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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 24th, 2001 (Monday):
From Kakegawa to Iwata Station

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.

This morning I said goodbye to the nice people at Shizuka-en Ryokan, and took my big bag to the station.  I had a reservation in Araimachi at a youth hostel (no jokes, please) for the next four nights.  So I took my bag to Iwata Station--today's projected stopping-point--then took the train back to Kakegawa, last night's stopping- and today's starting-point.

For quite a while, I did a lot of walking, with not much to see.

Then, as I approached Fukuroi--station number 27-- I saw this funny little building.  I think it's a traveler's information office, but it's in the shape of a kago, or litter, like the ones used to carry goods and people--especially people--down the Old Tokaido in the Edo Period.  Little did I realize that before the day was out, I would sit in one!  Prophetic.

Shortly after that, I passed this pretty shrine gate.  The sign indicates that the shrine itself is 8/10 of a kilometer away.  As I continued along this stretch of road, I saw a few more gates to places that were around a kilometer away.  I imagine that in the old days, there was nothing between the gate and the shrine itself, except maybe forest or fields.  Now there are houses and factories.  It seems a little odd to maintain "frontage" on the now-little-used Tokaido, but I was charmed by the idea.

Having just entered Fukuroi, I encountered this scene straight out of Hiroshige's print (below).  See the man lurking in the background?  He's a volunteer at the little city-sponsored teashop.  He waits there to ambush unsuspecting walkers and ply them with tea and make them stay around awhile.  Once he gets his hooks in you, others come out to help him bring you in.  It was devastating.

They were so effective that I had to shoo them away to get this, my official shot for Fukuroi.  You'll have to look closely to tell the difference between my shot and Hiroshige's.  (Mine is the one with the big guy in the hat.)

When asked if this was the place where the tree in Hiroshige's print was actually located, ,my lurker friend replied roundly, "Yes."  Then meekly added, "About."  Honesty prevails again.

Hiroshige's Tokaido : Fukuroi, Station #27 on the Old Tokaido

A little shade, a little tea, the sky for a roof: what else does a traveler need?  By the way, the shape of the sign (where the bird is perched) is still commonly seen today.

One of the lurker's accomplices asked me if I wanted to see a kago, the litter mentioned above.  It was in his shop, about 100 meters up the street.

So off we went.  It turns out my new friend, Mr. Tsuneo Yuuki, is a worker in bamboo.  (I'm sure there's a Japanese word for his, but I haven't a clue what it is.)  And the kago was not of the large box type I was familiar with, but was rather the sporty compact seen here.

Pity the bearers who get this load!

Here's a picture from some info Yuuki-san gave me on kagos.

Here's Yuuki-san himself making a chopstick rest, which he then presented to me. 

He also gave me this beautiful handmade cup.  It's all one piece of bamboo; the bottom is the skin where the bamboo is jointed.  It may be simple handwork from simple materials, but it's priceless to me.  And all Mr. Yuuki asked in return is that I send him a letter or postcard from the road (which I did later).

Moving on down the road, cup in hand: this t-shirt is evidence of how Tokaido-crazy Fukuroi really is.  It says "Tokaido 400 Staff."  (I nearly bought it.)  [And now, three years later, I really wish I had!]

This old house on the outskirts of the Fukuroi shuku (station) is reminiscent of some Japanese ghost stories I've read: a traveler is stranded, finds a house, stays the night, helps the owner somehow, leaves the next day, returns for some reason--and the house looks like this.

Close up, I realized that this was Hotei-sama, one of the Seven Lucky Gods (sometimes erroneously called "the Laughing Buddha").  But from across the street, it looked like someone had let the air out of the Michelin Man!

Is this a former motel?  It could have been.  But here in Japan, it's a group of "karaoke boxes" arranged around a central court.

Today's prayers were said at Daikenji in Mitsuke.  It was closed, so I have no information, except to say that the neighbors use the grounds for a parking area.  There was just the main hall, an attached house, and the cemetery.  Here's the main hall and a cool pile in the cemetery.  (I especially like the "ghostly" light in this shot.)

As I was praying, a local temple rang out six o'clock on the big temple bell.  It made me think of Basho's famous haiku which asks if the bell he was hearing was from Ueno or Asakusa.  I'm beginning to miss Tokyo.

This old school in Mitsuke is a local landmark. Built in 1875, it is said to be the oldest surviving wooden, Western-style elementary school in Japan

As you can see from the above, I arrived in Mitsuke--station number 28--after dark.  So you'll see my official shot--and Hiroshige's--tomorrow.

That's all, folkses.

Dang!  I almost forgot to tell you: Mitsuke is considered the halfway-point from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto.  The mileage from Edo to Mitsuke is 236 kilometers; from Edo to Kyoto is 492, so 246 would be halfway; the next station, Hamamatsu, is 252.  So, to quibble with tradition, isn't Hamamatsu nearer the mid-point?  But maybe they used different mileages than the ones in my modern guidebook.

(Fukuroi, by the way, is the center station by station count.  That is, it's number 27 from each end.)



Youth Hostels

Well, it's official: I'm old.

When I checked into the youth hostel today, I joined an association in order to receive a discount.  And on my  membership card, in black-and-white, for all the world to see, the category I belong to is: "Senior."  Now Chie, the nice girl who signed me up, says anything over 19 is "senior."  "NINETY!" I cried.  "No, no," she says, "nine-TEEN."  Kidding, says I.

Anyway, I want to say a word on behalf of the hostel.

I'm sure there are people just down the hill paying more than double for a room at this very moment.  But what have they got that I ain't got?

For the first time on this trip (besides my friends' houses) there are laundry facilities right in the building.  I have a spacious room (sleeps eight, but it's all for me).  The bath is large and luxurious.  There's a western style toilet.  And as my friend Tom mentioned back in Kamakura, conversation is readily at hand.  Usually in simple English or my (bad) Japanese, but conversation nonetheless.  Other hostellers have helped me decipher some of the signs I've seen along the way, and made suggestions for my website.  This kind of exchange of information doesn't happen in a business hotel, or even a ryokan--unless, perhaps, you take your meals there.

Oh, yeah, meals are available here, for an added price.  But as a vegetarian, I usually don't try to go for these group meals (at hostels and ryokans) because it's usually either frustrating for me or frustrating for the staff.  It's easier on everyone if I graze at the convenience store.

Now, the clincher: I'm in a more-or-less tourist area, near Lake Hamanako.  It's Autumn, a prime season for traveling.  The floor I'm on in the building sleeps--by my estimate--over 60 people.  And how many are here?  Three.

C'mon, folks, we gotta use these things, or they're gonna shut 'em down.

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