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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 22nd, 2001 (Saturday):
From (Almost) Shimada to Kanaya

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 friend Shie says there's kind of a proverbial idea in Japan: that Winter comes "rain by rain," each storm changing the weather one step closer to Winter .  Today it's officially Autumn, and it feels like it.

The typhoon blew itself out before morning, leaving behind a gorgeous day: clear blue skies with cotton candy clouds, cool and breezy--that rare perfect day in Japan.  A day for walking.

Too bad I didn't have a chance to do much.

I went off on a futile quest for shoes.  I can easily find shoes in Japan that are long enough for my feet, but seldom are they wide enough or deep enough (top to bottom).  I spent hours in various stores, and ended up buying a cheap pair of sandals no more comfortable than the ones I had.

It sounds like I'm complaining.  I'm not.  I had a great time, experienced top-flight service like only Japanese department stores can provide (even calling competitors to see if a certain style and size were available), walked several kilometers in beautiful Shizuoka on a fine day, had many funny encounters with everybody from high school kids to old ladies--a great day.

It was so late, though, that I considered going back to my room and working on the home page.  I had a good excuse, didn't I?  But I couldn't.  I just had to walk.  It's in my blood now.

So finally, at 3 p.m., I was on the trail again from Rokugo station.  Late, yeah, but I was busy all day!  (Besides, I walked the entire Tokaido today.  Read on.)

As I wrote yesterday, I stopped about 30 minutes from Shimada.  Sure enough, by 3:30 I blew into town.

Not seeing much in the center of town that looked like Edo, I opted to do a picture with an old friend, Mr. Tanuki.  You may recall that the author I quoted on Sunday the 16th wrote: "Standing by the road side on its hind legs [the tanuki] distends its belly (or rather Scrotum)..."  Talk about an extended scrotum!  Look at this guy!  Hey, I imitated his gestures and facial expression, but THAT was as far as I would go!

Why didn't I try to copy Hiroshige's print?  Well, frankly, I think he fell into a rut along in here.  No fewer than 19 of his prints (in the Hoeido edition) show people crossing water, whether by bridge, boat, or ford.  (Your count may differ.)  This is not surprising; there is a lot of water to cross.

But Shimada is station #23, and he shows crossings for #19, 23, 24, 26, and 28!  That's 50% of the 10 prints ranging on either side of this one.  So I went with the tanuki.

However, as you'll see below, I, too, got caught up in the spirit of crossing.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Shimada, Station #23 on the Old Tokaido

This print and the next one (Kanaya) show crossings of the Oigawa River.  One of my guidebooks (Tokaido, by Tomikichiro Tokuriki) says that when the Oi was in flood it was impossible to cross.  Records indicate that one winter it was closed for 28 days.  Tokuriki adds that crossing fees were set by the water level, below the chest being cheapest, at the chest next, between the armpits and the shoulders the most.  Above the shoulders and traffic was halted.

I stopped here at Daizenji for your prayers.  It's a small temple of recent construction, but the foundation is quite old.  It's a Jodo temple, the main image being (naturally) Amida Nyorai.

I had a long, wonderful talk with the priest's wife, about religion, culture, lifestyle, etc.  It was fun switching back-and-forth rapidly between English and Japanese.  I reflect on this more in today's journal.

By the way, the priest at this temple has a "day job," so his wife keeps a number of pre-signed stamp pages on hand.  This is a common practice in various parts of the country. I wonder why they didn't have any at Chonenji in Mariko day before yesterday? 

A map of the park The street today

Now, here's where I became captivated by this river crossing thing.  As one approaches the river, the Kawagoshi--riverside area--is largely intact as a historic park.  The area used to have at least 10 inns, and several offices for the transportation business; some of these are still there.

It gave me a strange thrill of anticipation to be walking toward the river on the authentic-looking street, instead of on a busy highway leading to a bridge.  (That was a bit to the north.)

When I reached the actual riverside, I got another treat.

Back on September 17th, I visited a temple called Shouinji.  On the Words and Pictures page, I mentioned that "Many temples have mini-pilgrimage circuits.  These are part of 88 statues representing the 88 temples of Shikoku."  This deserves elaboration.  A temple will set up a series of statues--at Shouinji, for example, 88--each one representing one temple on a pilgrimage circuit.  Wannabe pilgrims can then visit one place and gain merit for having done the entire circuit.

The start, including a little Nihombashi The road goes on

Well, at the riverside in Shimada, one can do--the entire Tokaido!  The religious idea of substitutionary merit has been applied to the old road.  There are 55 plaques with Hiroshige's pictures, and 55 stones engraved with haiku, as well as 55 signs showing the haiku in clear writing.  So even though I started at 3:00 today, I did the whole Tokaido! 

I finally reached the river's edge.  This is an unusual shot for me; I'm usually looking at rivers from above.

Here I'm looking back at the bridge on the River Oi.  (Everybody whistle.)  According to one pamphlet this bridge is 850 meters (2,762.5 feet) long.    That's over half a mile!  It was by far the longest bridge I've crossed.  No wonder crossing this river was such an enterprise in the old days.

After a mosey through a quiet neighborhood, I started climbing toward Kanaya train station.  Tomorrow's walk promises several saka (slopes) and some ishidatami (stone paving), as well as a weeping stone.  Tune in.

 

Journal
Entry

The Fine Art of Conversation

It's a standard joke here.  The beginner speaks broken Japanese, a word here, a grunt there.  As he learns more, he begins to develop good, subject-object-verb sentences, with all the particles in the right places.  Then, as he reaches near-native fluency, he discovers that all the Japanese people are speaking broken Japanese!

Japanese is a highly contextual language.  Conversation often consists of no more than an adjective with a question mark, and an affirmative.

Lesson 1: Small Talk

(NB: In English, Small Talk is often considered a way to "break the ice."  In Japanese, Small Talk is the ice.)

Here's your first lesson.

Learn a handful of adjectives to describe the weather and other conditions.  Try hot, cold, dark, quiet, and hard (as in "hard work").

Add these terms:

ne=a question mark, like "isn't it?"

so=thus, I agree

Here's a complete conversation that will get you out of almost any social fix:

A: (Adjective), ne?

B: So.

That's it.  A hot day?  You start.

A: Atsui, ne?

B: So.

You've climbed a slope and are starting down the other side.  Some people are coming toward you up the slope.  You start:

A: Taihen (hard), ne?

B: So.

(Note: If they're really chatty, they might say "So, ne?" or "So desu, ne?"--which adds the verb "to be"--or even repeat your sentence: "Taihen, ne?")

That's it for Lesson 1.

Lesson 2: International Relations

Sometimes people are startled to see I'm a foreigner.  (Maybe it's the hat.)  If this happens to you, try this:

A: Eh? Gaijin!

B: Eh? Nihonjin!

Translation:

A: What?  A foreigner!

B: What? A Japanese person!

Works every time.

Lesson 3: Dealing with Cabbies, Old People, and Other Incessant Talkers

Learn these three phrases:

1. Hai.

2. So (or So desu ne?)

3. Eh, eh, eh.

All of these mean "uh-huh" and should be used interchangeably and non-stop as the other person speaks.

For variety, you may choose to say number 2 with a rising inflection to indicate surprise or admiration.   Thus:

Cabbie: babble, babble, babble...

You: Hai, hai.  So, so, so. Eh, eh, eh.  So desu ne.

Cabbie: [pauses as though something important were said.]

You: SO??!!

Cabbie: babble, babble, babble...

That's all there is to speaking Japanese...like a native.

Any suggestions for Lesson 4?

 
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