The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō




Introduction

The Tōkaidō (東海道 - literally, the 'Eastern Sea Road') was the main road of feudal Japan. It ran for roughly five hundred kilometers between the old imperial capital, Kyōto, where the Emperor still lived, and the effective capital, Edo (now known as Tokyo), where the Shōgun lived.

It ran more or less along the coast (in part the Pacific, in part the Inland Sea) from Tokyo to Nagoya, along a path which contains some of the most beautiful scenery in Japan, including spots where mountains suddenly meet the sea. It then ran across the mountains, and around the southern end of Lake Biwa, to Kyōto.

Fifty-three stations (not counting the two termini), which became post-towns (shuku-eki) over time, were established along it; they consisted of horse and porter stations, along with a range of lodging, food, etc, establishments for the use of travellers. The horses were mainly for use by official messengers, but weary travellers could also hire horses, or kago (palanquins).

Checkpoints called seki were set up by the Tokugawa government, where guards stood watch, and turned back those who did not have the appropriate passes. Within Edo itself, each section of the city (machi) was closed off by wooden gates called kido, which were closed every night, and re-opened early in the morning. A traveller wishing to start the first stage, at the Nihon-bashi (literally "Japan Bridge") in the heart of Edo would have to wait until the kido at the bridge was opened.

Additional barriers to travel were the larger rivers, which were generally unbridged (in part as a deliberate measure of the government, to slow down the movement of any large rebellious army, should one be formed). When the river was flowing, travellers had to cross in boats, or be carried in kago, or on the back of a porter. After a heavy rain, crossings might be halted for several days, forcing all to wait for the waters to subside.

Another place where water could cause delays were at the two places where travellers normally took boats: at the stage from Maisaka to Arai, where a boat ride avoided a lengthy detour inland around Lake Hamana (a large brackish lake open to the ocean), and at the stage from Miya to Kuwana, where the road was cut off by the sea. Bad weather at either could also hold up travellers until the boatmen were prepared to venture out.

Most travelers covered the roughly five hundred kilometers on foot, usually travelling several stages per day, although travellers might spend several days at a station, if they were so inclined. The journey normally took about two weeks; a trip of only a week or so was possible if the traveller hurried, but bad weather could easily stretch it to a month.

Among the travellers on the Tokaido were the processions of the great daimyō, who were mandated to spend every other year at the Shogun's court (to prevent them from organizing rebellions), and travelled back and forth in huge processions numbering hundreds of people.



Path

This map:
Tokaido Map
shows the path of the Tokaido, and the location of each station. The stations are numbered starting from the Tokyo end, and the numbering conventionally includes the start and termination as well as the stations; for this reason, most print series showing the stages of the Tokaido actually include 55 images.

(The other road shown is the Kisokaidō, named after the Kiso river, which it follows for part of its path.)


Other Main Roads

The Tokaido was the best of a series of roads maintained by the
Tokugawa government to facilitate the administration of the country. The others, the so-called Go-kaidō ("five great roads") were:

Station Lists

Here are lists of the stations of the Tokaido; the first list is in alphabetical order; the second list is in station order. The name in kanji (Japanese characters) is also given; in some cases, the name is now written with different characters than it was in the past, and in these cases the modern characters are given in brackets.

As usual, the stations are numbered starting from Tokyo end, and as is now canonical, the numbering includes the start and end as well. (Many of the print series which show the Tokaido do not follow this convention however, and their numbering schemes often do not include the two termini, resulting in the numbers of the stations given in the titles being "off-by-one" from this list.)


Station (Romaji) Station (Kanji) Number
Akasaka赤阪 (赤坂)37
Arai荒井 (新居)32
Chirifu池鯉鮒40
Ejiri江尻19
Fuchū府中20
Fujieda藤枝23
Fujikawa藤川38
Fujisawa藤澤 (藤沢)7
Fukuroi袋井28
Futugawa二川34
Goyu御油36
Hakone箱根11
Hamamatsu濵松 (浜松)30
Hara14
Hiratsuka平塚8
Hodogaya程ヶ谷5
Ishibe石部52
Ishiyakushi石藥師 (石薬師)45
Kakegawa掛川27
Kambara蒲原16
Kameyama亀山47
Kanagawa神奈川4
Kanaya金谷25
Kawasaki川崎3
Kusatsu草津53
Kuwana桑名43
Kyōto京都55
Maisaka舞阪 (舞坂)31
Mariko鞠子21
Minakuchi水口51
Mishima三嶋 (三島)12
Mitsuke見附29
Miya42
Narumi鳴海41
Nihonbashi日本橋1
Nissaka新阪 (日坂)26
Numazu沼津13
Odawara小田原10
Ōiso大磯9
Okabe岡部22
Okazaki岡崎39
Okitsu奥津 (興津)18
Ōtsu大津54
Sakanoshita阪之下 (坂の下)49
Seki關 (関)48
Shimada嶋田 (島田)24
Shinagawa品川2
Shirasuka白須賀33
Shōno庄野46
Totsuka戸塚6
Tsuchiyama圡山 (土山)50
Yokkaichi四日市44
Yoshida吉田35
Yoshiwara吉原15
Yui由井 (由比)17


Station (Romaji) Station (Kanji) Number
Nihonbashi日本橋1
Shinagawa品川2
Kawasaki川崎3
Kanagawa神奈川4
Hodogaya程ヶ谷5
Totsuka戸塚6
Fujisawa藤澤 (藤沢)7
Hiratsuka平塚8
Ōiso大磯9
Odawara小田原10
Hakone箱根11
Mishima三嶋 (三島)12
Numazu沼津13
Hara14
Yoshiwara吉原15
Kambara蒲原16
Yui由井 (由比)17
Okitsu奥津 (興津)18
Ejiri江尻19
Fuchū府中20
Mariko鞠子21
Okabe岡部22
Fujieda藤枝23
Shimada嶋田 (島田)24
Kanaya金谷25
Nissaka新阪 (日坂)26
Kakegawa掛川27
Fukuroi袋井28
Mitsuke見附29
Hamamatsu濵松 (浜松)30
Maisaka舞阪 (舞坂)31
Arai荒井 (新居)32
Shirasuka白須賀33
Futugawa二川34
Yoshida吉田35
Goyu御油36
Akasaka赤阪 (赤坂)37
Fujikawa藤川38
Okazaki岡崎39
Chirifu池鯉鮒40
Narumi鳴海41
Miya42
Kuwana桑名43
Yokkaichi四日市44
Ishiyakushi石藥師 (石薬師)45
Shōno庄野46
Kameyama亀山47
Seki關 (関)48
Sakanoshita阪之下 (坂の下)49
Tsuchiyama圡山 (土山)50
Minakuchi水口51
Ishibe石部52
Kusatsu草津53
Ōtsu大津54
Kyōto京都55

The Tokaido and Hiroshige

The Japanese woodblock print artista
Hiroshige created a considerable number of series of woodblock prints on the theme of the Tokaido highway. He was not the first artist to do so, but the fame of his first Tokaido series far eclipsed all the others.

He went on to do a large number of other Tokaido series, but his first "Fifty-Three Stages of the Tokaido" (1833-1834, often called the "Hoeido Tokaido", after its publisher, to distinguish it from all the others) is still the most famous. He produced it after travelling down the Tokaido in 1832 (or possibly 1831, the details are uncertain) as part of an official mission from the Shogun to deliver a gift of horses to the Emperor. It was this series that brought him to immediate fame, from his prior relatively unknown status. This first "Fifty-Three Stations" is today unanimously considered one of the two best series he ever produced, and probably his best ever.

In total, he produced over three dozen Tokaido series over the course of his life. Here is a partial list of all the Tokaido series he worked on, including all the more common ones, with the names they are generally known by (often the name of the publisher, marked with a '*'), with alternative names given in brackets; their titles in Japanese; the publisher, if not given by the name; the format they were printed in; and the dates when they were originally published.

For definitions of such terms as oban, aiban, chuban, tateban, yokoban, and harimaze, the reader is referred to the glossary.




Many thanks to John Roden for the Tokaido map.




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