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From almost Mishima to Hara
(Sun., Sep. 16, 2001)

 Sunday, September 16th, 2001 (click to see all posts from this day)
 The Old Tokaido

The End of the Trail from Hakone

I took a train from Numazu to Mishima and a bus back to Tsukahara, where I left off last night. Oddly, the same bus driver took me back as brought me to Mishima last night! Boy, did HE stare!

I continued along the quiet two-lane street described yesterday, until it merged with the main road again. Immediately, though, the "Old Tokaido" became an ishidatami-and-namiki street like I was used to. But this time, it was a frontage road for the vehicle road. People use it to gain access to their driveways, cut off by the streamlining of the main road.

Along the stretch is a really good ichirizuka. It's kind of funny: you can't see this from the vehicle road (I looked for it from the bus this morning); it can only be seen if you're on the "Old Highway," even though it follows the new! You can just make out the one on the other side of the street.

This is kind of a Zen thing: when is a view not a view? I am near a bus stop named Fujimi. There are Fujimi place names all over central and eastern Japan; it means "Fuji View." But I didn't see Mount Fuji all day--even from this place named "Fuji View."

I finally left this part of the road and headed down Atagozaka, the last long slope before entering the flats of Mishima.

Mishima Taisha at Mishima, Station #11 on the Old Tokaido

The road soon led to Mishima Taisha, or "Grand Shrine." This is where I said today's prayers. It's a really beautiful--and big--in fact, grand--place. You can learn more about it on the Words and Pictures page.

Here's my "official" shot for Mishima, Station 11 of the Tokaido 53 Stations. Compare it to Hiroshige's.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Mishima, Station #11 on the Old Tokaido

The print seems to show the shrine's torii at either early morning or late evening. Or was it foggy? Anyway, this scene is a natural choice for this station, as the town of Mishima originated to serve the shrine.

I have seen ichirizukas with little shrines on top. But here near the Mishima-Numazu border, the ichirizukas on both sides are on the grounds of temples! Here's a picture of the one on the left side of the road.

Today was a long, steady, flat slog. Very little in the way of beauty could be found between Mishima Taisha and the Senbon Matsubara. I had a lot of time to think--and sweat, as the weather was fair most of the day.

Numazu, Station #12 on the Old Tokaido

I have a confession to make: I didn't follow the Old Tokaido perfectly today. I deviated from the path (on purpose this time) to walk through Numazu's premier attraction: the Senbon Matsubara, or "Thousand-Pine Grove." There were WAY more than a thousand pines here.

I chose to walk in this beautiful, quiet strip of pines near the ocean (as any pilgrim of the past would have) as far as Hara, and it still wasn't finished--a distance of at least seven kilometers. Amongst the pines are monuments, cemeteries, and a lot of walkers and joggers.

I took my "official" Numazu picture here; I also wrote a haiku.

First, a word of explanation. My haiku are far from perfect in many respects. One area where I often break the rules is this: every haiku should have a seasonal reference. In Japan, there is a large collection of words with strong seasonal associations. Certain flowers, insects, trees, etc., mean certain seasons.

Since we don't share this vocabulary, I often skip this aspect. But today it came in spades.

The cicada (semi) is the premier summer insect; the cricket (suzumushi) a sign of autumn. We're less than a week from the Autumn equinox (shubun-no-hi) today, and I heard my first crickets in the Senbon Matsubara. So here is the haiku I wrote:
fewer cicadas
as the balance point draws near
crickets in the pines

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Numazu, Station #12 on the Old Tokaido

Hiroshige, too, represented the Senbon Matsubara grove in his print. The standard description is that these people are hurrying to find evening lodging. I confess, I hurried a bit too. This place deserves more time than I could give it.

The Tanuki

The last picture I took before returning to the Old Tokaido proper--and Hara Station--was of a rare if sad sight. There was a dead tanuki by the side of the road. I've decided not to post the picture here. (He's really dead: legs splayed, mouth open, on his back, drooling--it's too gruesome. I smelled him 300 meters before I saw him.) But it reminded me of finding opossums in Los Angeles, like something out of the past has died.

The tanuki [here shown "alive," as seen a fews days later]--sometimes misleadingly called a "raccoon dog"--is an ancient and popular figure in Japan; many restaurants and bars have a plaster tanuki outside for good luck. The tanuki is a well-known trickster, like Coyote in Native American stories. He especially liked to torment Buddhist priests. Here's a description from an old book:
As a Goblin it is a peculiarly mischievous creature taking all sorts of disguises to waylay, deceive or annoy wayfarers. Standing by the road side on its hind legs it distends its belly (or rather Scrotum) and striking it with its forepaws uses it as a drum--Tanuki no hara tsuzumi; wrapped in a kimono, it begs like an itinerant monk, waylays folks at night across paddy fields, causes fishermen to draw up their nets empty and only laughs at their misfortune. When in priestly disguise it is called TANUKI BOZU. It is often met with represented [as] wrapped in lotus leaves and with a lotus flower doing duty as a hat, carrying in one paw a bill for sake; also, with distended scrotum, Hachi jo jiki (8 mats wide) Kintama as a Kimono, or as a means of smothering a hunter.
As a tribute to my dead friend, I've provided a few tanuki links. [2019: Sadly, all the legends I linked are gone. Instead, I've given you some articles full of lore.]
That's it for today!

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Posted September 28, 2019

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