rained today. (Understatement.) It never didn't rain
today. On previous rainy days, it has rained off and on.
Today it rained on and on. It's raining still.
So there won't be many pictures,
though there are a few stories.
went back to the station past the split in the road, where I
stopped yesterday. There was a featureless trudge up a
fairly gentle slope, then I was in Ishiyakushi.
Ishiyakushi is the birthplace of
Sasaki Nobutsuna (1872-1963). There is a hall commemorating
him. Sasaki was a poet and critic, as well as the leader of
a literary reform movement. One of his specialties was
commentary on the Man’yōshu, a collection of around
4,500 poems compiled in the 8th century.
from another honjin (official inn), Ishiyakushi's other
claim to fame is its namesake. The ubiquitous Kobo Daishi
passed this way (they say) and carved a seven-and-a-half foot
figure of Yakushi Nyorai, a Buddha especially known for healing
illness. The figure is carved from what JR
calls "a supernatural stone." Ishi means
"stone," so Ishiyakushi means "stone Yakushi
(Nyorai)." Like most such figures, it is not on public
view. But this beautiful small temple, Ishiyakushiji, stands
at the entrance to the village that took its name from the statue.
Tokaido: Ishiyakushi, Station
the Old Tokaido
In this scene of the village, you
can actually make out the roof of the temple's hondo (main
hall). It was pointed out to me by the "temple
wife" discussed below. It's the highest roof in the
cluster of buildings on the left.
here's my official shot of Ishiyakushi, station number 44
on the Old Tokaido. I am standing on the front porch of the
temple. It may not be such a great shot--given the beauty of
the temple and its grounds--but it was the only dry place where I
could set up the camera! Also, notice that this may be the only
"official shot" in which I appear shoeless.
I was taking my official shot, the tera no okusan (temple
wife, wife of the priest) came out to do something inside the hondo.
When she was finished, she stopped for a chat. After awhile
she asked me to wait, and went back to the office. When she
returned, she gave me this pretty little ema painted with
The ema is originally a
Shinto artifact, though it's now often seen at temples. The
idea is that you buy the plaque, write a prayer on the back, and
hang it up as an offering to the gods. In times past, what
you bought was an animal to be sacrificed. The word ema
has two characters. The first means "picture"; the
second, "horse." So this is a substitutionary
sacrifice. Instead of a horse, we offer the gods a picture
of a horse. In fact, most of the ema I have seen have
been pictures of horses or other animals; and the shape of the
plaque is usually--like this one--the shape of a small stable.
a wonderful respite at the temple, I plodded on toward Shono.
Just past the ichirizuka outside of Ishiyakushi, I noticed
that a woman had pulled her mini-van over to the side of the road.
She was standing with her umbrella, rummaging around in the back
of the vehicle. When I was about 10 meters away, she turned and
walked toward me with a second, closed umbrella in her hand.
My second present in under an hour!
I pointed out that I was wearing
an umbrella (the words for "umbrella" and my style of
hat are the same in Japanese), but she said it wasn't sufficient.
All o-settai should be accepted, so I took it. I must have looked
like a one-man band, walking down the road with one umbrella on my
head, another in my hand, my backpack, my walking stick, and my
At Shono, though, the next
station, I was glad to have it.
my official shot of Shono. A pretty enough town,
there were no real features to speak of. Here's JR's rather
lame description: "The remaining old houses with grilles and
latticework and the stone pillars of the daimyo inn show that
there once was a post station here."
Not much. But one of the
"old houses" is in fact a museum. Out front is a large
sign depicting Hiroshige's print for this station. In the
print--as in real life--it's raining. So I decided to set up
a "funny" picture. But there was no sheltered
place to put the camera. Brainstorm! I tied my
"new" umbrella to my tripod, et voila! A
protected place for my camera.
woman in the background had been kibitzing through the whole
process. Afterward, she invited me in to see the collection.
One of the nicest things there--a relief from the usual kago--were
300-year-old signboards that had been posted in the town by the
Edo bakufu--the Shogun's government.
Tokaido: Shono, Station #45 on
the Old Tokaido
As seen in the official shot.
Shono, I walked and walked and...you know. A river crossing
here, a tree there. On the outskirts of Kameyama, the next
station, I hopped a bus in to the JR station and took a train for
In the rain.
My students used to say, "Americans are so
honest," meaning willing to speak their minds, express
their feelings, etc.
No, I cautioned them, we are direct, but not
The difference, as I see it, is simple. An American
may look you in the eye, and clearly and with no vagueness
whatsoever--lie to you. He's being direct, but
Why is this such an issue? Because the Japanese form
of communication is often not direct.
Circumlocution is the name of the game, especially in polite
conversation. This studied vagueness may even lead to
uncompleted sentences. Someone is in your way. You
say, "Would you mind...?"
Today I heard one of my favorite indirect phrases.
While I was talking with the "temple wife" at
Ishiyakushi, she asked what my goal was for the day.
Kameyama, I said. Hmmmm...she thought, calculating the
time of day, etc. Then she looked at me and said, "Chotto
muri..." A little impossible! How