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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

October 4th, 2001 (Thursday):
From Past Yokkaichi to (almost) Kameyama

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.

 
It 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.

I 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.

Aside 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.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Ishiyakushi, Station #44 on 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.

And 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.

As 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 Hiroshige's print.

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.

After 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 raincoat!

At Shono, though, the next station, I was glad to have it.

Here's 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.

The 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.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Shono, Station #45 on the Old Tokaido

As seen in the official shot.

Leaving 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 "home."

In the rain.

 

Journal
Entry

Directness

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 necessarily honest.

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 not honest.

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 polite.

 
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