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Tokaido, The Eastern Sea Route
From long before the Edo Period, one of the five most strategically important highways was the Tokaido,
the eastern Sea Route, running 514Km between Nihonbashi in Edo and the Sanjo Ohashi in the capital,
Kyoto. People, merchandise and culture traversed this route mostly by foot, stopping at the 53 government designated post towns and check- points along the way.
（1865 Felice Beato pic)
The stations along the route of the Tokaido were:
13. Hara-juku (Numazu)
16. Yui-shuku (Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka)
17. Okitsu-juku (Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka)
18. Ejiri-juku (Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka)
22. Fujieda-juku (Fujieda)
24. Kanaya-juku (Shimada)
26. Kakegawa-juku (Kakegawa)
32. Shirasuka-juku (Kosai)
34. Yoshida-juku (Toyohashi)
36. Akasaka-juku (Toyokawa)
38. Okazaki-shuku (Okazaki)
45. Shono-juku (Suzuka)
47. Seki-juku (Kameyama)
48. Sakashita-juku (Kameyama)
50. Minakuchi-juku (Koka)
Each of these post towns featured special inns, Honjin, Waki-honjin and Hatagoya. These establishments
were for lodging, as well as places for meals and rest, and had stables for horses too.
Hatogoya were for the use of common folk, merchants, craftsmen, pilgrims and lower ranked samurai.
The Honjin and Waki-honjin were reserved for the highest ranked samurai, aristocratic nobility and the
daimyo, who were required to attend the Shogun’s court at regular intervals, requiring them to traverse
the road with huge retinues.
This mandatory attendance of court, called Sankin Kotai, was a policy initiated by the Tokugawa Shogun
requiring the daimyo, or nobles to spend alternate years between their home domains, and residencies
in Edo, (modern Tokyo). In principal, the practice was to provide military services to the Shogun. A set
number of the daimyo’s samurai would accompany him to Edo, and while stationed there would also
perform guard duties and other services to the Shogun. In reality, it was a way to impoverish the daimyo,
making them spend twice as much to maintain two households, as their wives and heirs were to remain
in Edo as representatives, (read, hostages) along with the expense of the “daimyo gyoretsu”, the lavish
processions in and out of the city would prohibit them from being able to afford armies, weapons, armor,
and from staging an insurrection.
Travelers would make the bulk of the journey along the Tokaido by foot, although a boat service ran
between Miya-juku, near Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya City and Kuwana-juku, in Kuwana, modern-day Mie
Prefecture. Higher ranked personages would travel by Norimono, an enclosed palanquin, and those with
the means could hire a smaller litter like version called a kago.
Very few original honjin along the Tokaido still exist, the Futagawa-juku Honjin at Toyohashi, Aichi
Prefecture, Kusatsu- juku at Kusatsu, in Shiga Prefecture, and the Maisaka-juku Waki-honjin at
Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.
Today the Tokaido remains the most travelled transportation route in Japan. Although the original route
has been superseded by National Route Number 1, as well as the Tomei and Meishin Expressways, a few
portions of the original Tokaido can still be found, relics of Old Japan.
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