|It was one of those
I had problems publishing my home page,
so I was up until 5 a.m. At 8, I arose again and continued
working, missing my bus. Because I am publishing through a
cellular connection, I went down to the train station, where I thought
the connection might be stronger.
It was, but I still had problems.
So I gave up, and caught the 12:30 bus back to last night's stopping
point. I didn't cover much ground today, but over all the day turned out
The walking portion began and ended
with meeting teachers. As an old pedant myself, I found a certain
comfort in meeting colleagues.
At the bottom of the Arai Barrier Words
and Pictures page yesterday, I mentioned that there was an old execution
ground near the Youth Hostel where I'm staying. On the way to
the station to use my computer, I stopped to take this picture.
If anyone violated the rules at the
Arai Barrier, they were brought here. Lower classes had their
heads cut off; upper classes were allowed the honor of committing seppuku
or harakiri--suicide by cutting open one's own stomach.
Today the place is a pleasant park, with no sign indicating its grisly
past. But my friend Chie says the local people avoid the area at
For another execution ground, see my
Words and Pictures page about Suzugamori.
After working for two hours at the
station--the limit of my computer's battery--I caught the bus toward
Futagawa. I alit from the bus at the bottom of Shiomizaka,
or "Tide-Viewing Slope." Near the top, I saw this sign
indicating that the Futagawa shuku was ahead and Arai was behind.
And that a community center was to the right! An interesting mix
of practical and historical information.
Here's my official shot for
Shirasuka, station number 32 on the Old Tokaido. Notice anything
unusual about this official shot? I'm not in it. I
felt it was essential to mimic Hiroshige's view, but to do so left me no
place to stand. If I moved the camera back to include me, you
wouldn't see the view. Hmmmm... view or James? I think I
made the right decision (don't you?).
By the way, it's tough to see because
of the lighting, but that is the ocean in the background.
Hiroshige's Tokaido: Shirasuka, Station
the Old Tokaido
The view from the top of Shiomizaka.
Funny sign, funny story.
First the sign. This indicates that the entry to the elementary
school is to the left; the junior high is to the right. What
struck me as funny is that the elementary kid looks happy, but the one
in junior high--when the pressure and preparation for university entry
exams begins--looks stressed.
The story? As I was taking the
picture a gentleman approached. He spoke excellent
English--because he had been an English teacher in this district for
years! He was now working for the school board, and was out
visiting this school.
I told him my idea about the sign.
He called the principal over, and they marveled over a thought that had
never occurred to them.
Later, my new friend Mr. Asada sent me
an e-mail, which read in part: "You found it funny. But we had no
idea like that. You gave me a new view point. We can discover from
tiny little things when we observe carefully." He then wished
that my trip would lead to more discoveries.
Me, too. Thanks, Ichiro-san.
Shirasuka didn't have much in the way
of labeled sites. But it did have dozens of houses like
those in the picture. The atmosphere was strongly nostalgic.
After the quiet streets of Shirasuka,
the road merges with another, larger road that parallels it. Then
that road merges with Highway 1. Just before that junction, one
enters Aichi prefecture. This is only the fourth prefecture
of the trip, after Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka. (I've been in
Shizuoka prefecture since Hakone Pass.)
From Shirasuka to Futagawa is a long,
boring, uncomfortable walk along Highway 1. This is truckers'
country. I actually took a little break in a well-appointed truck
stop, complete with showers and laundry facilities. (I only used
the toilet, the lounge, and the vending machines.) After last
night's short sleep, I even dozed a little.
After the truck stop I encountered this
little roadside shrine. The mound of earth behind is the remains
of an unrestored ichirizuka.
I often walk through rice
fields. The common word for cooked rice--gohan--is the same
as the word for "meal." So asagohan-"morning
meal"--is breakfast, bangohan--"evening meal"--is
dinner, etc. Rice, the staple of the diet, lends its name to the
Sound familiar? After all, grain
that has been ground up for eating is called "meal."
Cornmeal, for instance, or oatmeal. Now, my dictionary tells me
that this kind of meal and the breakfast/lunch/dinner kind of meal come
from different roots. But my common sense tells me that there's a
stronger connection than that.
Anyway, though I often see rice, I
seldom see the heads of the grain so full and ready to go. It says
"abundance," doesn't it? The song "America"
talks about "amber waves of grain." The Lord's Prayer
says, "Give us this day our daily bread." Beatnik slang
even calls money "bread." Once a year the Japanese
Emperor gets down on his knees and plants rice, in a symbolic gesture to
assure the fertility of the Land.
The importance of grains, an essential
idea. Something to think about at your next gohan.
I don't know the name of this landmark,
but approaching Futagawa I saw this crag jutting up out of the
forest off to the right. It's an unusual sight here, and made me
think of the mountains of California.
My guidebook by Tokuriki says nasty
things about Futagawa. "There is nothing at all of
note in Futagawa today," he writes, "except the section
of the new highway that passes through there. The scenery is so
disappointingly commonplace that one cannot help but feel that Hiroshige
must have worked hard to find any inspiration there."
Was I in the same Futagawa? The
Old Tokaido is lined with houses like these, there are numerous old
temples in the area, and the town boasts a magnificently-restored honjin,
or official inn. Granted, it wasn't restored and opened to the
public until 1991, and Tokuriki's book was first published in 1963.
But the front of the honjin faced the street even then, and the
houses were there. Did this guy miss the road entirely?
Anyway, the honjin is so
splendid that it gets a Words and
Here's my official shot for
Futagawa, station number 33 on the Old Tokaido. I'm lounging in
the garden of the honjin. Directly behind me is the room
with the dais where the high muckety-mucks could receive visitors.
Hiroshige's Tokaido: Futagawa, Station
the Old Tokaido
He shows slopes covered with small
pines and shrubs--said to be all that can grow in the poor soil of the
area--with a small teahouse on the left.
As the day began with my meeting a
teacher, so it ended. After visiting the honjin I stopped for
a snack. As I was eating it, an oh-so-rare foreigner walked by.
His name is Fred Lackmance, and he was on his way to teach an on-site
company English class--which is what I did for the past 2-1/2 years.
We had a great time together, as we walked back toward Futagawa station.
By the way, Fred--like myself--is
actually an experienced teacher, not someone just doing this until he
can find a job in securities or IT. He's looking for a job as a
school teacher in the Toyohashi area; if you know of any, let me know
and I'll pass the information on to him.
Another funny story: I asked Fred what
book he was using, and he said Get Real, part of a new series
from MacMillan Language House. "Let me see it," I said,
so he pulled it out of his bag, and I flipped to the back and showed him
my name! I had a chance to review some of the book before it was
published. (Stuart Bowie, MLH's Tokyo rep, is one of my best
buddies, and the first contributor to this project.)
Anyway, good luck, Fred!
As Fred and I parted, I realized that I
still hadn't said your prayers. So I left the station and went a
little farther up the road. There was supposed to be a stone in
the area marking the site of an old temple dedicated to Kannon, my
patroness. I'm not sure if this is it, but I was in the right
area, so I said your prayers here. Then I headed back to Futagawa
So I didn't cover much ground today,
but I had a great day (technology aside.) Back at Araimachi
station, I checked my e-mail and discovered the letter from Mr. Asada
quoted above. Also, I tried again to upload to my site. No
luck. So I sent a letter to my internet host to see if they knew
what the problem was, and packed up to return to the hostel. While
I was working at the station, there was a small earthquake, another
regular element of life in Japan.
Back at the hostel, I worked on the
site for awhile, and went to bed at a decent hour. I'm finishing
this on the 28th--but that's a story for tomorrow's Logbook.