|I feel like Moses--or
Martin Luther King. I have been to the mountaintop--well, the
mountain pass anyway--and I have seen the other side. My
stopping point today was in Kyoto city, and I could look down to the
area where the Old Tokaido finishes. But alas! Darkness
ensued, so I couldn't reach the goal. Tomorrow is only a day away.
My day started and ended--and
ended--with a couple of girls. These are Norie, a nurse (l) and
Yumi, a piano teacher and wedding singer (r). They have been
friends since high school--about two or three years ago, I guessed.
(heh, heh, heh) They were staying in the youth hostel, about two
hours' drive from their hometown in Fukui prefecture. We had
chatted the night before, and I took this shot as they finished their
breakfast. (I don't eat at the hostels, because they seldom can
accommodate vegetarians.) Then they were off for a day at an onsen
(hot spring). Although today is Monday, it's a national holiday:
Sports Day, commemorating the opening of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and
celebrating the thousands of school "field days" or sports
days all over the country (one of which I listened to all day on September
Today's prayers were said at an amazing
temple. Ishiyamadera is one of the 33 temples designated as part
of a pilgrimage route in Kansai. I hope to write more about this
route--and two others I have completed--in the future. But for
now, please enjoy the Words and
Ishiyamadera is a couple of kilometers
away from the route; once you rejoin the Old Tokaido, that stretch also
served as a henro michi, or pilgrim's path, between Ishiyamadera
and the previous temple on the pilgrimage, Miidera, near Otsu. I
had visited Miidera in Autumn of 1999, and Ishiyamadera in Autumn of
2000, never realizing the two were joined by the Old Tokaido.
The pilgrimage I will take on Shikoku
starting next Sunday is Japan's oldest and longest. The Saigoku
Sanjusan Reijo, of which Ishiyamadera and Miidera are numbers 13 and
12 respectively, comes in second place. I did it by train, bus,
even taxi, and on foot. It took over two years of vacations and
long weekends off work. I have also completed the Bando
Sanjusan Reijo, a similar pilgrimage in the Kanto area. And I
did the Chichibu Sanjuyon Reijo, a pilgrimage of 34 temples all
centered around one valley near Tokyo. That one, about a hundred
kilometers in length, I did on foot over a five-day period.
Sanjusan, sanjusan, and sanjuyon.
33+33+34=100. Together these three routes constitute the Nihon
Hyakku Kannon, the Japan 100 Kannon Pilgrimage. There is
little available on these routes in English on the Internet; within a
few days, I hope to post--at the very least--a list of the temples
involved, and a few references for those who want to try them. In
the future, I plan to create and post pages of information and pictures
from my experiences on these treks.
As always on the Old Tokaido, there were
small statues and shrines along the road. As we near Kyoto, there
are also more temples of greater age and size than one finds out in the
Here are two little wayside sets of
statues. The picture above shows a typical pair of stones. The one
below shows what seems to be a typical shrine, until one
looks closer. A closer look shows that these stones appear to
have been made either by--or for--children!
A couple of years ago, on my way to
Miidera, I passed "Jeans Shop James" on the train. Wow!
I wanted a photo, but I didn't have time to leave the train, find the
place, shoot it, and catch the next train.
So imagine my surprise when I found
myself walking past it today! I just had to make it my
highly-atypical official shot for Otsu, station number 53 on the
Old Tokaido, and the last station before reaching Kyoto.
Although Otsu has good signs on the
road, with explanations in both Japanese and English, few sites
presented themselves as particularly photogenic. I was going to do
the official shot by the well below, but Jeans Shop James was
Hiroshige's Tokaido: Otsu, Station
the Old Tokaido
Otsu is another major crossroads on the
Old Tokaido. Goods came in here from virtually every point of the
compass as roads converged before entering Kyoto. Also, notice the
well on the left. Tokuriki says it was known as the Hashiri-i,
the "running well" because it never stopped.
Tokuriki also includes a picture of
this well in his book; I don't think it's meant to be the well in
Hiroshige's print. It's located in a garden up on the pass leading
into Kyoto. I was hoping to do my official shot next to it, but it
was behind a wall. (I had spotted it through the partially-opened
gate.) So this shot is the best I could do.
UPDATE: One of my regular readers read
the kanji (Chinese characters) on this well and assures me that
it does in fact say "hashiri-i." So it is
the "Running Well" of Hiroshige's print. Thanks,
And here we enter Kyoto prefecture, the
seventh--and last--on this part of the trip.
In this welter of signs, the top one
says the road splits here, another oiwake: right to Kyoto, left
to Uji, one of tomorrow's destinations (see today's Journal
for more details.)
As I mentioned, girls at the start of
the day, and girls at the end.
I'm used to getting stared at, but
these girls were especially persistent. Finally, one of them shyly
volunteered that they had seen me yesterday, when I ate pizza at God
Mountain. (It's in a food court, and they had been eating at
A few minutes later, they caught my
attention again--and offered me half of their fries! Lotteria,
where we were eating, offers seasoned fries, but I was eating plain
fries. I guess they wanted me to have the full experience.
So I said "no thanks" ( I had fries) and took their
If you look up above again, what I
actually said was, "My day started and ended--and ended--with a
couple of girls." What's the deal with the extra "and
ended"? Well, Norie and Yumi came back to the youth hostel to
say goodbye! So we had a nice chat on the porch before they headed
off to Fukui, and I headed in to write this.