Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Upon us All a Little Rain must Fall


The land on either side of the train was covered in a fine green quilt.  Along the stitched edges, a casually dressed pair walked beneath umbrellas blooming upward against the rainy sky. 

Damn you Mie and your damned changeable weather! The forecast just an hour before had been for rain early, then cloudy skies.  But now it showed rain all day.  The view from my train seat served as co-conspirator. 

Back in Tsu lot much later, I returned to the stone that I’d passed three days before, which demarcated the southern terminus of the Ise Betsu Kaido, another spur branch that connected with the Tōkaidō  8 km to the northwest for the convenience of Kyoto pilgrims heading to the Grand Shrines of Ise Jingu.

The rain had dulled to a fine mist, so I didn’t bother to unfurl my umbrella, lashing it instead to the side of my daypack.  I ziz-zagged my way out of Tsu, through quiet rural neighbourhoods.  It wasn’t long before I arrived at the massive Takata Honzan, headquarters for the eponymous brand of Pure Land Buddhism.  The temple had a long history, though the modern halls didn't reflect that.  Their grandeur was instead represented by its size, a hint that financially this temple was doing very well indeed.  Workmen rushed about, changing banners for the throngs expected during the Obon holidays. With little of interest barring the spectacle of scale, I quickly left the gates and was back walking again.

The rest of the day was spent along this small road, which wasn’t particularly interesting but at least it kept me in the countryside.   The humidity was incredibly high. I don’t think I’d ever walked in such intense humidity .  The day threatened rain, and when it eventually fell, I felt relief, as the humidity index dropped quite a few percentage points along with it.  Then relief turned to frustration as the skies threw at me everything they had.

After lunch I left the rather bland farming roads for the larger, more heavily trafficked roads, with the pachinko and the convenience stores and the cake shops.  So many cake shops.  From that point on, I began to notice the signs for dentists. 

The rain eventually let up, and some blue sky began to reacquaint itself with the earth below.  This new lighting revealed a more attractive landscape, of woodland and fields, and quainter villages of a older look.  When I first came to Japan, I loved this old style of architecture, and would go out of my way to find places like this.  Today, my eye is more drawn to the anomaly of Western buildings of which one or two can often be found, though those too have have one foot in the 19th Century.    

Then finally I ran into the Tōkaidō at the post town of Seki, passing beneath the great torii arch that faces the direction of Ise Jingu.  The beautiful preserved look of the town was as good as it gets anymore.  After all, this was the Tōkaidō, the granddaddy of the old feudal highways, and I promised myself I would follow its length before long.  But it also made me ask myself just how far I want to take this walking of old roads.  As this day had proven, there are small spur roads simply everywhere in this country. How minor a road do I want to walk?  That said, each of those roads does have its own history, but how much of that history is still visible and remembered?  

MAP: http://latlonglab.yahoo.co.jp/route/watch?id=946677c21ff84f969a3cf159a271c5ec

On the turntable: Skatalites, "Skabadabadoo"
On the nighttable:  Christal Whelan, "Kansai Cool"


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