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From past Kusatsu to almost Kyoto
(Mon., Oct. 8th, 2001)

 Monday, October 8, 2001 (click to see all posts from this day)
 The Old Tokaido


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 28th).


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 Pictures page.

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 next 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 14 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. Follow the links above to see lists of the temples involved; in days to come, I will add 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 countryside. Here is a little wayside pair of statues.

This picture 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!

Otsu, Station #53 on the Old Tokaido

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 inescapable.

Hiroshige's Tokaido: Otsu, Station #53 on 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 2005: 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, Benedicte!

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.)

Wrapping Up

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 MacDonald's.)

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 picture.

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.

Tomorrow: KYOTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Posted October 5, 2019

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