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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

October 1st, 2001 (Monday):
From Okazaki to (almost) Narumi

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: Chiryu Shrine, Statuary
DANG, I had a terrible day.  So why do I feel so good?

It was raining so hard when I left here this morning that I was soaked though before I got to the nearby station.  Also, I had been unable to publish my web page both last night and this morning, so I left "home" with unresolved Internet problems (which actually still exist as I write this, but will obviously be solved by the time you read it!)

I took a local train to be sure I didn't miss the stop I wanted (big mistake, time killer) and arrived much later than I wanted to.  The rain had stopped, however, so I was able to get my official shot of Okazaki, station number 38 on the Old Tokaido.

Okazaki is revered as the birthplace of Ieyasu Tokugawa, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.  You can read his abbreviated life story in the Logbook for September 20th.  The top of the (reconstructed) castle where he was born is behind me, above the trees.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Okazaki, Station #38 on the Old Tokaido

Hiroshige shows the castle in the distance, with the Yahagi Bridge in the foreground.  More on this in a minute.

Aside from the castle (and the 27 turns mentioned yesterday) , the other big deal at Okazaki is the Yahagi Bridge.  Tokuriki calls this "the longest bridge on the entire length of the Tokaido."  He must mean historically, because I've crossed a dozen bridges longer than this one.

Like Hiroshige, Tokuriki includes a sketch of the bridge and castle together.  What I want to know is, where the heck was he standing?  Here's a shot of the bridge; can you see that roof the arrow points to?  THAT's the castle!  I wanted my official shot to include both, but that would have required a lot of 'splainin'.

One more thing about the bridge: Tokuriki (darn 'im) refers briefly to what must be a well-known story: "[Yahagi Bridge] is famous as the spot where Hachisuka Koroku found the young Hideyoshi sound asleep."  I confirmed with a nearby shopkeeper that this statue at the end of the bridge commemorates the event, but I can't find any account of the story.  Does anybody out there know it? 

Update, 2005: I have found scant mention here and there that Hachisuka was a bandit leader who became one of Hideyoshi Toyotomi first followers.  Still no further mention of the meeting at Yahashi Bridge.

Now, after yesterday's debacle, I was taking no chances on finding a place to say your prayers.  So I stopped at the first historical temple I could find.

This is Shorenji, also called Yanagido.  (Yanagi means "willow"; you can see one in front of the main hall.)  A sign out front says "Saint Shinran" was connected with this temple (we met him in Chigasaki), so I assume the temple is (or at least was) Jodoshinshu, and the main image Amida Buddha.  The temple also claims to have an image and articles belong to Nobuyasu, the first son of Ieyasu.

As I left Shorenji, it started to rain.  Then it started to rain hard.  Then it dumped buckets.  I broke out my "rain jacket" for the first time, and moved on.

And got lost.  I took a wrong turn in the rain and wasted almost 90 minutes.  But I saw some cool birds: quail, a kind of pheasant, white egrets, and something the size of a large pigeon with distinctive black and white markings.  These guys knew they were trespassing (they were in planted fields) so when I tried to get my camera out they took wing (except for the pheasants, who ran for cover).  No pictures, but great memories, despite the fact that I was BLOODY LOST.

(Anyone wanna buy a road map of the Okazaki area?  Used only one day, still slightly damp.)

OK, found my way again.  It's a long walk from Okazaki to Chiryu--nearly 12 kilometers--so I got bored.  The intermittent rain did make things a bit interesting, but...

This is one of the best ichirizukas I've seen recently; most of them are just ato (sites).

As I walked on toward Chiryu, I heard a funny clink!  Turning around, I discovered that I'd dropped a goddess.

On my backpack hang a bell, a small mouse, and several omamori or charms.  Some were given by friends, or by people I've met along the way.  But one I bought a long time ago, at the Asakusa Kannon near where I used to live.  For a long time I kept it in my coin purse.  But since I started walking, I hung it on my bag with the others.

This type of charm is usually a piece of paper or a small medal inside a brocade bag.  You're not supposed to ever see what's inside; it's a matter of faith.

This one was a medal of the Kannon.  I guess the bag was glued, not sewn, and the glue let loose because of the rain.  So clink! and my beloved Kannon-sama hit the ground!   I'm going to put her in a safe place in my bag and never look at her again.  The broken bag is still hanging where it was.  [And in January, 2005, it hangs there still--though the Kannon-sama herself was left behind on top of a locker in the youth hostel at Nagoya five days later!]

At the edge of Chiryu these megaliths have arisen.  New Stonehenge, or elevated highway supports?  You be the judge.

This horse statue is located quite near one of the horse markets for which Chiryu was famous (see Hiroshige below).  Also in the area was a coffee shop called Hakuba--"white horse."

And to finish off the approach to Chiryu, here's a lovely wedding chapel, the "Cathedrale de Sainte-Marie."  Mary is apparently the patroness of weddings in Japan, perhaps as a pun; I saw a chapel in Okayama once called "The Chapel of Saint Marry."

And now, my official shot for Chiryu.  I couldn't find any horses to pose with, but near the center of town was this tree reminiscent of the one in Hiroshige's print, so I went for it.  (Do I look like a man who's been in wet clothes all day?)

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Chiryu, Station #39 on the Old Tokaido

Hiroshige shows the famous horse market.  Tokuriki points out that, although Hiroshige is usually pretty accurate, he couldn't have seen this market, as it's at a different time of year than when he visited.  As I've said before, HIROSHIGE IS A BIG, FAT LIAR.

This monument, a couple of big trees, and a playground are all that remain of Chiryu Castle.

All that's left to show you are a couple of Words and Pictures pages.

The first is a Words and Pictures page of pretty Chiryu Shrine.  This place is famous for its snake-repelling powers.  It also has a charming two-story pagoda; take a look.

And finally--and weirdly--I was walking along and came across a bunch of statues in front of a closed shop.  You gotta see this one to believe it, perhaps my most bizarre Words and Pictures page of the trip.

Well, I kept on a-goin' 'til I couldn't see no more.  I think I have about an hour to go before I reach Narumi.  Tomorrow should be an interesting day, with some cool things to see and a 28-kilometer ferry ride (unfortunately, the ferry is gone, so I'll do it by train).  Read more about it tomorrow.



"Are You Japanese?"

Three times in two days I've been asked this question.

The first, yesterday morning, was yelled in Japanese by a guy speeding by on a bicycle.  Assuming he was being a smart-aleck, I yelled back, "Yes!"

The second was yesterday evening.  I stopped in Higashiyama Station to look at the map and locate the youth hostel where I'm staying.  A woman walked by and asked where I was going (in broken English).  I answered, she communicated that that's what she guessed, and proceeded to show me the way.  She was going there, too.  At the check-in counter she asked what I was doing in Nagoya, and I answered.  Finally she looked at me and said, "Are you Japanese?"

This was courtesy, this was kindness.  My Japanese friends have often asked me the same question in the same way, or they've said, "You are more Japanese than the Japanese" because of my interest in Japanese culture.  They are being kind; more on this below.

But today was the stunner.  A group of boys around 10 years old stopped me as I approached Chiryu and fired a lot of excited questions at me: "Where are you going?  When did you start?  How long will it take?" etc.  Fortunately, I've heard--and answered--all of these questions before.  So the conversation ran along in fairly fluent Japanese.  Then one boy gave me a good long look and--without guile--asked: "Are you Japanese?"

Wow.  There are a few--a very few--native-born Japanese of European stock.  (I once read that Japan was 99.5% ethnic Japanese, 0.4% Korean, and 0.1% everything else, including Chinese.  Those figures have almost certainly changed recently, though.)

But for a year, a private student and I discussed the question "What is Japanese?"  We talked a lot about cultural things--the writing is Chinese, the racial origins are likely Korean, the modern culture is largely Western.  But although all these things come from somewhere else, they are now 100% uniquely Japanese.  What was once imported is now indigenous.

So, can one "become" Japanese, the way one "becomes" American?

I think not.  Years ago I was studying the religions of the Indians of the American Southwest.  I wanted to "join" the Hopi religion, only to learn that to do so one must be Hopi.  Not de jure--by law--but de facto, as a matter of fact.  I think the same is true in Japan.

In a sense, it's probably true anywhere.  If you weren't born in America, if you arrive at the age of 13 or 30, you can take a test and become legally American, but there will always be shared experiences--Romper Room, say, for people my age--that you've missed.  You'll always be "different."

The same is true here, but magnified. It's said that 20 years after you arrive, well-meaning friends--who know how long you've been here--will still compliment you on how well you use chopsticks, or how well you speak Japanese.

There seems to be a feeling that only Japanese people can do these things.  Another standard idea is that many Japanese are surprised to hear that other places have "four seasons."  They think that's a Japanese thing.  Last week, a young man in his 20's asked me in all sincerity if there were mosquitoes in America.  When I said "Yes," he was surprised; he had always assumed they were only found in Japan.

What I'm saying is that there is a certain amount of insular or parochial or--some would say--jingoistic thinking here.  It's natural, though: when so much emphasis is placed on "the group," it automatically creates a large class of people who are not in the group.

So: Am I Japanese?  No, and I never will be.  I love Japan.  It feels like home.  If I accepted the idea of reincarnation 100%, I'd swear I had lived here before.  I often have feelings of nostalgia when I see something for the first time.  Not deja vu, mind you, but real nostalgia.

Notwithstanding, one is born Japanese, not made.  No matter how much I learn, no matter how much I appreciate, no matter how much I focus on things Japanese, it will always be a matter of using my head.  I can explain things about Buddhism that many Japanese don't know; but they can have an intuitive grasp, a heartfelt connection, just by walking onto a temple's grounds, in a way that I can never approach.  I will always be on the outside looking in.

So I'm not more Japanese than the Japanese; I'm not Japanese at all.  But I am, and always will be, a Japanophile of the highest order.

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