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Aki Meguri Old Tokaido Logbook:

October 7th, 2001 (Sunday):
From Past Minakuchi to Past Kusatsu

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.

 
Well, no one smothered me in my sleep because of my snoring.  I didn't even sense any dirty looks this morning.  So I guess sleeping in a dorm is doable.

Before I left this morning, I went out and took this shot of the beautiful Youth Hostel building.

Returning to Mikumo station for the last time--site of my friendship with the bus driver--I returned to yesterday's stopping point, closer to Minakuchi.

Walking toward Ishibe, past Mikumo, the map indicates two tunnels that seem to go under rivers.  How could this be?

Well, here they are: viaducts.  (Points off if you thought of the Marx Brothers.)  These "elevated rivers" seem to be common in the area, as well as diked ponds that are well above ground level.  Perhaps this whole area is drained swamp, a lowland?  Then the rivers have to be kept at their high level if they are to flow into Lake Biwa?  Anyway, I can honestly say that it's the first time on this trip that I have walked under a river instead of over one.

Ishibe has some irony.  Somewhere, up on a mountain, there is allegedly a collection of old houses and a Tokaido museum.  But it was well off the route, and I couldn't find how to get there, and I was in a bit of a hurry (I covered a lot of ground today).  So even though Ishibe may have some of the best Edo-period things to see, I couldn't find a single sight worth taking a picture in front of.  I did see this house, and some others; but there were walls in front of them, so I couldn't get a shot with them.

So, as I did at Hara, I faked my official shot.  For the record, this is Ishibe, station number 51 on the Old Tokaido.  I think my shot looks remarkably like Hiroshige's.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Ishibe, Station #51 on the Old Tokaido

For many, this was the first night's stop when leaving Kyoto.  A small group are arriving at an inn.

These charming, very old stone statues are outside of Ishibe, near Tehara station.

This not-so-old statue is also near Tehara.

Along the way, I saw this old thatched-roofed house.  One also sees these houses with the thatch sheathed in tin, as in the right-hand photo.

The walk into Kusatsu is quiet and pleasant.

Then one reaches another oiwake--split in the road--and the traffic never stops: walkers, bicycles, scooters, in an endless stream.

It was tough to get this official shot for Kusatsu without someone in front of me.

Remember the oiwake at Yokkaichi?  Here is another one, and this one had real significance for me.  Two major roads come together here: the Nakasendo from the central mountains joins the Tokaido.  A little over a month ago--September 5th, to be exact--I stood at another joining of these roads.  As you may recall, Nihombashi--my starting point--is also the starting point for the five major highways of the Edo period, including the two that re-join here for the first time.  Since I expect to be in Kyoto tomorrow or the next day, it was a good place to begin reflecting back over the trip.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Kusatsu, Station #52 on the Old Tokaido

As a place where two major roads joined--and not far from Kyoto--this was a busy place, with lots of transportation professionals at work.

Front gate, with visitors Streetside Garden

Kusatsu also boasts a fine honjin, or official inn.  I won't do another Words and Pictures page about a honjin; you can see the ones at Futagawa and Maisaka.  But I will show you a few pictures here.

After the honjin, I walked on through the village, and caught a train--the first time I could jump directly on the Tokaido line in days.

Not much to add, except to show you the rather unusual name of the place where I had dinner.

 

Journal
Entry

Temples

If you look at my "Places of Prayer" page, you'll see a trend.  At first--near Tokyo--it was easy to find big-name, five-star temples. Then, out in the country, I started praying at small shrines, roadside shrines, even once in my room.

Tomorrow, all that is going to change.  I will hit Ishiyamadera tomorrow, one of my favorite temples.  The next day, I'll probably be in Kyoto.  Then in rapid succession the Nara area, Asuka, Mt. Koya, and finally Shikoku, where your prayers will be said at each of the 88 temples of the pilgrimage.

Question: where is a prayer more effective, in one's room, or standing in front of the Great Buddha of Nara?

The answer is obvious: prayer is effective depending on the heart of the pray-er, not on where he's standing at the time.

And yet.  And yet.

We still go to church.  We still visit temples.  We still immerse ourselves in awe-inspiring natural beauty.

Why?

Because we are a soul in a body.  And that body's sensations and perceptions do affect the heart.  The church defines a sacrament as "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace."  Why do we need such signs?  Because we are body and soul.

I have been as faithful as possible with your prayers, putting everything I have into them.  But there is no doubt that this was easier in inspiring places (by definition).  And beginning tomorrow, may become easier still.

 
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