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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 29th, 2001 (Saturday):
From Futagawa to Past Akasaka

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.

 
Even though I didn't hit the trail 'til after 11 a.m., I did a full 20 kilometers today.  That's more like it!

Leaving Futagawa, I was expecting a nasty slope.  It was actually a gentle one, and led to a plateau that I stayed on most of the day.  However, it was one of those days where for the first couple of hours there was no reason to take the camera out of the bag.

I did, though, when I saw this vending machine.  I've seen a few before, but they're becoming rare on the route, so I thought I better catch this one.  It's a vending machine for eggs!

If you think that's weird: This place was called "Mamushi," which is the name of one of Japan's poisonous snakes.  (I actually saw a young one in Chichibu last July.)  Anyway, I don't know what kind of store it is, but they had dead snakes and mummified frogs in the window!  (Probably a traditional-medicine pharmacy.)

I walked past this temple (the name of which I couldn't read) and was attracted by the gate.  Drawn inside, I was disappointed by the drab architecture. However, a three-story pagoda (sanjunoto) is under construction, so it may become more interesting. It was after seeing this that I noticed that all of the stonework on the gate and the surrounding wall is new.  I don't know if it's a "new" temple (the age of the main hall was hard to judge) or a remodel.

This is a sign for a beauty shop.  I wonder how many women go in and say, "Make me look like the babe on the sign"?

I'm thinking that way too many Americans have recently become members.  (A bar in Toyohashi.  Remember, this was written on September 29, 2001.)

The Yoshida station was situated on the Toyokawa, or Toyo River.  Somehow, the town secured permission to build a bridge across the river (see Hiroshige's print below).  So old Yoshida ("Lucky Rice Field") has become modern Toyohashi ("Toyo Bridge").  I'm standing in front of a modern bridge near the site of the old ferry crossing for my official shot of Yoshida, station number 34 on the Old Tokaido.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Yoshida, Station #34 on the Old Tokaido

Hiroshige shows Yoshida Castle under repair, with the bridge in the distance.  To be honest, I didn't seek out the castle; what's there is a reconstruction anyway (like most castles in Japan).  I will look for Okazaki Castle tomorrow, though; Ieyasu Tokugawa was born there.

I have a lot to say about this shop.

First, it's across from an ichirizuka monument, which is numbered "74."  That means I was exactly 288.6 kilometers from Nihonbashi when I took this picture (the ri is actually 3.9 kilometers, though we usually call it 4.  I'm just past Yoshida shuku, which is at 287.3 kilometers.)

Now, the marker for the ichirizuka is the usual 2-1/2-foot-high stele.  As I was shooting the picture--practically straddling the marker--a woman came up and said, "Oh, there it is!  It's small!"  I said yeah, they were keeping it a secret, and she moved on.

Finally, why was I shooting this restaurant?  Because there's a long slogan on the front.  (Many Japanese businesses seem to use paragraph-sized statements for slogans.)  This one was apropos for a man who was approaching the 300-kilometer point on a walk from home.  Here it is in full: 

A new day has begun.

It is a wonderful day.

The sun is shining and

the breeze feels good.

Let's fill our hearts

and stride along.

What more can be said?

Well, it's a long, featureless stretch from Yoshida (Toyohashi) to Goyu.  The only interesting things are tons of old houses and businesses, and one place where the old road is completely gone, and Highway 1 has to be used as a substitute.  (You may remember this happened in Shizuoka City as well.)

However, a reprieve was sent. For the first time on this trip, I walked with a companion for a while.  The woman I spoke to at the ichirizuka and I had been playing leapfrog--or tortoise-and-hare--along the road, and finally decided to walk together.

This is Mieko Totani.  She's a radio and TV announcer in Nagoya.  We walked together for well over an hour, conversing in my minimal Japanese.  (I think she understands more English than she let on!)  She was very kind, giving me a set of the well-marked JR (Japan Railways) maps that I've seen others using along the way.

Thanks, Mieko!

When we reached Goyu shuku (station), we parted, since I was heading into Torinji to say today's prayers.

Torinji is nothing special to look at, but I found it a touching place nonetheless.  You see, the post towns of Yoshida, Goyu, and Akasaka were famous for their prostitutes, as you'll see in Hiroshige's prints below.  Tokuriki gives a poem with no source:

Were it not for the pleasures
Of Akasaka, Goyu, and Yoshida,
What would ever entice one
To make the trip to Edo?

And Torinji is where these women are buried.  After offering up your prayers, I said one for them.

By the way, I'm not sure which graves are theirs, so I took a picture of the oldest-looking pile of gravestones in the place.  If you see your grannies' here, don't get mad at me!

these cast off bodies--
that had served so long--are dust
but spirits live on

Since I couldn't find any women to pose with me, I went for Goyu's other claim to fame for my official shot.  The namiki (tree-lined avenue) of Goyu is so beautiful that there's a museum in the town called "The Goyu Pine Avenue Museum."  (I skipped it.)  By the way, it was tough getting this shot.  Both the tripod and I had to be in the middle of the narrow road, and it was rush hour!

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Goyu, Station #35 on the Old Tokaido

Since he wasn't using a camera, Hiroshige could put as many women in his picture as his imagination (or experience) could conjure up.  Here he shows a Tokaido traveler practicing his sales resistance.

This little shrine past the end of the namiki is pretty, but nothing special.  However, look at the size of the tree next to it!  It seemed almost as wide as the main building.

Akasaka and Goyu are famous not only for the pines between them, but for the short distance--1.7 kilometers, or just barely over a mile.

The great haiku poet Basho wrote of this: "Watching the summer moon rise at Goyu, here we are at Akasaka already."

Even knowing what to expect, I was surprised at how quickly I arrived.

For my official picture of Akasaka, I'm standing in front of Ohashiya.  Unfortunately closed when I arrived, it is a traditional inn from the early Edo period that's still in operation.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Akasaka, Station #36 on the Old Tokaido

Hiroshige shows the interior of such an inn.  Some women are serving customers; others are doing their make-up.  I read that the cycad tree shown in the picture has been moved from the inn where it was located to Josenji temple.  Since I arrived at near-dark, I didn't have a chance to hunt it down.  (I'll do it next time I walk the Tokaido!)

I pushed on a coupe of kilometers past Akasaka to Nagasawa train station.  This is one of those places with just a couple of platforms: no gate, no staff.  You pay on the train.  It was no real problem getting "home."  I took three trains, and arrived about an hour and 20 minutes after starting.

However, it's going to be a huge problem in the morning.  You see, I'm moving my base to Nagoya tomorrow, so I have to take my big bag with me.  And no station means no lockers; I have to figure out where to stash the bag.  Moving back and forth on this train line is tough; it's not the Tokaido main line, but the smaller Nagoya Line.  Trains come twice an hour, and there's a whole, confusing timetable of expresses, limited expresses, etc., with unpredictable waits, transfers, etc.

I'll let you know tomorrow how it goes.

 

Journal
Entry

Modernization

Radio celebrity Garrison Keillor has a made-up town called Lake Wobegon.  He tells stories about the "fictional" happenings there; but these stories often carry more truth than the newspaper.

Once, he said they were going to put in a traffic signal on the ,main street, so the school children could cross safely.  A storm of protest was raised in letters to the editor--100% of which had come from people who no longer lived in the town!  "How can you change the sweet, simple nature of our little town by putting in such an ugly, modern appliance?" etc., etc.  But their kids didn't have to cross that street!

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

I often hear people lamenting that Japan has become "so modern," losing her traditions, etc.  Many of those complaining are Tokaido walkers.  "Oh, the trucks," they whine, "and the billboards, and..." blah, blah, blah.

Hey, I'm not fond of having my hat blown off every 30 seconds when I have to walk on "modern" Highway 1.  But there's something we need to think about: If Japan hadn't modernized, we wouldn't be here.

At what point would you like to "freeze" Japan?  In the Tokugawa period, when foreigners were excluded?  Or before that, when foreigners hadn't even arrived?  But right after the Tokugawa period comes the Meiji--and the beginning of rapid, almost violent modernization.

I have a really funny story about one of these ranters.  I won't name names; let's call him "Emile Latella."

"What's wrong with this country?" he says.  "They're in such a hurry to become modern and 'Western.'

"For example, do you think Japanese women are fat?  Of course not!  So why do they need a 'national diet center'?  I mean, there's this building near here--I guess it's a hospital--and it's huge!  And the sign out front says 'National Diet' something.  I wonder how many women a day go there to 'get slim' just because it's a 'modern' thing to do.  And another thing..."

"Uh, Emile?"

"What is it?"

"Did you know that the Parliament or Congress here is called 'The Diet'?  And that the Diet Building is just about where you said this hospital is?"

"Oh.  It is?"

"Uh-huh."

"Well.  Never mind!"

OK, I admit that I Latella-ized the conversation.  But it really happened.  This guy doesn't live here, and had a lot to say about how the Japanese have rushed into the 21st century without any respect for tradition.

Thank you, Tevye.  But these people have to live here.  So next time you hear someone go on about the trains, and the crowds, and the traffic, and the blah, blah, blah...just remind them that it's part of the package, and if it hadn't happened we foreigners wouldn't be here.

 
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