The Edo Tail Behind the Ancient Tokaido Trail

  • Way back in Japanese history, before the advent of high-speed trains, the path from Edo to Kyoto was well travelled. Without modern ways of travelling, such as by train or plane, foot power was the only way. When the Edo period dawned, the capital of Japan was moved from Kyoto, where it had been held for 1,000 years. The new capital of Japan was to be Edo, which is now known as Tokyo. Although the government and high-ranking officials all followed this move, people of great importance were left in Kyoto.

    This meant that travelling between these two great cities was very important. There were five main routes to get between these destinations; Tokaido, Nakasendo, Koshu Kaido, Oshu Kaido and Nikko Kaido. Each route consisted of stations along the way. The Tōkaidō route was the most famous of all of these roads. Unlike other routes, the Tokaido highway ran along the pacific coast to reach Kyoto and consisted of 53 stations.

    Travelling the Old Tokaido in Edo Times

    The Tokaido highway was less travelled in Edo times than the other routes. This doesn’t mean the route was less loved, as it had some spectacular views. The route travelled through many of the historical provinces of Japan. In today’s geography, the route travels through Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Aichi, Mie and Shiga prefectures before reaching Kyoto. Each area of Japan had certain stations in. These stations were manned by government officials. The role of these officials was to check the travelling permits of each person before allowing them to continue. These stations also including lodging and places to eat. The Tokaido route captured the hearts and imaginations of many of the artists and writers of the day. The famous ukiyo-e artist, Hiroshige, immortalised the route in his series “53 stations of the Tokaido”.

    Travelling the Tokaido highway today

    In the present day, the Tokaido route is the most travelled route in Japan. Connecting Tokyo to Kyoto, Nagoya and Osaka. This route is utilised by the Tokaido Main Line, the Tokaido Shinkansen and two expressways. Unfortunately, this means that most of the original route has been lost. However, there are still sections that you can see today. One of these is the Hakone checkpoint. Here, along the shores of Lake Ashi, you can see a reconstruction of the Hakone Checkpoint which would have stood here many years before. There is even a section of the route itself still intact, which you can walk down. This is truly excellent with the path lined by towering cedar. Visit the nearby museum when you are here to see what life was like living on the route between Kyoto and Tokyo.

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