The Old Tokaido Section of the Aki Meguri

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 27th, 2001 (Thursday):
From (Almost) Shirasuka to Futagawa

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: The Futagawa Honjin
 
It was one of those days.

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 well.

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 night.

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 #32 on 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 meals themselves.

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 Pictures page.

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 #33 on 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 station.

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.

 

Journal
Entry

Tek-na-luh-jee

Since my struggle with uploading this page, I've been thinking about the blessings and curses of technology.

I'm a guy who spent four-and-a-half years in Japan without a cell phone.  Unprecedented.  Why did I do it?  Because people easily become enslaved to such things.

Just as I am enslaved to my computer.  (I recently bought a cell phone too, but I mainly use it as a clock!)

In the past 48 hours, I have lost sleep, changed plans, prayed and cursed--all because of a failure of technology.

At times like this, I need to remember what my friend Eric always said.  The computer, he said, is a tool.  It's supposed to work for you, not vice-versa.  So if I'm losing sleep to answer e-mails, or not walking because "I have to work on my homepage," I need to examine my priorities.  (Ironically, I'm writing this on a non-walking day, but that decision was made for lots of reasons--not just to do this!)

One of the themes of my life has been, in Thoreau's words, "Simplify, simplify."  (If he really meant it, why did he say it twice?)  So I try to examine the roles of technology in my life.  Where does it simplify?  Where does it complicate?  I think this is an important question for our society in general.

 
<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