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From "Miya" to Past Yokkaichi
(Wed., Oct. 3rd, 2001)

 Wednesday, October 3, 2001 (click to see all posts from this day)
  • Stations:
  • Other places visited: None
  • "Prayed" at: Saishoji
  • Stopped at: past Yokkaichi
  • Slept at: Nagoya Youth Hostel
  • Kilometers covered: 43.9 (!) (but that includes 28 by train...)
  • Total kilometers so far: 390.9
  • Journal: Jiriki and Tariki
 The Old Tokaido


You may have noticed that the starting point--"Miya"--is in quotes. That's because I didn't actually go there.

At the end of yesterday's Logbook, I was at the ferry dock for the Shichiriwatashi, the "Seven Ri Ferry." This used to be the ferry that went from Miya to Kuwana. Well, it doesn't run any more. So I began my day by taking the train to Kuwana. Today's completed distance was a whopping 43.9 kilometers! Minus, of course, the 28 of the ferry. So I really walked around 16 kilometers.

One of the (many) disadvantages of train travel: in "crossing over" to Kuwana, I also entered Mie prefecture. I have always known exactly when and where I've left one prefecture for another, but in this case I hadn't a clue.

Kuwana, Station #42 on the Old Tokaido

Kuwana is a very nice, small city. The sidewalks are broad, the people are friendly, and the heritage of the town is well-preserved and sign-posted. One of the first things I saw today was my old friend Mr. Tanuki. This is one of the classiest statues I've seen of him.

At the other end of the Shichiriwatashi I did my official shot for Kuwana, station number 42 on the Old Tokaido. I'm standing under a torii that marks the spot. Near here--in fact, just beyond the wall behind me in this picture--are two restaurants which specialize in the local delicacy: baked clams. One of the restaurants is located on the site of the honjin or official inn for this station; the other is on the site of the waki honjin or secondary inn right next door. They were immediately adjacent to the ferry dock.

This picture shows new construction; it looks like they're working on a replica of the old ferry dock.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Kuwana, Station #42 on the Old Tokaido

Hiroshige shows boats coming in to dock; in the background is Kuwana Castle, subject of my next pictures. They say that the major reason for this ferry crossing of Ise Bay was that the numerous rivers flowing into the bay made land travel around the top difficult. I can testify that the train does indeed cross many rivers in going around the bay.

Kuwana Castle is gone; all that remains above ground is this mound, the site of a former tower. (I don't know the age or provenance of the cannon.)

Kyuka Park was created on the old castle grounds in 1928. (Both "Kyuka" and "Kuwana" are alternate pronunciations of part of the castle's old nickname. It was called "Kyuka Ougi Jo," a kind of fan, because its layout was fan-shaped.) Completed in 1601, part of the castle was destroyed by fire in 1701. Then, at the end of the Edo period, Tokugawa forces held out here against the Emperor's army but were finally defeated. Although I couldn't find anything that said so, I surmise that the castle--like many others--was destroyed as part of the Meiji's housecleaning.

One of the castle's primary features was its access by water. It is situated just a few hundred meters from the Shichiriwatashi dock, and boats could actually enter and leave the castle.

That old system of defensive waterways now lends beauty to this park. Where once were fortifications, one now sees gracious pavilions...

...and delicate bridges. This is truly one of the most charming places I've visited on this journey.

Some interesting sites in Kuwana: Does this sign warn that there are Chaplin impersonators ahead? No. The lettering reads, "Silver Zone," indicating that there are many seniors on the street here. Indeed, a half-dozen were in sight as I took this picture!

OK, am I the only one confused here? The sign says "No crossing," but it's posted at the end of a crosswalk. (I crossed here.) It reminded me of Stephen Wright's old gag: "I named [my dog] Stay. When I'd call him I'd say 'C'mere Stay C'mere Stay...'"

Another Wright line that occurs to me often during this trip: "Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time."

I don't know if this was a shop, or if the homeowner here was a major collector, but there were 5 or 6 of these old temple bells in the front part of this building. It's unusual to see them on the ground like this. Notice how different the shape is from the flared-bottomed Western style bell.

Yokkaichi, Station #43 on the Old Tokaido

Approaching Yokkaichi I saw the spires of this church off to the right, and went over to investigate. This has to be a real church--not a commercial wedding chapel--right? I mean, it has crosses on top!

Nope. It's next to a hotel, and there is no sign indicating the name of the church or anything about a congregation. It's another "Chapel of Saint Marry," like the others I've seen. Maybe commercial enterprises are the only ones that can afford to build such a building. Fewer than 1% of the population of Japan is Christian, and the Christians that I've known--other than the Catholics--usually attend home churches.

Another mystery solved. I had seen several of these wicker carriages around. I thought they looked too deep for baby carriages. Sure enough, they're a kind of shopping cart used by older women. Many such women in Japan are badly stooped; in Tokyo they often use a kind of stroller made just for them, that doubles as a chair and a cart. But out here, this style seems to be the mode.

There's not much to see in Yokkaichi. The JR site [2019: defunct] lists only this rice cake shop. Sasaiya was founded in the early 1500's, and has been making its special "Nagamochi" rice cake for over 450 years. Wow.

"Yokkaichi" means "Fourth Day Market." Beginning on the 4th of every month, a six-day market was held here.

It's interesting, then, that the Old Tokaido here leads into a typical Japanese aa-ke-do: an arcade, or covered shopping street (complete with a banner celebrating the Old Tokaido). Imagine the reaction of ancient travelers if they discovered that a stretch of the old road was tiled, roofed, and air conditioned!

As I approached today's walking goal, I had one of those rare and totally unpredictable treats. Lacking any spectacular or historic temple to pray at, I stopped at one of those run-of-the-mill, non-descript places. Saishoji is just a gate, a main hall, a bell, and a cemetery. There are thousands of temples like it. But a temple is a temple, so I prayed, and then sat down for a little break

At this point a man came out of the house on the grounds, came up to me, and started to chat. The usual questions were followed by: "Would you like some tea?" So I was invited into the front room of the house (also an office) and had a nice conversation with the head--and only--priest of the temple.

It seems I keep meeting teachers. The priest was an elementary teacher for 30 years until, at the age of 53, he left it to take over this temple. He was very teacherly in his conversation: though it was all Japanese, he spoke simply, amplified his ideas, and checked constantly to see if I was following him. Part of what he said is in today's journal. He also told me that this was a Jodoshin temple, with--naturally--Amida Buddha as the main image.

After green tea and a small cake made from chestnuts, I said my goodbyes and went out to take a few pictures of the place. This temple is so ordinary that the only picture worth showing you is the one above: what may be the last morning glory I see in Japan. (See my haiku about morning glories the day I left my old home in Tokyo's Shitamachi area.)

And here's today's goal. You can see that there is a "Y" in the road just in front of the monuments in the picture. This is not just any old junction; it's the most famous one on this road. It's the Hinaga no Oiwaka, the split in the road at Hinaga.

The pillar on the right indicates that travelers who take the left fork will be on their way to Ise Grand Shrine, the most important Shinto site in Japan. Those who turn right will be headed for Kyoto.

As I approached this landmark, I saw a man pull up in his car and take out a bunch of empty plastic jugs. See the little roof in the picture? It's over a spring that was just gushing water. I've mentioned before how natural landmarks often determine human ones; could this point have been chosen for the diverging of the roads because of the presence of this spring?

At the split in the road, I shot my official picture for Yokkaichi. Though it's about 4 kilometers from the center of the shuku, the guidebooks all say things like this (from the JR site mentioned above): "When travelers left the post station, they almost immediately came upon a large torii gate..." An hour's walk doesn't qualify as "almost immediately" in my book!

By the way, the size of the photo doesn't make this clear, but I'm scratching my head as if trying to make a decision in this shot. Har, har, har.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Yokkaichi, Station #43 on the Old Tokaido

Back in Hamamatsu I mentioned this print. Then, I had to take my official photo without my hat because of the wind. Here we see a man chasing his hat along the Mie River. Tokuriki, author of one of the guidebooks I use, says the wind is coming from the direction of Ise--it's the "wind-of-the-gods," he says.

And with that, we conclude. I went back to my hostel, repaired my homepage, and had a great conversation with my one-night roomie, an Aussie physicist named Sundance. Really.

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Posted October 4, 2019

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