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Aki Meguri

The Old Tokaido: The Eastern Sea Road

Tokaido 53 Stations

September 5th-October 9th, 2001

During certain periods of her history, Japan was ruled, not by the emperor, but by a military ruler known as the shogun.  One family, the Tokugawas, held power for around 250 years, from about 1600 to the mid-nineteenth century.  The first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, had won his office through a series of battles in the tumultuous Sengoku, or Warring States, Period.  Because his position was hard-won, he immediately began making moves to consolidate his power and ensure the stability of the peace he had created.

One of his first such moves was to designate the Tokaido as the official highway from his new capital, Edo (now Tokyo) to the ancient capital of Kyoto where the largely-powerless and symbolic Emperor still resided. Although the highway had existed for centuries, the Tokugawa shogunate designated 53 stations between Nihombashi in Edo and the Sanjo Bridge in Kyoto, and provided for the construction of inns at these post stations, as well as general improvements of the road itself.

Although the system was not completed until 1624, Ieyasu’s declaration was issued in 1601, so I am walking in the 400th anniversary year of the Tokaido.


My Old Tokaido background pages consist of the following:


Where I went, What I saw
Other Logbook Stages: Prelude Yamato Shikoku Postlude

September 5th, 2001(Wednesday)

  • The Route: Nippori to Nihombashi, then through Ginza to Shinagawa; also, people's reactions to my clothing, some promises of what I'll (try to) do each day, a haiku, and plenty of road stories
  • Words-and-Pictures: Ginza and Sengakuji
September 6th, 2001(Thursday) September 7th, 2001(Friday) September 8th, 2001(Saturday) September 9th, 2001(Sunday) September 10th, 2001(Monday) September 11th, 2001(Tuesday)

There will be no entry for today, because I didn't walk due to the typhoon.  I will tell you about the word "typhoon" though: it's Japanese!  Taifu is made of two Chinese characters.  The first is the opening character of "Taiwan," and the second means "wind."  So taifu means "the wind from Taiwan."

September 12th, 2001(Wednesday) September 13th, 2001(Thursday) September 14th, 2001(Friday) September 15th, 2001(Saturday) September 16th, 2001(Sunday) September 17th, 2001(Monday) September 18th, 2001 (Tuesday) September 19th, 2001(Wednesday)
  • The Route: From Yui (Satta Pass) to somewhere past Ejiri (Shimizu).
  • Words-and-Pictures: Seikenji
September 20th, 2001(Thursday)
  • The Route: From somewhere past Ejiri (Shimizu) to somewhere past Mariko.
September 21st, 2001(Friday) September 22nd, 2001(Saturday) September 23rd, 2001(Sunday) September 24th, 2001(Monday) September 25th, 2001(Tuesday) September 26th, 2001(Wednesday) September 27th, 2001(Thursday) September 28th, 2001(Friday)
  • I took a day off!  Read more about it here.

September 29th, 2001(Saturday)

September 30th, 2001(Sunday) October 1st, 2001(Monday) October 2nd, 2001(Tuesday) October 3rd, 2001(Wednesday)

October 4th, 2001(Thursday)

October 5th, 2001(Friday) October 6th, 2001(Saturday) October 7th, 2001(Sunday) October 8th, 2001(Monday) October 9th, 2001(Tuesday)

Next: The Yamato section


Hiroshige's Nihombashi
RESOURCES: JR (Japan Railways) has published an interesting site with history and comparative pictures of the Tokaido “Past and Present."  This site is unfortunately in Japanese only; however, anyone can appreciate the map and Edo-period images of the famous artist Ando Hiroshige, placed side-by-side with images from later periods, found here.

All 55 of Hiroshige’s prints (53 stations plus the start and end points) in multiple editions can be seen on this users page.  He also includes other useful background on the prints.

Beginning in 1964, William Zacha spent over 20 years visiting the sites of the 53 stations and making beautiful, modern watercolors.  You can see serigraphs of these paintings—and, what’s more, read his fascinating account of the project—on his homepage.

The guidebook I used is in Japanese, but the maps are detailed enough to allow me to follow the “original” route.  Also, plenty of landmarks are designated along the way.  It’s Kanzen Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi Gaido by Tokaido Nettowaaku no Kai

Another interesting resource is Shank's Mare. It's a comic novel by Ikku Jippensha about the adventures of a couple of wise guys named Yaji-san and Kita-san as  they travel down the old road.  Written in 1802, it is in many ways a parody of the contemporary guidebooks being sold at the time.

Finally, I must mention Oliver Statler’s book Japanese Inn.  (The book is extensively summarized here.)  Dave Dutton, my trusted bookseller in Los Angeles, strongly recommended it to me before I came to Japan.  I bought it, read it, and fell in love with the idea of walking the Tokaido almost five years before I actually did it.  Not a guide to the road, the book gives an impression of the importance of the highway in Japan’s history from the vantage point of one historic inn in Okitsu, near Shizuoka.  By no small coincidence, Statler also wrote the book that has inspired me to do the Shikoku pilgrimage as well, Japanese Pilgrimage.  Both of these books give impressions of Japan far beyond my poor skills to impart.

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