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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 6th, 2001 (Thursday):
From Shinagawa to Kawasaki

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: Honsenji, Suzugamori Execution Ground
The day began with one haunting thought: the words of other walkers whose accounts I had read--"Another late start..."

This one was aggravated by the late night I spent making my first real Logbook entry.  Then I had to backtrack first to Shinagawa (my ryokan was in Gotanda) and then over an hour round trip to get the photo below.  I hope you enjoy it considering the time and effort it cost!  I also stopped and put some things in a locker at Shinagawa station for my friend Takeshi to pick up later--my first ejection of cargo, but surely not my last.

This wall in my official shot for Shinagawa is all that remains of the famed Shinagawa barrier.  It sometimes took days to "clear customs" here.  The Tokugawa Shoguns were notoriously paranoid, and the gate was  well-known for two purposes: to keep women in and guns out.  The "guns out" is, I think, obvious: this was the age of the sword, and a gun was an unfair advantage.  But the "women in" might need some explaining.

In order to keep the country's lords (daimyo) in line, the Tokugawas instituted Draconian measures.  Every daimyo had to maintain an expensive house in Edo, as well as his country estate.  He had to live in Edo in alternate years, and conduct costly processions to and from his home.  The whole idea was to keep the daimyos poor--and unable to raise an effective challenge to the shogunate.  The farther away he lived--thus the less under the Tokugawa thumb--the more was spent on processions.

Finally, as an added measure of protection, the daimyos had to leave their wives in Edo at all times, under virtual house arrest.  Thus, "women in."

How did I miss this barrier?  After all, it's in the middle of a sidewalk!  In fact, I had remembered it as being in front of Shinagawa station, but it's in front of Sengakuji station--before yesterday's prayer-and-shower stop!  Going back and forth to find it took a lot of time.

no one stands guard now
but circumstances kept me
from passing the gate

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Shinagawa, Station #1 on the Old Tokaido

I have chosen to show the old barrier gate.  Hiroshige's view is similar to the one below--a busy, narrow street.  To the left of the modern road there is a drop-off to a larger street.  A look at Hiroshige's print shows this used to be the bay.

So, finally, at 12:30 I reached my "starting point"!  That is, a turn-off just past Shinagawa station, where the Old Tokaido leaves the new and follows a quiet shopping street.  Despite the phone poles--and the piped reggae!--this was the first stretch of road that had a slight feeling of the old road.  There are also small parks along the way.  One commemorates--on the English signboard--"A crowd in former Tokaido Road."  Japanese "Kyuu Tokaido no nigiwai"--my dictionary indicates that "nigiwai" can mean "a crowd" or "prosperity" depending on the Chinese characters used.  Unfortunately, the sign uses the phonetic symbols, not the Chinese characters, so I don't know what was meant. But on this shopping street, "The prosperity of the Old Tokaido" makes more sense.

(By the way, I took a nap in "crowd park"--cutting into my time even more.)

Along the shopping street, there are banners proclaiming this the 400th anniversary of the road, as well as a little "mailman" for a rubber-stamp campaign.  These mailmen were actually runners who carried messages along the Tokaido and roads like it.  The main purpose of the 53 Stations of the Tokaido was their use as post stations for these runners, as well as to provide "official accommodations" for the processions mentioned above.
This stretch of road features many small shrines and temples.

Shrine gate

Temple gate
Today's prayers were said at Honsenji, and I've written a Words and Pictures page about it..  The Chinese characters for "Honsen" are the same as "Shinagawa," but honsen is the more Chinese-style pronunciation (onyomi, or "sound-reading") and shinagawa is more Japanese style (kuniyomi, or "national-reading").  It's a small temple in size, but an architectural jewel.  It's clearly prosperous: in the garage are two Mercedes' of the kind my friend Etsuko calls a "Yakuza Benz."  (She has one; the Yakuza are the Japanese "Mafia.")

After Honsenji and my prayers, my spirits rose dramatically.

The next site I encountered was an area called Suzugamori, subject of another Words and Pictures page.  It is Edo's old execution ground.  All that's left are some statues and grave stones, some of which also came from the old Daikyouji Temple.

My friend and translator Naoko told me that rents in the area tend to be cheaper--to entice people to move here despite their fear of ghosts.

The rest of the day can be summed up quickly:  I walked and walked.

I reached the "Rokugo Ferry"--the Tama River--at sundown  More on that tomorrow.

I met my friend Takeshi in Kawasaki station and gave him the key to the locker in Shinagawa, so he could pick up the cargo I ejected this morning and take it for safe-keeping.

And I slept outside.  One ryokan and three business hotels were full; the love hoteliers chased me away.  So I slept in the bicycle parking area of a brand new apartment building.  As I was falling asleep--with an anti-mosquito towel over my face--someone walked up, said "Oh...oh..." and walked away.  I later heard the same voice assigning bicycle parking space numbers, so he was probably the manager.  But I slept undisturbed through the night.  [Little did I realize that my first night outside would also be my last!]


Walking with the Buddha: Thinking vs. Walking

Things I'm learning about LIFE by walking

My friend Bob likes to say, "It is one thing to talk about bulls; it is another to face the bull."  (It sounds better with his put-on Spanish accent.)  The idea here is simple: talkin' ain't doin'.  So if I sit and plan, and estimate, and revise, and guess--I don't move forward a millimeter.  But if I walk, it's amazing how fast the mileposts fly by.

This is as true of life as it is of walking.  Many of us spend more time planning than we do doing.  We think instead of act.  The two are different.  Sure, thinking has a purpose, but one of the central tenets of most religions is that the mind can be an enemy, tricking us into doing the wrong thing--or, more often I suspect, tricking us out of doing the right one.

Gotta go.  Gotta walk.


My Companions on the Road

I plan to walk this road basically alone (although friends may join me occasionally).  But I've discovered I'm not alone.  Spiritually, I'm with everyone I know.  Some have made requests; others have made donations.  Still others are with me for various other reasons.  But you're all here.

However, I also have physical companions.  The Shikoku pilgrim carries a stick; in the words of Bishop Miyata, "Be sure it is the Daishi."  That is, the stick is Kobo Daishi, founder of the pilgrimage.

This set me thinking about my stick as a companion.  Like any companion, it has pluses and minuses.  Sometimes, I wish I could leave it behind, and swing my arms freely as I walk.  At other times, though--especially at the end of the day--it's nice to have "somebody to lean on"--literally.

If the stick is a companion, a support, what about the hat?  It, too, is a companion, one who protects me.  It shelters me from the sun and the rain.  It, too, can be annoying, like when a big truck goes by and blows it back, and the string catches around my neck and chokes me!  Other times, though, it makes me laugh, like when a light breeze lifts it an inch off my head.  It must look like I'm parachuting in for a landing.

These two companions, while sometimes annoying, are mostly givers, not takers.  My other two companions, although useful, have been taking a lot.  They are my two bags, a backpack and a shoulder bag.  As described in the Logbook for today, I have gotten rid of some things, but before I did my bags had a combined weight of 30 kilos (66 pounds).  These are like those friends, then, that you have to carry through life.  They give a little (they hold my things), but everything they give is something I gave them in the first place!

Teachers including Jesus and Buddha have often said that you must leave everything and everyone who holds you back from the journey.  I'm thinking about these bags.  When is it better to continue to support a companion, and when is it better to set them free?  Or modify the relationship?  More on this tomorrow.

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