The 53 Stations
of the Tokaido


This route is called in Japanese the Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi (東海道五十三次), or "53 Stations of the Tokaido (Eastern Sea Road)."

The Old Tokaido: In the early 17th century, a shogun or military ruler was the real head of the Japanese government; the Emperor was merely a figurehead. Nevertheless, Kyoto remained the capital, even though the shogun was in Edo (Tokyo). So in 1601, a highway was built, and post stations with official inns (called honjin 本陣) established along it, to facilitate communications between the real ruler and the puppet. Although technically not a "pilgrimage," you will see elements of a sacred journey in my experiences.



History: The Tokugawa shoguns held power for about two and a half centuries, from about 1600 to the restoration of the Emperor in 1868. Because the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, had won his office through a series of battles in the tumultuous Sengoku (Warring States) Period, he immediately began making moves to consolidate his hard-won position and ensure the stability of the peace he had created.

One of his first moves in this endeavor was to designate the Tokaido as the official highway between his new capital, Edo (now Tokyo), and 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 (honjin) 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. This means I walked it end-to-end, all 514 kilometers (319 miles) of it, in 2001, the 400th anniversary year of the Tokaido.

Toward the end of its heyday, the highway became more and more of a tourist attraction. There was an entire industry based around the road, including guidebooks and prints. In fact, it was a deck of playing cards featuring Hiroshige's series, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido, that first brought the road to my attention.



Map adapted from Kadansha Sophia's five-volume guide books (Click picture to enlarge)

The Route: The Old Tokaido Highway started (from the east end, anyway) at Nihombashi, a bridge in Edo (Tokyo) which is now the zero-point for all of the highways in Japan. As the name implies, it runs primarily along the "east coast" (some would say "south") of Honshu, Japan's main island, in the following modern prefectures: Tokyo (starting point and 1 station), Kanagawa (9 stations), Shizuoka (22 stations), Aichi (9 stations), Mie (7 stations), Shiga (5 stations), and Kyoto (end point).

Incidentally, when the highway was first built, these nine were actually 10 provinces, each more-or-less governed by a daimyo or feudal lord: Musashi (start + 4 stations), Sagami (6 stations), Izu (1 station), Suruga (12 stations), Totomi (9 stations), Mikawa (7 stations), Owari (2 stations), Ise (7 stations), Omi (5 stations), and Yamashiro (end); these were reorganized after the Meiji Restoration of 1868.



My Approach: On my venerable Aki Meguri pages, I give a complete accounting of the mechanics of the journey that covered both the Old Tokaido and the Shikoku Pilgrimage (with some stops in between). Here's the TL;DR* version.

Having become aware of both the Tokaido and Shikoku during my nearly five years of working in Tokyo, in 2001 I started planning an "epic journey" to be undertaken after I quit my job, but before I returned to the 'States. I started walking longer and longer distances in the springtime, and did 60 miles in five days in Chichibu in late July.

Meanwhile, I had begun soliciting my friends for two things: first, that they would give me their "prayers requests" to carry along and express in an appropriate location every day; and second, to make donations to defray my expenses. It must be pointed out that these two were not to be linked: I would carry their requests whether they donated or not, and donations would (naturally) be accepted even from those who wanted nothing.

The response was overwhelming. As near as I can figure today, cash gifts totaled upwards of $6,000 US (plus more received along the way--and lots of fruit!). I also received help of all kinds, from logistics to translation t simple encouragement.

But more than that, I was privileged to be included into the hopes and fears of so many people around me. As I wrote in my journal during the trip: "People I've known for years, who never said much, have come to me and told me the most amazing, heart-wrenching stories about family problems, illness, etc. It has opened up new dimensions in relationships that were hitherto pretty much moribund. It has been very fulfilling." About 85 people made requests of one sort or another before I left; I added nearly 30 more after starting out, sometimes just in thanksgiving for heir kindness.

Anyway, my approach: At first I intended to walk the entire length of the Tokaido, walk to the ferry across Shikoku, and walk around Shikoku. Ha. It turns out the Tokaido, once a thoroughfare for travelers, is no longer set up very well for people on foot. So I had to modify things quite a bit: I would "base" at a hotel, and take a train or bus to my starting point for the day. At day's end, I'd take transpo back to the hotel, and then out to the stopping point the next morning. Once I was well past the hotel, I'd "move base" on down the road, and continue in the same manner.

In this way I walked every step of the Tokaido. Once I reached Kyoto, however, it was all public transpo until I reached Shikoku. There, I used the same technique, but took trains and buses over long open stretches. You can read more about my Shikoku experience on that page.

(*Too Long; Didn't Read,a shorthand way of indicating that the reader can't be bothered.)



At Nihombashi ("Japan Bridge") on Sept. 5, 2001, the day I started down the Old Tokaido


The List: Here are the 53 Stations of the Old Tokaido, along with the day I reached each one. Click the linked names to see my post about each station; the "map" link shows the temple's location on Google Maps. (Note: Locations may be on one honjin, or among a cluster of several, depending on what was available on the maps at hand.) The Wiki links lead to brief articles on the location of each Station, along with one of Hiroshige's prints.

Tokyo Prefecture

Start: Nihombashi (日本橋) ; (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, September 5th, 2001
  1. Shinagawa (品川); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, September 5th, 2001
Kanagawa Prefecture
  1. Kawasaki (川崎); (map / Wiki); visited Thursday, September 6th, 2001
  2. Kanagawa (Yokohama) (神奈川); (map / Wiki); visited Friday, September 7th, 2001
  3. Hodogaya (保土ヶ谷); (map / Wiki); visited Friday, September 7th, 2001
  4. Totsuka (戸塚); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, September 9th, 2001
  5. Fujisawa (藤沢); (map / Wiki); visited Monday, September 10, 2001
  6. Hiratsuka (平塚); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, September 12th, 2001
  7. Oiso (大磯); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, September 12th, 2001
  8. Odawara (小田原); (map / Wiki); visited Thursday, September 13th, 2001
  9. Hakone (箱根); (map / Wiki); visited Saturday, September 15th, 2001
Shizuoka Prefecture
  1. Mishima (三島); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, September 16th, 2001
  2. Numazu (沼津); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, September 16th, 2001
  3. Hara (原); (map / Wiki); visited Monday, September 17th, 2001
  4. Yoshiwara (吉原); (map / Wiki); visited Tuesday, September 18th, 2001
  5. Kanbara (蒲原); (map / Wiki); visited Tuesday, September 18th, 2001
  6. Yui (由比); (map / Wiki); visited Tuesday, September 18th, 2001
  7. Okitsu (興津); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, September 19th, 2001
  8. Ejiri (Shimizu) (江尻); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, September 19th, 2001
  9. Fuchu (Shizuoka) (府中); (map / Wiki); visited Thursday, September 20th, 2001
  10. Mariko (丸子); (map / Wiki); visited Thursday, September 20th, 2001
  11. Okabe (岡部); (map / Wiki); visited Friday, September 21st, 2001
  12. Fujieda (藤枝); (map / Wiki); visited Friday, September 21st, 2001
  13. Shimada (島田); (map / Wiki); visited Saturday, September 22nd, 2001
  14. Kanaya (金谷); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, September 23rd, 2001
  15. Nissaka (日坂); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, September 23rd, 2001
  16. Kakegawa (掛川); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, September 23rd, 2001
  17. Fukuroi (袋井); (map / Wiki); visited Monday, September 24th, 2001
  18. Mitsuke (見付); (map / Wiki); visited Tuesday, September 25th, 2001
  19. Hamamatsu (浜松); (map / Wiki); visited Tuesday, September 25th, 2001
  20. Maisaka (舞阪); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, September 26th, 2001
  21. Arai (新居); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, September 26th, 2001
  22. Shirasuka (白須賀); (map / Wiki); visited Thursday, September 27th, 2001
Aichi Prefecture
  1. Futagawa (二川); (map / Wiki); visited Thursday, September 27th, 2001
  2. Yoshida (吉田); (map / Wiki); visited Saturday, September 29th, 2001
  3. Goyu (御油); (map / Wiki); visited Saturday, September 29th, 2001
  4. Akasaka (赤坂); (map / Wiki); visited Saturday, September 29th, 2001
  5. Fujikawa (藤川); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, September 30th, 2001
  6. Okazaki (岡崎); (map / Wiki); visited Monday, October 1st, 2001
  7. Chiryu (知立 or 池鯉鮒); (map / Wiki); visited Monday, October 1st, 2001
  8. Narumi (鳴海); (map / Wiki); visited Tuesday, October 2nd, 2001
  9. Miya (Nagoya) (宮); (map / Wiki); visited Tuesday, October 2nd, 2001
Mie Prefecture
  1. Kuwana (桑名); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, October 3rd, 2001
  2. Yokkaichi (四日市); (map / Wiki); visited Wednesday, October 3rd, 2001
  3. Ishiyakushi (石薬師); (map / Wiki); visited Thursday, October 4th, 2001
  4. Shono (庄野); (map / Wiki); visited Thursday, October 4th, 2001
  5. Kameyama (亀山); (map / Wiki); visited Friday, October 5th, 2001
  6. Seki (関); (map / Wiki); visited Friday, October 5th, 2001
  7. Sakanoshita (坂下); (map / Wiki); visited Friday, October 5th, 2001
Shiga Prefecture
  1. Tsuchiyama (土山); (map / Wiki); visited Saturday, October 6th, 2001
  2. Minakuchi (水口); (map / Wiki); visited Saturday, October 6th, 2001
  3. Ishibe (石部); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, October 7th, 2001
  4. Kusatsu (草津); (map / Wiki); visited Sunday, October 7th, 2001
  5. Otsu (大津); (map / Wiki); visited Monday, October 8th, 2001
Kyoto Prefecture

End: Sanjo Ohasji (京都三条大橋); (map / Wiki); visited Tuesday, October 9th, 2001



References: The Wikipedia article "Tokaido (road)" has more information on the road's history.

This link has all of the stations listed by name--along with a few more, the "57 Stations" that were added in 1619 to extend the road from Kyoto (actually diverging at Otsu) to Osaka.

The map books I used were both in Japanese (but the maps were clear). The one I carried was Kanzen Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi Gaido (完全東海道五十三次ガイド), or "Guide to the Tokaido 53 Stations" by the Tokaido Nettowaaku no Kai (東海道ネットワークの会), the "Tokaido Network Association." At home, and especially in building this page, I used the five slim volumes of the Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi Aruku (東海道五十三次を歩く), maybe "Walking the Tokaido 53 Stations" by Kodansha Sophia Books.

Ando Hiroshige's multiple editions of Tokaido prints are easily found on the net. Here's a good place to start.

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 this homepage.

With Yaji-san and Kita-san at Yui Station
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. Easily found on Amazon.

Finally, I must mention Oliver Statler's book Japanese Inn.  (The book is extensively summarized here.)  Dave Dutton, my late, 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. (I've now been there!) 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. They're easy enough to find in used editions.



Google Map:

Controls:
  • Use + /- or mouse wheel to zoom in and out.
  • Click to close the hand to move around.
  • (The two functions above are accomplished with two fingers on mobile devices.)
  • Click the square-with-arrow on the left to open or close the index of sites. (Works better if you zoom in first.)
  • Click the three-dot thingy to share the map with others.
  • Click the "four corners" in the upper right to go to the full map.



Last updated Mar. 18, 2019

No comments:

Post a Comment