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From Hamamatsu to almost Shirasuka
(Wed., Sep. 26th, 2001)

 Wednesday, September 26, 2001 (click to see all posts from this day)
 The Old Tokaido


I left the Hostel earlier than usual today, and covered quite a bit of ground as a result. I took the train back to Hamamatsu Station, had breakfast, and started walking.


The first part of the day was 10 kilometers with virtually no sites to see. As Red Skelton used to say, "There was miles and miles of nuthin' but miles and miles." I did find this noodle shop interesting, though. It's an old okura, or storage house, converted into a restaurant.

Maisaka, Station #30 on the Old Tokaido

Approaching Maisaka, though, the day got more interesting, and fast. Maisaka boasts the prettiest namiki--tree-lined street--that I've seen so far.

To add to the charm, there are 12 statues along the road, representing the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each has a poem on its back (I wish I could read Japanese!). I've shown the Snake, this year's sign. [2019: That was true in 2001!]

At the end of the namiki is a little plaza with a restroom and some benches. It also features this statue of "Namiko." I have no idea who Namiko is, but it was cute. (I photographed the plaque; any volunteers want to read it and tell me the story?) [2019: The name is "The Little Wave Monk," 浪小僧; there is a story--he has a page on Japanese Wikipedia--but it's hard to find in English.]

These simple stone walls mark the entrance to the Maisaka shuku, or station. They made me think that this one would have a lot to see. Unfortunately, aside from a map in a little park, the only real Edo-period attraction is the waki honjin discussed below.

I thought this lantern was interesting, though; why didn't they put the light inside the lantern?

I'm standing in front of the door of the waki honjin, or secondary official inn, for my official shot for Maisaka, station number 30 on the Old Tokaido. Built sometime between 1830 and 1844, this old inn has been restored to its original appearance. You can see the interior on the Words and Pictures page.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Maisaka, Station #30 on the Old Tokaido

Maisaka is located to the east of Lake Hamanako. Tokaido travelers went by boat to the next station, Arai. You'll learn more about this below.

Since Hiroshige's print features boats, I thought I'd show you what some of the local fishing boats look like.

Maisaka used to have three "water stairs" or boat ramps. The northernmost is still there.

Today I did a very bad thing for the first time. I left my stick behind! It was only for a minute, but...

I had taken this picture and returned to the wharf, walking toward the bridge that leads to Bentenjima station. Remembering my stick, I turned abruptly around. An old gentleman stopped me to tell me that it was OK, I could go straight ahead, it wasn't a dead end. "Thank you," I said, "but I forgot my walking stick!" "I see," he said, and rode off on his scooter.

Remember, the pilgrim's stick is Kobo Daishi. All henro are admonished never to forget it. And I had to admit my sin to another person!

So there it was, leaning all lonely against a stone wall. I apologized profusely, even though it had been less than 90 seconds!

From the bridge, one can see this "floating torii." Presumably Bentenjima (Benten Island) has a shrine to Benten, the only woman of the Seven Lucky Gods (whom you saw nude on Sept. 20).

I gave myself a break today. Since ancient wayfarers jumped on a boat from Maisaka to Arai, I jumped on a train. It is now possible to walk across this strait between Lake Hamanako and the ocean on bridges, but traditionally it wasn't. So I went with tradition--and eased my feet.

By the way, until 1499 Hamanako was landlocked. In that year an earthquake and its tidal wave (tsunami) breached the natural dike between the two. This opening, called Imagire ("now severed") has long been avoided by prospective brides, as it's feared the place name will lead to marital breakup in the future.

Arai, Station #31 on the Old Tokaido

Arriving at Araimachi station, I was about a half a kilometer overland from the Arai Sekisho, or barrier station. Interestingly, the boats from Maisaka used to pull up right at the barrier station; it's all been filled in since.

Here's my official shot for Arai--where I'm currently living. I walk past the barrier to get to the train station every day. You can learn more about the barrier on the Words and Pictures page.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Arai, Station #31 on the Old Tokaido

More boats. We're still on the shores of Lake Hamanako (albeit the western one now).

After visiting the station, I walked through the rest of the shuku, which, while quaint, contains only stone markers--nothing else of the old station remains. I walked past my turnoff to the youth hostel, and down to Highway 1. Believe me, at 4:40 it was tempting just to go home! I hate making these mature decisions--but I got in another hour-and-a-half of walking.

Plus, I still needed to say your prayers, which I did at Kyouonji. Again, no one was there, so there's little to tell you about it.

The gate was a real treat...

...but the main hall was nothing special.

However, I suspect the temple may have an interesting history. Across the street is this well; if I'm reading my Japanese guidebook correctly, Minamoto Yoritomo--the first shogun ever, and founder of the Kamakura Shogunate--drew water from this well and made tea. If the temple was there at the time, perhaps he had his tea in its garden?

Pushing on toward Shirasuka, I turned off to chase after more Old Stones. These are the remains of a temple called Momijidera. I know nothing about it except that it has something to do with the Ashikaga shogun Yoshinori. But at the top of the stairs, I saw these four stones--usually the bases for gate posts. Evocative.

The statues...

...and grave stones were the only other things above ground.

I toiled on as it grew dark, stopping about a half a kilometer from Shirasuka--at the bottom of what looks to be a nasty slope.

Walking out to Highway 1, I caught the 6:19 bus back to Kyouonji. From there it was a little over a kilometer's walk to the hostel.

Tomorrow I'll catch the 9:39 back to the bottom of that slope, and push on. (The previous bus, at 7:55, is a big "no way"--too early! As you can see by this schedule, out in the country, buses can be infrequent--even at rush hour.)

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Posted October 2, 2019

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