Stone Bridges

Alongside Hirado
Weather: sunny, mild

Today the sun was shining so I was determined to have a bit of a look around. I also wanted to do some laundry so, as the laundromat was a short hike, I decided to combine the two activities. I followed the small river, more a stream really, with my back pack full of laundry on my back, inland, in which direction the laundromat lay. (It occurs to me that when one starts a walk from a boat, which is basically always for me, then everything leads inland, especially rivers, but I am sure that you get the idea.) Along the way was an old stone bridge called the Dutch Bridge, so called, rather unsurprisingly, because it was built by the Dutch in the seventeenth century shortly after they set up a trading post in Hirado. Two much smaller stone bridges lay a little further up the stream which are very similar in structure and are believed to have been built as prototypes for the larger bridge; not that there seemed to be anything particularly challenging about the design of the bridge, it was after all just a simple stone arch, but perhaps the Japanese builders had little experience in these sorts of bridges, so the Dutch used the smaller ones as teaching aids.

Also of interest, in an enclosure alongside the larger bridge lay two very old anchors from the same period. They had been recovered from the bay in the late twentieth century. The larger of the two anchors was in quite good condition considering its age and looked like it was very well made, presumably of wrought iron. Part of a third anchor of local origin was also on display alongside the Dutch anchors, which was basically a large piece of shaped stone. I presume the rest of it was made of wood and did not survive.

During the seventeenth century Hirado was a very prosperous city due to all the trade that passed through it and it would appear that the early Dutch, and later the English trade presence is something the local community is proud of, though as a non-Japanese speaking visitor it occurs to me that this maybe just a superficial face presented for the benefit of tourists, but, seeing as the all the other tourists I have encountered here are Japanese, I do not see why this would be the case.

The above thought leads me to reflect on my impressions of Japan thus far, and I would say that at this stage of my time in Japan that I have no strong impression of the Japanese culture. Apart from the very courteous display of manners, or perhaps because of them, and of course the language difficulties, it is difficult to get beyond the surface of things, including the material culture on display in the architecture and in the few museums I have visited. So much of it is a not terribly convincing reconstruction of the past, rather than genuine archaeological artifacts, so it leaves me feeling that I have yet to encounter the real Japan. Still, I have quite a bit of time yet. I suspect much of my lack of insight and understanding is due to my own reclusiveness. I really must try and make an effort to take the initiative more and dig a little deeper in the places I am visiting. I think I might get to Fukuoka a little earlier than I had planned. I met Muramoto San in Nagisaki, he lives near Fukuoka and is a fellow sailor, so perhaps he will be able to help me break through the tourist barrier.

But for tomorrow my plan is to make a short hop to Azuchi-o-Shima, only six miles to the north of Hirado.

All is well.