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Words-and-Pictures: The Arai Barrier

Note: This selection of Words-and-Pictures was made on September 26, 2001, as I walked on the Old Tokaido.

Arai is on the shores of Lake Hamanako in Aichi Prefecture. It is Station #31 (from Tokyo) on the Old Tokaido Highway. You can read about my visit to Arai in my Logbook.

Arai was a natural place for a checkpoint. Travelers were coming across Lake Hamanako by boat, and could easily be channeled directly to the barrier. This was another filter for "guns coming in and women going out" (see more on Sept. 6th). One interesting aside: since some women dressed as men to avoid detection, there were old woman paid to do body checks. The museum has a funny old print of an old woman squatting down and looking under someone's clothes!

The long veranda and heavy tiled roof of the checkpoint's office reminded me of some missions I've visited in California. Actually, after an earthquake, this building was built in 1855--just 14 years before the new Meiji Emperor rescinded the Tokugawa's edict and closed the Barrier down.

(This is, by the way, the third location for Arai. The first two were destroyed by tidal waves.)

Although the Barrier is now well away from the lake, originally the approach to the Maisaka gate was by boat. This area is now undergoing excavation and restoration.

Those arriving from Maisaka exited by this gate, which fronts on the old Tokaido. Those coming from Shirasuka arrived by this gate, and left by boat toward Maisaka.

The officials still wait to check your papers.

(Write your own funny caption for this one.)

The checkpoint building displays armor...

...and weapons. More can be seen--including vintage guns--in the Barrier's museum.

These remind me of something I saw at the Maisaka Waki Honjin. What could they be?

A final note: Tokuriki's guidebook says that "severe penalties were meted out" for anyone whose paperwork deviated even slightly from the norm. "Flashing swords effected swift justice on the lower levels of society, and voluntary suicide (seppuku or harakiri) was the only honorable means of accepting punishment on the upper levels."

Now get this: the youth hostel where I'm staying is on a hill less than a kilometer from the barrier. The lovely Chie, my hostess, told me tonight that a little clearing on the path down the hill from here used to be the execution ground! I'll try to get a photo of it soon.

Posted October 1, 2019

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