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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 16th, 2001 (Sunday):
From (almost) Mishima to Hara

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: Mishima Taisha
I took a train from Numazu to Mishima and a bus back to Tsukahara, where I left off last night.  Oddly, the same bus driver took me back as brought me to Mishima last night!  Boy, did HE stare!

I continued along the quiet two-lane street described yesterday, until it merged with the main road again.  Immediately, though, the "Old Tokaido" became an ishidama-and-namiki street like I was used to.  But this time, it was a frontage road for the vehicle road.  People use it to gain access to their driveways, cut off by the streamlining of the main road.

Along the stretch is a really good ichirizuka.  It's kind of funny: you can't see this from the vehicle road (I looked for it from the bus this morning); it can only be seen if you're on the "Old Highway," even though it follows the new!  You can just make out the one on the other side of the street.

This is kind of a Zen thing: when is a view not a view?  I am near a bus stop named Fujimi.  There are Fujimi place names all over central and eastern Japan; it means "Fuji View."  But I didn't see Mount Fuji all day--even from this place named "Fuji View."

I finally left this part of the road and headed down Atagozaka, the last long slope before entering the flats of Mishima.

The road soon led to Mishima Taisha, or "Grand Shrine."  This is where I said today's prayers.  It's a really beautiful--and big--in fact, grand--place.  You can learn more about it on the Words and Pictures page.

Here's my "official" shot for Mishima, Station 11 of the Tokaido 53 Stations.  Compare it to Hiroshige's.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Mishima. , Station #11 on the Old Tokaido

The print seems to show the shrine's torii at either early morning or late evening.  Or was it foggy?  Anyway, this scene is a natural choice for this station, as the town of Mishima originated to serve the shrine.

I have seen ichirizukas with little shrines on top.  But here near the Mishima-Numazu border, the ichirizukas on both sides are on the grounds of temples!  Here's a picture of the one on the left side of the road.

Today was a long, steady, flat slog.  Very little in the way of beauty could be found between Mishima Taisha and the Senbon Matsubara.  I had a lot of time to think--and sweat, as the weather was fair most of the day.

I have a confession to make: I didn't follow the Old Tokaido perfectly today.  I deviated from the path (on purpose this time) to walk through Numazu's premier attraction: the Senbon Matsubara, or "Thousand-Pine Grove."  There were WAY more than a thousand pines here.  I chose to walk in this beautiful, quiet strip of pines near the ocean (as any pilgrim of the past would have) as far as Hara, and it still wasn't finished--a distance of at least seven kilometers.  Amongst the pines are monuments, cemeteries, and a lot of walkers and joggers.

I took my "official" Numazu picture here; I also wrote a haiku.

First, a word of explanation.  My haiku are far from perfect in many respects.  One area where I often break the rules is this: every haiku should have a seasonal reference.  In Japan, there is a large collection of words with strong seasonal associations.  Certain flowers, insects, trees, etc., mean certain seasons.

Since we don't share this vocabulary, I often skip this aspect.  But today it came in spades.

The cicada (semi) is the premier summer insect; the cricket (suzumushi) a sign of autumn.  We're less than a week from the Autumn equinox (shubun-no-hi) today, and I heard my first crickets in the Senbon Matsubara.  So here is the haiku I wrote:

fewer cicadas
as the balance point draws near
crickets in the pines

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Numazu, Station #12 on the Old Tokaido

Hiroshige, too, represented this grove in his print.  The standard description is that these people are hurrying to find evening lodging.  I confess, I hurried a bit too.  This place deserves more time than I could give it.

The last picture I took before returning to the Old Tokaido proper--and Hara Station--was of a rare if sad sight.  There was a dead tanuki by the side of the road.  I've decided not to post the picture here.  (He's really dead: legs splayed, mouth open, on his back, drooling--it's too gruesome.  I smelled him 300 meters before I saw him.)  But it reminded me of finding opossums in Los Angeles, like something out of the past has died.

The tanuki--sometimes misleadingly called a "raccoon dog"--is an ancient and popular figure in Japan; many restaurants and bars have a plaster tanuki outside for good luck.  The tanuki is a well-known trickster, like Coyote in Native American stories.  He especially liked to torment Buddhist priests.  Here's a description from an old book:

As a Goblin it is a peculiarly mischievous creature taking all sorts of disguises to waylay, deceive or annoy wayfarers. Standing by the road side on its hind legs it distends its belly (or rather Scrotum) and striking it with its forepaws uses it as a drum Tanuki no hara tsuzumi; wrapped in a kimono, it begs like an itinerant monk, waylays folks at night across paddy fields, causes fishermen to draw up their nets empty and only laughs at their misfortune. When in priestly disguise it is called TANUKI BOZU. It is often met with represented wrapped in lotus leaves and with a lotus flower doing duty as a hat, carrying in one paw a bill for sake; also, with distended scrotum, Hachi jo jiki (8 mats wide) Kintama as a Kimono, or as a means of smothering a hunter.

As a tribute to my dead friend, I've provided a few tanuki links:

 That's it for today!



The American Tragedy: A Response

Less than a week ago, disaster struck on a cataclysmic scale.

Never in my lifetime has America experienced such a shocking event on her own soil.

Before I talk about the future, I want to make one point clear: This was inexcusable.  It was cowardly.  It was pointless.  The responsible parties should be brought to justice.  Taking the high road, I think they should be brought to justice as a lesson to others that this sort of thing will not be tolerated.  On a lower plane, as a blood-and-flesh human being, I want to see the bastards pay, and pay big.  Whether the justice they receive is civil or military makes little difference to this atavistic side of me.

But it only goes so far.  I do not wish to see their wives pay, or their children--even their sons, who may well grow up to perpetuate this type of violence.  No, the proper retribution should be visited on only those who did it, not their kin or their homeland.

Now for the point, which I hope you will consider with patience.

I am disturbed by the reports I have been getting about a rising nationalistic let's-kick-their-butts attitude.  I have received e-mails from the most unlikely people with pictures of angry eagles and a recycled Americanism editorial.  (This was originally written in 1973--at the end of the Viet Nam war and as the American Red Cross was in danger of bankruptcy--and has been dressed up for this occasion.)

My mother wrote and said that " Lots of cars have flags flying on them and homes with flags flying, you have to stand in line at the places where they sell flags, our patriotism is very high."

I'm not there.  If I were, I'm sure I would be feeling a surge of national pride, too.  Even from here, I have experienced a new sense of what it is to be an American. The expressions of concern and support I have heard, even from total strangers, have been deeply moving.

But what worries me is this: too much nationalism is a dangerous thing.  It leads us to see others as less than human.  Love your country; I do.  Be proud of it; I am.  But that doesn't mean that people born in Adelaide or St. Petersburg--or Kabul--are any less human than I.  The surest way to make war palatable is to objectify the other, in fact to make him "other."  Show pictures of men in non-Western wear cleaning their guns in the desert. Show their women ululating.  Make them seem "foreign" so when the bombs are dropped our sense of their humanity is disengaged.

Can't we see that this kind of thinking is exactly what drove the men who did this terrible thing?  Had they thought of buildings full of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, they couldn't have done this thing.  They had to see the people in those buildings as other and evil to do this.

All this regards dealing with an event that is already past.  But let's apply this same principal to the future.  How can we prevent this sort of thing from happening again?

Clearly, "security" is not enough.  The success (a chilling word in this context) of this operation proves that.

No, the only way to ensure peace is to ensure "liberty and justice for all."  Not just us.  Justice for all of the world's peoples.  Economic justice, equality of opportunity.  Am I talking about cultural imperialism, exporting the American Way?  No.  If a country chooses to be Marxist-Leninist, or a theocracy, let them.  But let's be sure it was indeed a choice.

The much-hated "people of Afghanistan" had nothing to do with this.  Blessedly, in the midst of all the propaganda I've been sent, I received one voice of sanity from my friend Kirsten.  (You can read it at Salon.com.)  It's an excellent editorial by an Afghan-American journalist, pointing out that the people of Afghanistan are virtual prisoners of their government.  It is the sort of situation that the U.S.--via international organizations, diplomacy, etc.--needs to turn its attention to.  The U.S. needs to use what power she has, along with the world's other developed countries, to give a hand to the developing countries, ensuring that the human needs of all people are being met.

We must be in dialogue with oppressive regimes.  If the people represented by these terrorists--most likely a branch of the Taliban--had felt that they were being listened to, that fruitful dialogue was in progress, this might not have happened.

A corny old song says, "There will never be any peace until God is seated at the conference table."  Well, I don't know about that exactly, but I'm sure that to the extent we include all people in the on-going humanization of the world, peace will prevail.  Exclusion breeds discontent, and discontent leads to tragedy.

One of my favorite teachers, Dr. Huston Smith, wrote back in the mid-1950's:  "When historians look back on our century, they may remember it most, not for space travel or the release of nuclear energy, but as the time when the peoples of the world first came to take one another seriously."


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