Arai

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Station #31:  People coming to Arai from Maisaka could only come by sea, making it the second most effective and important sekisho (barrier checkpoint) after Hakone.  All travelers were required to show a sekisho tegata or travel permit.  These "passports" were purchased from the individual's hometown officials.  The government tried to keep commoners and farmers in their villages.  But they were reluctant to deny a person's request for a religious pilgrimage.  Many adventurers enjoyed the pleasures of travel as "pilgrims."\n\nImage Copyright: Minneapolis Institute of Art Arai barrier has been reconstructed on its original site, but it is now a half mile from the sea because of land reclamation projects.  From the preserved landing area we can see the low, long checkpoint building. Across the facade, banners with the crest of the ruling daimyo identified who was responsible for security.  It was a heavy burden especially in Hiroshige's times when many people were unhappy with the government's policies and taxes. The mannequins here are quite life-like and the weapons behind them underscore their power.  Passports had to thoroughly identify the person, including scars and moles. Only after everything had been checked out - passport, luggage and the person themselves - would the traveler be cleared to continue their journey. Hotel Kinokuniya served the merchants who traveled the Tokaido.  It has been lovingly restored, complete with the required fire fighting equipment - buckets and the tub full of water on the right.  The large fabric sign anchored by rocks is traditional. The second floor rooms overlook a lovely garden.  We were blessed with good weather and sunshine brought out the golden sheen of the tatami mats. Travelers could rent one of these pillows - a wooden block with a small pillow on top.  If they were on a budget, they could just rent a wooden block and fold their own towel on top. Many businesses try to distinguish themselfs with some unusual feature.  The old Hotel Kinokuniya followed that marketing policy.  Modern visitors can still enjoy the old tradition by putting their ear to this bamboo tube.  We also heard the relaxing sounds of flowing waters.  (It's actually a cistern below.) In the kitchen, this simple shrine is dedicated to the household gods who guard the hotel.  It even has a miniature shimanawa, the sacred Shinto rope that shows the area has been purified.