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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

October 6th, 2001 (Saturday):
From Almost Tsuchiyama to Past Minakuchi

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.

After last night's debacle, a good night's sleep was just what I needed--and I got one!

Also, I was given "special permission" for a morning shower by the nice guy at the hostel.  Things were looking up already.

Having discovered that the Youth Hostel in Otsu where I planned to stay had shut down for good, I made a reservation at one in Omi Hachiman.  Since I had splurged on the Shinkansen last night, I took local express trains all the way to Omi Hachiman, stashed my bag, and continued onward to Mikumo, and the bus for Tsuchiyama.

The first thing to see in Tsuchiyama is Tamura Shrine.  It's unusual to find a shrine named for an everyday person; it's like finding "Saint Bob Smith Church."  But I had good reason to worship at Tamura Jinja.

Here's what JR says about it: "The ancient warrior Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (758-811) gained great renown for his bravery in subduing the eastern provinces. At that time, he rooted out the bandits that infested the Suzuka mountains, and this venerable shrine was built on that occasion."  So in a way, I owed my safe crossing of Suzuka Pass to him (though it definitely felt like some of the bandits were still watching me!).

As with many shrines, this one has steps leading down to a river, usually for ceremonial purposes.  The river is the Tamuragawa, the same one shown in...

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Tsuchiyama, Station #49 on the Old Tokaido

Some of the men in a daimyo's procession are shown crossing the Tamura.

Also at the shrine: this horse.  Remember my discussion of ema on October 4th?  A few of the grander shrines--Toshogu in Nikko, for example, or Ise Jingu--keep live horses.  And other old shrines often have statues like these--a reminder of the days of animal (and even human) sacrifice.

Tsuchiyama shuku begins with a rather gaudy tourist stop.  It then becomes a nice stroll, which will be even nicer when the road repairs are finished. Along the way is this amazing museum dedicated to the horse-handlers and other travel professionals.

So here's my official shot for Tsuchiyama, station number 49 on the Old Tokaido.  The diorama inside the museum shows a daimyo's procession of nearly 100 people.  But far more travel on the road was by foot or--as with my friends here--one man and a horse.  A horseman seldom rode; he led the horse as it carried cargo or a passenger.  So he was a Tokaido walker, too!

I know I promised not to belabor you with still more pictures of old houses.  But this one was splendid, and the lighting was magnificent, and it stands on the site of the old honjin (official inn).  So I couldn't resist.

On to Minakuchi, after a long road between.

At the entry to the shuku are these signboards, which I mentioned when I briefly visited the museum in Shono.  The Tokugawa government used to post these with official pronouncements, etc.  So my official shot for Minakuchi is of me reading one.  Get it?

Just past these signs, the road splits into three parts.  It's the only place on the Tokaido where there are parallel routes through a town, all designated as "the Tokaido."  Because they're quite narrow, I wonder if the alternatives were necessary here, not so far from the Imperial capital of Kyoto.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Minakuchi, Station #50 on the Old Tokaido

He shows a simple town scene.  The women are shaving and drying gourds, still a local product.

Minakuchi has a large number of very tall warehouses like this one.  Can you guess what they're for?  I counted 5 in the town, including one that's part of the Community Center; and I'm sure there are more.

OK.  This model in a glass case by the central bus stop should give you a clue.

That's right: they're "garages" for the tall floats or dashi (also called hoko or yama) that are used in festivals.  You can see one in my Logbook for September 23rd.

Strolling through town, I thought this cartoon on a dry-cleaning shop looked familiar.  Anybody recognize this guy?  (Hint: he got into hot water for visiting a particular shrine in Tokyo--perhaps that's why he looks so uncomfortable?)

My last shot of the day: "The Stone of Minakuchi."  That's what the sign said.  It said other things, too, but I have no idea what.  Nice stone, huh?

There's a castle turret replica somewhere in Minakuchi, but it was late and dark and cold, and I just saw one at Kameyama.  So I skipped it; I'll see it next time I walk the Tokaido.

Yesterday I promised a sequel to the bus story.  Here it is: today, on my return ride, I met the same driver!  He was delighted to see me, and I him.  He told me that he had felt bad personally and as a representative of his company (no small company: Japan Railways).  So he was relieved to see me pushing on cheerfully.  I'll never forget this guy.  (And he gave me another freebie!)

I returned to Omi Hachiman, had a quick dinner near the station, and took a bus out to the Youth Hostel.  The route seemed strangely familiar; then I realized that I had ridden this same bus to visit one of the 33 Kannon Temples in Kansai.

The hostel is a beautiful historic building (picture tomorrow).  The only drawbacks: sleeping ten to a room (and I snore), and no connection for my computer.  So for the next few days I'll probably be uploading in the mornings, from the station area, as I will with this tomorrow.



Secret Helpers

It's a common idea in folk tales, movies, and novels: the hero is up against some terrible obstacle, and the universe sends some secret helpers to save the day.  The elves come in the middle of the night, or an angel arrives in human form, or a secret cabal of fixers intervenes.  Sometimes, they're fully human but mysterious, like the A-Team or the Equalizer.

More often, though, in real life, the helper is simply another human being who has taken the time to have a human response to the situation.  So it was with my bus driver. There's no magic involved, just the reaction of one soul to the plight of another.

Come to think of it, maybe that's magic after all.

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