Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ribbons around the Fumes

In spite of all the fun I had walking the middle section of this trail last May, I was at it again, though split over two days. We started over in Ashiya, where the Kobe's Ribbon road begins. Miki had wanted to show me where she'd lived before the quake. She hadn't been here for many years and was shocked to find both her apartment building and workplace gone. What had survived the disaster had fallen to developers.

We moved toward the hills along zigzagging city streets and the luxurious homes that lined them. One house was so massive that it could only have belonged to a politician or gangster. (Or both.) We stayed on concrete all day, under the occasional shade of green. There were a few shrines near the foot of the hills. Most of them were Hachiman, which means the Meiji government had done an outstanding job in assimilating the local gods as they westernized themselves toward war.

We found true green up behind Shin Kobe Station. Around Nunobiki Falls were more of those altars to snake gods. It dawned on me that falling and rushing water could correlate in a superstitious mind to a white serpent. We stayed awhile here, then passed some boys playing in the pools below as we made our way back to the subway.

I was now solo as I got off the train at Nagata. It took mere minutes until I lost the trail here. The streets here were narrow and twisty, the homes poor. It was an interesting contrast with the rich estates I'd seen in the morning. I made my way down to Sumadera, spread out and along the base of the mountains and shrouded in incense. It was a short walk to the beach. The main highway reminded me some of the PCH, but the houses were much too small. Crossing again to a park, I found a few memorials to the Heike wars. This was Ichinotani, a place I'd first read about in Basho (whose haiku-inscripted marker was just over there). I tried to imagine Yoshitsune's horsemen as they rode furiously down the steep slope onto the unsuspecting Taira army camped on the beach. I wandered up the hills to get a sense of it, but of course after 1000 years there was little left but carved stones. (There is some consolation in knowing that these suburban homes won't be here in a millennium either.) I did find a memorial to Atsumori, erected by the warrior Kumagai in his guilt for murdering him in a way that can perceived as homo-erotic.

I took the cable car up to the top of the mountain, looking down on the quilt of colored swimsuits near the water. The trails up here were confusing, but with a little help from a local woman, I made my way back to the sea. James Yama was next. An extremely wealthy colony of foreigners had made a home here. It was a bit too old raj for me, right down to the signs at the basketball court saying they were reserved for foreigners. (What century is this?)

My aching feet were nearing the water again. The Akashi Bridge rose up in front of me majestically. I found a fine parallel in a couple of old tombs not far off. (What century is this?)
Arriving at the sea, I watched the sun begin to dip below the strands of wire across the bridge. Ships passing beneath added just the right touch, cutting the silvery water with their prows. I love the Setonaikai, with all those little islands. Final resting place for pirate booty and warrior dreams.

On the turntable: Teardrop Explodes, "Wilder"
On the reel table: "The Quiet Man" (Ford, 1952)

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