door.

Someone said, "Home is where the heart is."  I know what they meant, but I think I need to tweak that.  For me, home is in my heart.  I am fortunate in having a kind of peace when it comes to that sort of thing, evident even when I was a child.

It has its down side, though.  I'm often late to appointments, and one reason is that I'm just so happy wherever I am that I hate to leave!  On this walk, it's hard to get out of my room in the morning, and just as hard to leave wherever I am and return at night--though once I'm here, I'm ecstatic.

People in America ask me when I'm coming home.

Well folks, I'm home.  Wherever I am.

 
<Previous Logbook Entry Return to
Aki Meguri Home
Return to
Old Tokaido Top

Next Logbook Entry>

 


Write to The Temple Guy

Search the Temple Guy