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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

September 26th, 2001 (Wednesday):
From Hamamatsu to (almost) Shirasuka

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: Maisaka's Waki Honjin, The Arai Barrier
I left the Hostel earlier than usual today, and covered quite a bit of ground as a result.  I took the train back to Hamamatsu station, had breakfast, and started walking.

The first part of the day was 10 kilometers with virtually no sites to see.  As Red Skelton used to say, "There was miles and miles of nuthin' but miles and miles."   I did find this noodle shop interesting, though.  It's an old okura, or storage house, converted into a restaurant.

Approaching Maisaka, though, the day got more interesting, and fast.  Maisaka boasts the prettiest namiki--tree-lined street--that I've seen so far.  To add to the charm, there are 12 statues along the way, representing the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.  Each has a poem on its back ( I wish I could read Japanese!).  I've shown the Snake below left, this year's sign.

At the end of the namiki is a little plaza with a restroom and some benches.  It also features this statue of "Namiko," above right.  I have no idea who Namiko is, but it was cute.  (I photographed the plaque; any volunteers want to read it and tell me the story?)

These simple stone walls mark the entrance to the Maisaka shuku, or station.  They made me think that this one would have a lot to see.  Unfortunately, aside from a map in a little park, the only real Edo-period attraction is the waki honjin discussed below.

I thought this lantern was interesting, though; why didn't they put the light inside the lantern?

I'm standing in front of the door of the waki honjin, or secondary official inn, for my official shot for Maisaka, station number 30 on the Old Tokaido.  Built sometime between 1830 and 1844, this old inn has been restored to its original appearance.  You can see the interior on the Words and Pictures page.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Maisaka, Station #30 on the Old Tokaido

Maisaka is located to the east of Lake Hamanako.  Tokaido travelers went by boat to the next station, Arai.  You'll learn more about this below.

Since Hiroshige's print features boats, I thought I'd show you what some of the local fishing boats look like.

Maisaka used to have three "water stairs" or boat ramps.  The northernmost is still there.

Today I did a very bad thing for the first time.  I left my stick behind!  It was only for a minute, but...

I had taken this picture and returned to the wharf, walking toward the bridge that leads to Bentenjima station.  Remembering my stick, I turned abruptly around.  An old gentleman stopped me to tell me that it was OK, I could go straight ahead, it wasn't a dead end.  "Thank you," I said, "but I forgot my walking stick!"  "I see," he said, and rode off on his scooter.

Remember, the pilgrim's stick is Kobo Daishi.  All henro are admonished never to forget it.  And I had to admit my sin to another person!

So there it was, leaning all lonely against a stone wall.  I apologized profusely, even though it had been less than 90 seconds!

From the bridge, one can see this "floating torii."  Presumably Bentenjima (Benten Island) has a shrine to Benten, the only woman of the Seven Lucky Gods (whom you saw nude on Sept. 20).

I gave myself a break today.  Since ancient wayfarers jumped on a boat from Maisaka to Arai, I jumped on a train.  It is now possible to walk across this strait between Lake Hamanako and the ocean on bridges, but traditionally it wasn't.  So I went with tradition--and eased my feet.

By the way, until 1499 Hamanako was landlocked.  In that year an earthquake and its tidal wave (tsunami) breached the natural dike between the two.  This opening, called Imagire ("now severed") has long been avoided by prospective brides, as it's feared the place name will lead to marital breakup in the future.

Arriving at Araimachi station, it's about a half a kilometer over land to the Arai Sekisho, or barrier station.  Interestingly, the boats from Maisaka used to pull up right at the barrier station; it's all been filled in since.

Here's my official shot for Arai--where I'm currently living.  I walk past the barrier to get to the train station every day.  You can learn more about the barrier on the Words and Pictures page.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Arai, Station #31 on the Old Tokaido

More boats.  We're still on the shores of Lake Hamanako.

After visiting the station, I walked through the rest of the shuku, which, while quaint, contains only stone markers--nothing else of the old station remains.  I walked past my turnoff to the youth hostel, and down to Highway 1.  Believe me, at 4:40 it was tempting just to go home!  I hate making these mature decisions--but I got in another hour and a half of walking.

Plus, I still needed to say your prayers, which I did at Kyouonji.  Again, no one was there, so there's little to tell you about it.  The gate was a real treat, but the main hall was nothing special.

However, I suspect the temple may have an interesting history.  Across the street is this well; if I'm reading my Japanese guidebook correctly, Minamoto Yoritomo-- the first shogun ever, and founder of the Kamakura Shogunate--drew water from this well and made tea.  If the temple was there at the time, perhaps he had his tea in its garden?

Pushing on toward Shirasuka, I turned off to chase after more Old Stones.  These are the remains of a temple called Momijidera.  I know nothing about it except that it has something to do with the Ashikaga shogun Yoshinori.  But at the top of the stairs, I saw these four stones--usually the bases for gate posts.  Evocative.  The statues and grave stones below were the only other things above ground.

I toiled on as it grew dark, stopping about a half a kilometer from Shirasuka--at the bottom of what looks to be a nasty slope.

Walking out to Highway 1, I caught the 6:19 bus back to Kyouonji. From there it was a little over a kilometer's walk to the hostel.

Tomorrow I'll catch the 9:39 back to the bottom of that slope, and push on.  (The previous bus, at 7:55, is a big "no way"--too early!  As you can see by this schedule, out in the country, buses can be infrequent--even at rush hour.)



Emerging Themes

If I were to write a book about my experiences here, it would not be organized chronologically.  Instead, I would find the themes, the threads, that run through this adventure, and write chapters centered around those themes.

Here are a few of the themes I've noticed so far:

Travel and Transportation: It seems obvious: when you're on a trip, travel and transportation would be a theme.  But one thing I'm noticing is the layers of travel.  This road is officially 400 years old (although there are places where people traveled here prehistorically), and there are places where you can see that age.  But I have stood in the yard of an old building, or on a temple's grounds, and listened to a truck rumble by to my left as the shinkansen (bullet train) hisses past on my right.  Some of my guidebooks quote other guidebooks from 300 years ago.  The barrier stations I've passed are reminders of the restrictions on travel in another age.  There's a lot to say about the differences between a one-month walk and a 2-1/2 hour train ride!

Weather and Landforms: A related theme: when one walks, one is much more sensitive to sunshine and rain, and to the shape of the land.  A gentle slope that a car wouldn't even notice can take on new meaning when it's walked, especially if it's a couple of kilometers long.  Then there are the people going by with their windows rolled up--meaning their air conditioning is on--while I sweat along.  Having shaved my head, I feel the air more than I used to--perhaps a biological phenomenon, but with spiritual impact.

Religion: There's no escaping it.  Every rock, every tree seems to have significance.  Joseph Campbell talks about "land-nama": the naming and claiming of a land for one's gods.  It's been going on here literally since time immemorial.  That tree has a straw rope around it; this rock has a Buddha inscribed on it; that pond over there is known to be inhabited by a dragon.  Not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of temples and shrines, and the thousands of little road-side shrines.  Place names reflect the gods' presence; so do the little customs and gestures of every-day life.

Militarism: By decree, Japan has no "army" per se.  It has a "Self Defense Force," designed only to repel invasion.  But you can't swing a kendo stick without hitting a castle here.  Armor and weaponry are on display everywhere.  In a sense, the history of every nation can be told through its wars, but I think Japan is unique in its emphasis on fighting.  Quick: name three martial arts that originated in Europe.  Now think "judo, karate, aikido."  For a pacifist country, there's been a whole lotta fightin' goin' on.

D=RT: It's a standard formula: Distance equals Rate times Time.  Example:

R=60 miles per hour

T=30 minutes (0.5 hours)


D=30 miles (60 x 0.5)

I live by this law.  My rate of speed is fairly fixed: 4 kilometers per hour of actual walking (though it generally takes me an hour and fifteen minutes after stopping for a drink, a picture, a map-check, etc.).  Interestingly, the ichirizukas that I pass are based on this principle.  They are placed 1 ri apart.  And a ri is defined as "the distance a man can walk in one hour"--standardized at 3.9 kilometers.  SO the number of hours I walk in a day determines how far I get.  If I stop for a museum, or for lunch, or for a long, interesting conversation, I will cover less ground.  (I'm getting used to this slowly, and learning to enjoy the ride instead of being so destination-oriented.)

Parochialism: Everybody's got it: my village is better than your village.  But it becomes obvious as you walk from one place to the next.  People are intimately familiar with "their" places, and relatively ignorant about those "belonging" to others.  Remember all those ferry crossings I've made?  Travelers made them; transportation professionals made them; but a farmer could live next to a river all his life and never have reason to cross it.  Chie at Hamanako Youth Hostel told me that to this day there are clear differences in dialect on opposite sides of large rivers like the Oi.

Humanity: I used to live in my car.  Oh, not as a homeless guy.  I had a house and a job.  But like any good Angeleno, I never walked.  So I seldom saw people other than those I worked with or lived with or did business with.  In Tokyo, on the other hand, I had eye contact with more strangers in a day than I had in L.A. in a month!  And that trend continues as I walk.  A walker sees people where they live.  Yesterday I walked through a park twice.  The first time through, kids were playing ball.  On one side of the park, three old ladies sat, chatting.  Later--after dark--I walked through the same place, and a couple of high school lovers were there smooching.  I get smiled at by old men and old ladies, "hello'd" by kids, questioned by men my age on bicycles.  I am awash in humanity.


These are just a few of the themes that I've seen arising so far.  I'm sure there'll be more.

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