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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 12th, 2001 (Wednesday):
From 1 ri before Chigasaki to Ninomiya
(between Oiso and Odawara).

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: Joshoji
LOTS of pictures today--sorry about the loading time!
For the first time in my life, I've changed my underwear!  A shocking announcement to be sure.

Since I can remember, I've worn Jockey-style briefs (also called "tighty whities").  I think there was some experimentation with boxers in my teens, but we all rebel in adolescence.

Anyway, I've been chafing since I started walking, developing heat rash, etc.  So last night while I was shopping (since I couldn't walk due to the typhoon), I bought a pair of "boxer briefs," something like short-legged long johns (short johns?).

I gotta tell ya: what a relief.  They work.

Well, two days ago--my last walking day--I hopped a bus into Chigasaki after dark.  So this morning I took a bus back to the same stop, and backtracked a bit to see what I might have missed.  There was supposed to be an ichirizuka here somewhere. 

I found it--sort of.  This is the classic "ato" as described on the 10th.  Nothing here but a sign saying there used to be something here.  Glad I backtracked.

Here's another new word for you: namiki.  It means a row of trees lining a street.  (I first learned the word because it's the family name of a beautiful young lady I know--now represented on the Donor's page.)  The Tokaido used to be lined all along the way by namiki on either side.  Here, near the border of Fujisawa and Chigasaki, this become evident.  I can't really tell if this is original; these trees look awfully young.  On the other hand, there's an occasional granddad, and the location seems right, as they are often in the center of the sidewalk, on a mound at an unusual level next to the road, etc.--in other words, not in the style of modern landscaping.

You be the judge.  I have also included here a plaque bearing a print of namiki posted in front of a school in Chigasaki.

As I was taking a picture, a lovely lady and her 11-year-old dog stopped and waited--oddly, I thought, as there was no chance that, had she progressed, she would have been in my shot.

I was right.  She was waiting for a chance to speak.  She has been taking low-cost English lessons at a local church, and wanted to practice.  She was delighted that I had been a teacher at a prestigious language school.

By the way, can you guess the purpose of the plastic bag she's carrying?

As I continued, I came across a temple undergoing remodeling.  The statue of a monk out front caught my eye, so I went in and said today's prayers there.  You can learn more about Joshoji on my Words-and-Pictures page.   Also, check out today's journal for a strange thing that happened to me during my prayers.

This was a wonderful place to say your prayers, and I would have missed it I if hadn't stopped last night when I did.

More on ichirizuka: now THIS is more like it.  This one is very near Chigasaki station; I'm staying just the other side of the station.  I've begun to notice Tokaido-related place names, too; this intersection is named for the ichirizuka here.

Down the road I encountered what would have been, in the old days, my second ferry crossing.  This one is across the Sagamigawa, now crossed by Banyubashi  Bridge.

A word about bridges in Japan: the Japanese seem to love 'em.  Every bridge has a name.  The Tokaido starts and ends at a bridge.  I dutifully record bridge names on my tape recorder as I cross them--then decide not to bore you with the details.

As mentioned at my first "ferry crossing"--the Rokugo crossing at Kawasaki--these ferries had strategic intent, keeping large armies from crossing the rivers easily.

On the far side of the crossing--just inside Hiratsuka city--I spotted this church.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a wedding chapel for the large hotel in front of it.

Many places in Japan claim to be the sites of the "true happening" of various legends.  Hiratsuka (along with several other places) lays claim to one of the most famous ghost stories of all: the story of O-Kiku-san.  She was allegedly killed for breaking a valuable dish (though the version told at Himeji castle claims there was political motivation for her death).  Her body was thrown down a well, where, for years afterward, she could be heard counting plates and always coming up one short.

Well, according to the JR Tokaido site: "The model for this character was Makabe Kiku, the daughter of an official in the Hiratsuka post station, and her grave can be found in Beniya Park."

Above is a picture of O-Kiku-Zuka, her grave.

"Hirai" means flat and "tsuka" is a mound.  So Hiratsuka was named after a flat mound of earth--a burial mound, in fact, said to be the grave of Masako (granddaughter of Emperor Kammu) who died at Hiratsuka in the year 857.  (By the way, the building behind the mound belongs to a neighboring temple.)

Hiroshige's print shows a distinctive hill, with walkers crossing the bridge in the foreground.  I couldn't work out the shot with bridge in it, but I did my best.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Hiratsuka, Station #7 on the Old Tokaido

It's clear that Hiroshige toyed a bit with the shape of Koraiyama, but it's still easily recognizable as it juts up out of the flat land around it.

Nearing Oiso, one leaves the modern highway to follow a lovely tree-lined residential street--split halfway along by train lines.  Along the way I encountered this pretty little well, called "The Cosmetics Well" because a lady of the neighborhood used to do her make-up here.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Oiso, Station #8 on the Old Tokaido

Hiroshige shows rain and the sea here. Well, I can't really see the sea from here, although I know it's near.  And as for rain: this is probably the prettiest, sunniest day I've seen so far!

The left photo is a straightforward shot of the Shigitatsu-an, or Hermitage of the Snipe.

The great priest and poet Saigyo visited this area in the 12th century, and wrote this famous poem:

Even he
Who has renounced the world
Can know the pathos
Of an autumn evening
At Shigitatsusawa.

(Note the alternative translation from the JR site: "Even an insensitive one such as I can know what it is to be deeply moved: A snipe flies up from the water on an autumn evening."  Translating poetry is tough; the book 100 Frogs gives 100 translations of a single 17-syllable haiku!)

Anyway, poetry lovers built this "hermitage" here on the Shigitatsusawa (Snipe Stream) centuries later in appreciation of that poem.  Stones on the grounds bear verses by Saigyo and other poets, like Basho.

Since I couldn't do rain and sea, I shot my "official" 8th-station photo here (above right).

Along the way today were lots of shrines and temples--as usual.  Here are pictures of some of the more interesting ones:

The multiple torii (shrine gates) are a common sight.  Usually, each signifies a gift from a donor. I loved the simple country look of this place. Not really a temple or shrine, these little roadside piles of carved stone are found everywhere.

Yesterday I was unable to pray at a temple; your prayers were said in my room.  To make up for it, I prayed twice today: once in the morning and once near sundown.  This little temple, Seichoji, was closed, so I couldn't get my book signed.  And as it's essentially just one building, these are all the pictures you get. (The eerie light coming from the hondo windows is the setting sun.)

I had to double back to find this temple, having missed a turn.  I walked up to the parking area of a park, and was rewarded for my efforts: My first view of Mt. Fuji on this trip! Fuji-san can be seen as early as Station 2--Kawasaki--in Hiroshige's print series.  (I often saw the mountain when crossing the same river a bit farther upstream--at Shin-Maruko--going to work every day in my first two years in Japan.)  And it will become more dominant later in the series.  But this was my first view on this trip, and I'm grateful for it.

By the way: sorry about the foreground and the power lines, but this ain't the National Geographic.


Well, I did almost 20 kilometers today, not counting backtracking, getting to and from my room, etc.  And as I approached Ninomiya station, in the happy phrase of the Japanese, "My knees were laughing."  (My friend Tomoko taught me that when we climbed Mt. Fuji!)


A Place of Prayer

A Catholic priest I used to know began every prayer with: "Let us place ourselves in the presence of God."

Prayer puts us in a different place, a different dimension.  It engages our compassion, or sometimes unleashes our righteous anger.

Last night, I watched the file tape--over and over--of the planes hitting the World Trade Center buildings.  A friend had called to tell me about it, and I sort of joked about it.  "Gosh," I said, "it looks like a movie, like Independence Day or something."

The reality hadn't sunk in.

So today, at Joshiji, I said my prayers as usual, thinking about the people who have made requests.  At the end of reading my list of prayers, before I added the final chants, I folded the paper and--also as usual--made a few impromptu additions.  I said, "And for the victims of the tragedy..." and before I could add "in America" I burst into uncontrollable sobbing.

By engaging myself in the work of representing others, I had opened myself to the full impact of what had happened.  I don't know if my prayers help the people I pray for, but they definitely help me.


Teach Your Children Well

Imagine a mother and baby coming toward you on the sidewalk.  In almost every case, they are both facing you.  The baby might be in a stroller, or in the extra seat of a bicycle.  But this is crucial: you can see both of their faces, and they can both see yours, but they can't see each others'.

Got it?

Now, as I walk along I get a lot of reactions from a lot of people.  Some smile, say "Konnichiwa," wave, even stop and chat.  Others gape openly.  Still others avoid eye contact completely: "Pretend the big gaijin (foreigner) in the goofy outfit isn't there and maybe he won't hurt us."

Now, I've noticed something.  Almost without exception, when I meet a mother and baby together, whatever reaction the mother has, the baby has, too.  Remember, they can't see each others' faces.  If the mother smiles, the baby smiles.  If the mother looks away, so does the child.

Is it nature, temperament?  Maybe.  Is the baby picking up Mom's vibes?  Perhaps.  But my gut instinct is this: moms teach babies what's good and what's bad.  They don't necessarily do this with words: "Gaijin are good" or "Be afraid of gaijin."  Rather they do it by example.

Every reaction we have teaches.  Ponder this, and you'll see how enormous the implications are.  Optimists train optimists; pessimists likewise.  So what if we all worked on being realists, not judging everything as "good" or "bad" but just trying to see it as it is?  Could we nurture a bunch of realists around us?

I wonder.

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