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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

October 2nd, 2001 (Tuesday):
From (Almost) Narumi to Miya

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: Kasadera Kannon
How could two days be more different?  Yesterday the weather was miserable: either it was cold and raining, or hot and steamy.  Today we had blue skies, mild temperatures, and a strong wind.  Yesterday I was wet all day; today I was dry (inside and out--the wind was desiccating).  Yesterday my hat protected me from the rain; today I couldn't keep it on!  (I actually got a little sunburn on my head.)

Yet it wasn't a perfect day.  Although I set out early, I didn't cover much ground (for reasons described below).  My website still isn't accepting new material as of tonight.  And I'm undergoing equipment failure.

Yesterday I mentioned the omamori (charm) that fell apart.  Also yesterday, I wore through the rubber tip on my walking stick, and was fraying the end of the stick by pounding it on the ground.  And today, one of the seams on a backpack strap let loose, so I had to tie the two halves of the strap together.  Geez, I hope my clothes hold up!

But it was a beautiful day for walking (without a hat).  One of the first places I walked through was Arimatsu, not too far from Narumi.  This is the location of the dye shops shown in Hiroshige's print.

I didn't realize that at the time, though.  I was impressed enough by the buildings to shoot them, but I guess I thought there would be more in Narumi proper.  So I missed a chance to duplicate a Hiroshige print with me in it.

It wasn't until tonight that I read that the dyeing technique is called Narumi Arimatsu Shibori.  If I had realized that, I may have put one and one together and done my official shot in Arimatsu!

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Narumi, Station #40 on the Old Tokaido

Well, here they are: two dye-shops in the style I saw today.  The area was--and is--famous for a kind of tie-dyed cloth.  Reminds me of the '60s.  I actually had a chance to do some tie-dyeing, Japanese style, at a crafts village in Shizuoka with my friends the Maruyamas last year.

The eastern border of the shuku proper is marked by this lantern.  Another like it stands at the western end of town.  This one was installed in 1806.

Like yesterday, I decided to say your prayers early.  Too bad, because a far more impressive temple came along soon.  Anyway, this is Seiganji.  It's famous as the site to the first known monument commemorating the life of the haiku poet Basho.

I had a little help with my prayers today.  An old, blind dog was tied up next to the porch of the hondo (main hall).  He started barking when I approached, and sang along through my prayers.  I had even gone over and petted him, but he still kept it up.  I guess he's religious.

Yesterday I said, "This is one of the best ichirizukas I've seen recently."  Well, move aside: the one I saw today is one of the best ever.  And the sign says it's the only one standing inside the Nagoya city limits.  There's an interesting discrepancy on the sign, though.  It says these were placed every four kilometers, and that this one is 350 kilometers from Tokyo.  See the problem?  (Hint: how many times does 4 go into 350?)  Anyway, 350 kilometers. Wow!  No wonder I'm tired.

Well, here it is: my official shot for Narumi, station number 40 on the Old Tokaido.

I'm standing on a bridge leading into Kasadera Kannon, one of the most beautiful temples I've seen on this trip.  You know, I take things as they come.  But if there were a way to see ahead, I would have said my prayers here, and done the official shot back in Narumi!

This temple felt very familiar to me.  Over the past few years, I have completed three pilgrimage circuits which, together, constitute the Nihon Hyaku Kannon--the 100 temples sacred to Kannon in Japan.  Thirty-three of these are located in the Kansai area; this temple felt very much like one of those.  (Next year, after my Aki Meguri, I will be building information on the Nihon Hyaku Kannon into this site.  Stay tuned.)

Kasadera Kannon was so good, in fact, that I've given it a Words and Pictures page.

One official shot after another.  This one's for Miya, modern Nagoya.  (Actually, Miya didn't change its name to Nagoya; Nagoya swallowed Miya.)

I'm standing by the monument for the Shichiriwatashi, the "Seven Ri Ferry."  Now, you know what a ri is from all those ichirizukas I've written about.  One ri is about four kilometers.  Shichi means "seven" so this is a 28 kilometer ferry.  It goes from Miya to the next station, Kuwana.

Before I started this trip, I checked with some friends to see if it were still possible to take the boat here. (Thanks, Jun!)  It wasn't.  So I got my hopes up a bit today when I saw a modern boat dock near the old pier.  Alas, it goes from here to here.  A round-trip sight-seeing boat only.  So I'll have to take a train to Kuwana.

The original light was built in 1625.  This replica is the same age as me: we both date back to 1955.

This picture shows both the light and a bell tower as seen from the end of the dock.

As I walked toward the ferry, I walked past Hoshoin, a nearby temple.  A sign said that this temple was responsible for lighting the "night light" at the ferry from 1654 to 1891.  An interesting junction of church and state.  (But perhaps "lighting a light in the darkness"--and saving lives as a result--is a religious function after all?)

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Miya, Station #41 on the Old Tokaido

This print shows a horse driving festival at...

Today's final stop: Atsuta Jingu, from which "Miya" gets its name.  Miya, jingu, jinja, and gu are all words translated into English as "shrine," meaning a Shinto place of worship.

But this isn't any old shrine.  This shrine is said to own one of the three Imperial regalia: a sword bestowed by "Amaterasu-Omikami," the Sun Goddess--and ancestress of Japan's first emperor.  ("Atsuta" is another name for her.)

The sword, called Kusanagi ("Grass-Cutter"), was given by Amaterasu to her grandson Ninigi when he descended to earth to rule Japan.  (His great-grandson, Jimmu, was allegedly the first "historical," human emperor--but he is now also believed to be mythical.  Yet February 11th, Japan's "Foundation Day," was chosen as such because it was believed to be his birthday.)

This sword was found in the body of an eight-headed dragon slain by Susano-o, the god of storms, and presented by him to Amaterasu.  Later, it was used by Prince Yamato Takeru.  When attacking Ainu warriors set fire to the grass around the Prince, he used the sword to cut down the grass.  Hence the name ""Grass-Cutter."

The other two treasures were a mirror and a jeweled necklace.  (The mirror is said to be at the Grand Shrine of Ise--also dedicated to Amaterasu--but I can't find a location for the necklace.)  The Encyclopedia Britannica reports that the sword symbolizes courage; the jewelry, benevolence; and the mirror, purity.  These were all given to Ninigi to help him be the ideal ruler.

For all this, the shrine is a pretty typical large shrine, with tree-lined pathways, various smaller buildings, some grand old patriarchal trees encircled by straw ropes, ponds and chickens, etc.

Now, yesterday I ended by saying that I was going to "take the ferry" today.  But I got back to the station near Atsuta Jingu after 3:00.  Given a nearly 1-hour train ride each way, I would have spent two hours on trains to get in a little over one hour of walking.  This seemed silly.  So I called off the quest early, hence my dismal progress.

I headed into Nagoya station, got some early dinner, and returned to the hostel.  I'll get to bed early tonight, and (hopefully) get a real early start tomorrow.  We'll see.



What if...?

"What if frogs had wings?  They wouldn't bump their butts when they hopped."

These and other such phrases are often used to discourage children from saying "What if...?"

But "what if" is one of our most important questions.  Our greatest hopes--and fears--are often expressed in sentences beginning "what if."

Today I faced all the negative possibilities I could about this trip.  Don't get me wrong: I'm not being pessimistic.  But I have to face the facts about myself, my abilities, and the demands of this journey.  In a nutshell, I'm just not moving as fast as I expected to.

The Buddhist practice of "seeing things as they are" often leads to thinking about the next step.  So here are some of them:

  • What if I don't get to Kyoto on time?  (I'm already so late!)
  • What if I can't see everything I want to see in Yamato?
  • What if (gods forbid) I can't finish in time, and have to break off to return to the U.S.?  (I have a ticket for December 17th.)

The answer to all of these questions is: "SO WHAT??!!" 

I'm having a great time.  I'm meeting kindness everywhere.  I'm seeing new things every day.  I'm producing pages that are bringing pleasure to readers.  I have the satisfaction of doing something I've longed dreamed of doing.

The last question--"What if I can't finish?"--was the one that bugged me the most.  After all, I vowed to do it!

But traditionally, there's a way out: the pilgrim vows to finish or die.  That doesn't mean he'll finish in one trip.  So if I don't finish?  Hey, I'll come back and finish next year.  If I'm too goal-oriented (gotta walk 800 kilos today) I'll miss a lot.

There are two vital and complementary ideas in the Japanese national mindset.  One is the idea I hear every day: "Gambatte, kudasai!"  It means something like "fight on" or "hang in there."  In other words, don't quit.  It carries with it a strong sense of encouragement to do your best.

The  other idea is "shoganai."  It's tough to translate, but would often be used where a North American would shrug and say, "Hey, what can ya do?"  It's resignation to things as they are, things that can't be helped.

Taken together, these two ideas mean, "Do your best, but sometimes--due to things beyond your control--you won't succeed.  In that case, accept things as they are."

Remember "The Serenity Prayer"?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.

Well, the first line of this prayer sounds uncannily like "shoganai," and the second like "gambatte"!

So I will fight on until the deadline overtakes me, wherever I am.  Gambarimasu.  Then, with a joyful heart, I will return to Tokyo and Los Angeles.  If there are still some temples to finish, I'll nail 'em down next time around.  Shoganai.

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