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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 17th, 2001 (Monday):
From Hara to somewhere in Yoshiwara

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: Shouinji
A day of highs and lows: It began with a great prayer experience, and ended with me being lost!

I got to Hara late (after laundry; since I have only two sets of samue, I have to do laundry every other day!).   Then I discovered I was going to have to backtrack more than a kilometer to reach today's highlight: Shouinji.  But boy, was it worth it.

The great Zen teacher Hakuin Zenji was born in Hara, and is buried here at Shouinji.  I said your prayers here today, and have given you some Words and Pictures.

What about Hakuin?  Here are some links:

A haiku:

would Hakuin laugh
to think this aging gaijin
worshipped at his grave?

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Hara, Station #13 on the Old Tokaido

The view of Mount Fuji from Hara is supposed to be splendid.  So great, in fact, that it busts right out of Hiroshige's frame.  But--as usual--it was obscured by clouds.  SO...

 I faked my "official" picture for Hara.  Can you guess which one is me?

Sadly, there's not much else to show or tell.

The walk led through a quiet area for quite some time.  The only thing of note to see was this statue of Masuda Heishiro.  Since there are few photos today, I'll show you BOTH of the ones I took!  (I can't find anything about him on the Internet; can anyone help me?)

And the rest of the walk was of two natures:

  1. Industrialized areas and/or rather depressed-looking neighborhoods
  2. TOTAL and complete lost-ness on my part, up to and including darkness.

I could find nothing of visual merit in the Yoshiwara shuku (station).  (And certainly nothing to inspire a haiku.)  There is a place called "Hidari Fuji" where, because the road swings north, Fuji-san appears on the left side of the road.  But of course I still couldn't see it.

So I planned to do my "official" shot of Yoshiwara by the Fuji River.  But you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see it because I never made it!  This is only the second time I've been completely bamboozled, but it was a good one.  (The first was on September 9th, between Hodogaya and Totsuka.)

I caught a train at Yunoki station on the Minobu line about 6:45 and headed for "home."  More tomorrow of this exciting saga.



The Gods

Not so long ago my buddy Paul wrote and asked a pertinent question (though I'm sure he meant it to be impertinent) regarding the prayers that I'm saying on this trip::

"To whom are the thoughts being directed?"

Here's an edited version of my response, with a clincher at the end:

As for "To whom are the thoughts being directed?": Exactly.  You may recall that my philosophy is that there's something there, but anything we say about it is merely metaphor.  So it doesn't matter if I'm directing them to the Buddhas, or the Shinto gods, or the universe.  Last night (September 14th) I more or less directed them to Lake Ashinoko.

As I mentioned in my journal of 9/12, "I don't know if my prayers help the people I pray for, but they definitely help me."  Cultivating a prayerful attitude improves me, whether anybody out there is listening or not.

Jung spoke about living "as if."  Does God exist?  Who knows?  But living "as if" God exists can be ennobling.  (I know what you're going to say--it can also cause war, terrorism, etc.  Personally I think people who do such things are living "as if" God DOESN'T exist.)  Is there such a thing as "true love"?  Who knows?  Even though the evidence seems to be against it, most of us live "as if" it exists.  To put it in your terms [Paul's a huge baseball fan]: every baseball fan goes into the season "as if" their favorite team is going to win the pennant.  As the season progresses, if this becomes unlikely, they still keep faith to the extent that they live "as if" the team will win today's game.

Call it faith.  Call it hope.  Call it self-delusion. But whatever you call it, I think we live richer, deeper lives because of it.

One more, merely human, result of this prayer thing: people have been revealing to me their deepest hopes and fears.  People I've known for years, who never said much, have come to me and told me the most amazing, heart-wrenching stories about family problems, illness, etc.  It has opened up new dimensions in relationships that were hitherto pretty much moribund.  It has been very fulfilling.

And as I mentioned in the Sept. 10 Logbook, even monks asked me to pray for them!  Totally screwy.

Finally, a joke about who's listening:
A guy falls off a cliff and catches a bush on his way down.  He starts yelling for help, "Is anyone up there?".  After a few moments a deep voice like thunder says, "I'm here."  And the guy says, "God?"  and God answers "Yes."  So the guy says "What should I do?" and God says "Trust me.  Let go of the branch."  And after a minute of thought the guy yells "Is there anybody else up there?"


.That's the end of the letter to Pauly.  Now here's the clincher:

A few days later, at Mishima Taisha (Grand Shrine) I picked up a pamphlet that said something intriguing about the gods.  Listen:

"In ancient times people looked at the beauty of nature with admiration and held it in awe and respect.  As a result of belief in it and thanks for it, the gods of Japan were formed in the hearts of the ancient Japanese people...."

Oh, my gods!  This major religious institution says that the gods were created by people. Blasphemy!  Everyone knows that God created people!  I'm a Western man!  This goes against everything I've been taught.

But wait.  Didn't some ancient Greek say, "If triangles had a god, he would have three sides?"  And hasn't the question long been asked: "Did God make us in his image, or did we make God in ours?"

So the question has been on the table for quite some time.  I guess it's just the matter-of-fact way the pamphlet states it: "So the people made up the gods."  Wow.

But look again.  It doesn't say "made them up."  That's a mental thing.  It says they were formed in the people's hearts.  There's something that rings true about this.

Your thoughts?

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