The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road - Ukiyo-e Woodcut Prints

Ando Hiroshige (1797 1858) produced many editions of the series "The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road". I am not sure which series these prints come from, but I hope that you can enjoy them even if you don't have that information. You'll notice that there are 55 prints here - the first one - Nihonbashi - is simply known as "Leaving Edo", it is not actually part of the Tokaido Road. The 55th print is known as "Arriving at Kyoto", which was also not actually a part of the Tokaido Road.

1. Nihonbashi: There has long been a Nihonbashi Bridge, located in what is now Chuo Ward, Tokyo. It once spanned the Nihonbashi River, which connected the Sumida River and the outer moat of Edo Castle. In addition to being situated in the heart of the city, Nihonbashi Bridge was also used as the origin-point for measuring distances to points throughout the country; a chart of this mileage table once decorated the middle of the bridge. The origin of the word Nihonbashi ("Japan-bridge") is not firmly established: both the fact that it was located at the center of Japan and that the rising sun could be viewed from atop the bridge have been offered as explanations. However, the expressway that now runs directly above the bridge has darkened the place and obstructed the view; one certainly can't watch the sunrise from it anymore. In present times, the Nihonbashi area is a business district. Nihonbashi

Shinagawa 2. Shinagawa: In the past, Shinagawa was a bustling amusement district with pleasure quarters at its center. There are various theories about the origin of the name Shinagawa, such as that it derived from the old name of Meguro River, or that its earlier spelling identified it as Lower ("Shi") Nagawa, in relation to Upper ("Ka") Nagawa. Another explanation holds that the name was given to the area because the topographical features of Shinagawa ("Quality-goods river"), with its artistic-looking capes and valleys, caused it to be thought superior to the neighboring district of Takanawa. Nowadays, the Second Keihin National Highway passes through the northern part of this old Tokaido way station. It's somewhat disheartening to observe the old Tokaido branching off to the left of the highway, so narrow it only allows one-way traffic. Recall that this was the principal thoroughfare of the Tokugawa era.

3. Kawasaki: Kawasaki, located on the northeastern edge of Kanagawa Prefecture, was well known as a way station on the Tokaido. The town developed on the western side of the Tama River as a ferry-crossing point, known as the Rokugo Crossing. Kawasaki was also famous for the large Kawasaki Daishi Shrine, located east of the town. It appears that this was quite a rural locale until industrialization; nowadays, it's a major manufacturing zone. Kawasaki

Kanagawa 4. Kanagawa: The word Kanagawa remains in use to this day, as the name of the prefecture. It's said that the area's name originated from the old spelling for Kanagawa ("Upper river"), which marked the boundary between present-day Shinmeicho and the older Shinmachi. The word Kanagawa has been spelled with various combinations of characters (including "Hunting-field river" and "Gold river"). Following the arrival of Commodore Perry's American fleet in the end of the Edo period, when the country was compelled to "open up" under international pressure, it was here that the various related treaties were signed, making Kanagawa a significant place in modern Japanese history.

5. Hodogaya: Hodogaya has been written with a variety of spellings. The origin of the word is said by some to come from the Ainu word for "valley," or from the word "Hoto" which appears in the ancient Japanese chronicle "Kojiki. Others maintain that its origin is in an older name meaning "the valley or river at the foot of a hill. Hodogaya was a crossroads of many of the major thoroughfares of the Edo period, including the Kamakura and Kanazawa roads and the Komeiji Road, in addition to the Tokaido. Hodogaya

Totsuka 6. Totsuka: This area, located 10 li (39 km/24 miles) from Tokyo and 10 li from Odawara, naturally flourished as one of the Tokaido way stations, since it was exactly one day's journey from both cities. Yaji-san and Kita-san, the heroes of the famous comical story "Hizakurige along the Tokaido," chose to stay in Totsuka on their first night after leaving Edo. Travelers always crowded the inns of Totsuka because of its convenient location, so the Tokugawa government allowed two new way stations, Yabei and Yoshida-motomachi, to be established on either side of the town. These were known as "The three stations of Totsuka."

7. Fujisawa: Fujisawa, a town located in the southern part of Takaza County in Kanagawa Prefecture, has been known since old times as a way station where the Tokaido passes along the Shonan coastline. Fujisawa naturally became a stopping place, as it was here that wayfarers traveling south through the mountains from Totsuka could gain access to the Shonan seashore. In addition to its inns, Fujisawa was also, from old times, the home of merchants due to its role as the commercial center for the surrounding seaside farming villages. When Japan National Railways (now JR) built its Tokaido Line, the company constructed Fujisawa Station one kilometer south of the center of Fujisawa, so the new part of town developed near the seaside, in the south of town. Fujisawa

Hiratsuka 8. Hiratsuka: Situated on the opposite bank of the Banyu (Sagami) River from Fujisawa, Hiratsuka City is located in the central part of Kanagawa Prefecture. It is one of the major Shonan coastline cities, along with Fujisawa, Chigasaki and Odawara. Nowadays, this city has two main commercial districts: Hiratsuka, the old Tokaido way station, and Hiratsuka Shinjuku, which rose up after construction of the Tokaido train line. In recent years, Hiratsuka has been growing, supported by the rural areas that surround it.

9. Oiso: Located in the central part of Kanagawa Prefecture, Oiso faces Sagami Bay to the south and Korai Mountain to the north. In present times, Oiso has become the center of Shonan's summer-winter resort area. Oiso

Odawara 10. Odawara: Located in southwest Kanagawa Prefecture, facing Sagami Bay, this small city enjoys a very mild climate. In present times, Odawara is well known for its wooden crafts and seafood products such as kamaboko (boiled fish paste). In Edo times, as the gateway to the mountains of Hakone, Odawara was an extremely important way station, both in geographical and military terms.

11. Hakone: Hakone is located in southwest Kanagawa Prefecture, by Lake Ashino. Even now, the remains of the old Tokaido checkpoint can be found here, and the place is also one of Japan's most famous hot-spring locales. In the Edo period, Hakone was famous for the severity of the inspection to which travelers were subjected at its checkpoint and the difficulty of crossing its mountain range. Hakone

Mishima 12. Mishima: Situated in present-day Shizuoka Prefecture, Mishima flourished after it was designated as a Tokaido way station. Because of its location at the foot of the Hakone Mountains, many travelers stopped here to offer prayers at Mishima Shrine and to rest before starting the arduous mountain crossing, and the town grew accordingly during Edo times.

13. Numazu: Numazu is located on the western side of the Izu Peninsula, facing Tsuruga Bay. It lies in between two famous volcanoes, Mount Hakone to the northeast and Mount Aitaka to the northwest, and the Karino River runs through the southern part of town, where it joins another river before flowing out into Tsuruga Bay. The beach of Numazu is famous for the beauty of its "Thousand-Pine Forest." Numazu

Hara 14. Hara: In present times Hara has become a part of Numazu City. The Tokaido is still lined with rows of pine trees where it runs through the western part of town, and among the sandy-soiled fields along the coastline nearby are many peach orchards and tea fields.

15. Yoshiwara: Yoshiwara is part of present-day Fuji City, in Shizuoka Prefecture, located in the delta formed by the lower reaches of the Fuji River and the Numagawa River, which gathers water from the southeastern foot of Mount Fuji. Behind Yoshiwara is beautiful Mount Fuji, and between southern Yoshiwara and Tsuruga Bay is the famous scenic spot called Tagonoura. Long ago, Yoshiwara was known as the center of the area's many paddy-farming villages, with their abundant clear springwater, but more recently this town's name has come to be associated with pollution caused by the effluent from paper mills. Yoshiwara

Kambara 16. Kambara: The town of Kambara is located on the eastern bank of the Fuji River near the river's mouth, on a long, narrow strip of land measuring just 4 km east-west, in a coastal plain with hills to the north and Tsuruga Bay to the south. Prospering since the Kamakura Period as a way station of the Tokaido, it was also, before the coming of railway lines, used as a port where ships' cargo was brought ashore. This baggage was then carried overland to the town of Iwabuchi, where it was again loaded onto boats at the Fuji River.

17. Yui: The name Yui has also been written with two other character combinations. Yui is located at the mouth of the Yui River, on the western side of Tsuruga Bay, and behind the town is a region covered with hills measuring 400-500 meters in height. The town developed as one in a succession of fishing villages along the Tokaido, which include neighboring Kambara to the east and Okitsu to the west. Yui

Okitsu 18. Okitsu: In modern times, the town of Okitsu is situated on the eastern edge of Shimizu City, between the Satta mountain pass and the town of Ejiri. Okitsu faces Seiken Lagoon on Sagami Bay, and has long been famous for its beautiful beaches. Near the town are the scenic Miho Pine Forest and Kuno Mountain, and to the north is a hilly region. Okitsu is also known as a resort area with a balmy climate.

19. Ejiri: Ejiri, a port town located on the lower reaches of the Tomoe River, has long been famous as a way station on the Tokaido. The east side of Ejiri is protected by the Miho Pine Forest, making it an ideal natural setting for a port; further, major construction has made this one of the biggest trading ports of Japan. Ejiri

Fuchu 20. Fuchu: This town is located in present-day Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture. The Abe River, which is shown in this map, has sometimes been spelled with other characters. The river has been famous since ancient times. On the eastern bank of the Abe there was a teahouse, Mirokujaya, where popular sweets called "Abekawamochi" were sold. Even now, Abekawamochi are a popular souvenir among Japanese travelers.

21. Maruko: Maruko was located in what was known as Nagata Village, on the western bank of the Abe River. This small village, situated in a valley near Utsuya Pass - one of the most challenging legs of the Tokaido - became a way station on the Tokaido in the Edo period. It was once a bountiful mandarin orange-producing area, but recently the eastern part of town has been modernized, becoming a bedroom community and industrial area. Maruko

Okabe 22. Okabe: The origins of this town's name are obvious from its spelling, which means "The foot of a hill. Once Okabe flourished as a Tokaido way station, but being rather distant from the Tokaido Railway Line, this area, which also includes Fujie City, has fallen into decline in recent times. Even National Highway 1 runs far from Okabe, and in consequence the town remains to this day the same size it was in the days when it was a way station on the Tokaido.

23. Fujie: Tradition holds that this town's name came from the Fujie River, a branch of the Seto River which runs between Fujie and Okabe. Fujie is located in the southern part of Shita County, and was a way station for Tokaido travelers on the way to Shimada, a town beside the Shimada River. Fujie is located in the northwest part of an alluvial delta on the lower reaches of the Oi River, on a mountain-edged plain, among paddyfield land at the northern edge of the Asahina River. Fujie

Shimada 24. Shimada: Shimada is located in Shita County, Shizuoka Prefecture. The Tokaido already passed through Shimada before the Tokugawa era, but during Edo times it was heavily traveled, as it marked a crossing-point on the left-hand bank of the Oi River. Since the Meiji era, when Japan's traffic system was completely altered, this town has lost much of its former prosperity. In present times, leaf tea, shiitake mushrooms, and lumber are the main products marketed in Shimada.

25. Kanaya: Kanaya, on the opposite side of the Oi River from Shimada, is known as a way station of the Tokaido. This village, like Shimada, became an important place because of the Tokugawa government's policies designed to control the potentially rebellious feudal lords, which prohibited the use of bridges, ferries or boats on the Oi River. Kanaya

Hizaka 26. Hizaka: Hizaka has also been called Niizaka and Nishizaka, but the correct name was most likely Hizaka. Hizaka's most famous product is kuzu-root rice cakes, which were known as "warabimochi" in this area.

27. Kakegawa: Located in present-day Shizuoka Prefecture, Kakegawa was the 26th Tokaido way station, counting from Shinagawa. It prospered as a castle-town until the end of the Edo period. Kakegawa

Fukuroi 28. Fukuroi: Located in Iwata County, Shizuoka Prefecture, Fukuroi was situated on the Tokaido between Kakegawa and Mitsuke. The origin of the name Fukuroi ("pouch-spring") lies in its location surrounded by hills and the presence of a spring in the village.

29. Mitsuke: Mitsuke, located in Iwata County, Shizuoka Prefecture, is currently the main marketplace of Iwata County. When viewed from above, Mitsuke is shaped like a druggist's mortar, and a certain high point in the town affords an excellent view of Mount Fuji, from which its old name, Fujimidai ("Fuji-viewing platform"), derives. This was the first place where Mount Fuji was visible to travelers passing from the western part of Japan to the Kanto region; thus it was called Mitsuke ("viewing spot"). Mitsuke

Hamamatsu 30. Hamamatsu: Located in southwestern Shizuoka Prefecture, Hamamatsu is situated between the Tenryu River and Lake Hamana. Part of the city stands on a diluvial plateau, but the majority is situated on the alluvial plain below it. In modern times, Hamamatsu is famous for its main products, musical instruments and motorcycles.

31. Maisaka: This place, called Maisaka or Maesaka, is located on the shore of Lake Hamana. When traveling from Maisaka to the next station, Arai, wayfarers were required to make a 10 li (39 km/24 mile) ocean crossing, called the Imagiri Crossing. It is thought that the origin of Hamana's connection with the ocean originated with an enormous earthquake in the year 1499. From that time on, the place became a ferry-crossing point. Maisaka

Arai 32. Arai: Arai was an important way station of the old Tokaido, facing the town of Maisaka on the opposite side of the Imagiri Crossing, at the mouth of Hamanako Lake. When boats from Maisaka arrived at Arai, the travelers were required to pass through a checkpoint situated right alongside the landing-place. Traces of the old checkpoint still remain, but because the east side of Lake Hamana has become a landfill, its location is now far from the sea, in the middle of town.

33. Shirasuka: The name of Shirasuka was written in two different ways. The first character in the word, "shira" meaning "white," is said to have derived from the color of the seashells and sand on the beach, and "su" ought to be written with the character for "sandbank. "Ka" simply acts as a suffix. Many place names in Japan, such as Yokosuka, have similar meanings. Shirasuka is located on the western edge of Shizuoka Prefecture, with the Sea of Enshu to the south, Arai to the east, and the border with Aichi Prefecture to the west. The main topographical feature of this area is its plateaus, which afford excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Shirasuka

Futagawa 34. Futagawa: This town was earlier in Atsumi County, Aichi Prefecture, but it became a part of Toyokawa City in 1955. The buildings and gates of an inn that was officially designated as a lodging for feudal lords traveling on the Tokaido are still preserved here. Nowadays, the Tokaido Line and bullet trains pass through Futagawa Station and National Highway 1 also runs nearby, making transportation to and from Futagawa extremely convenient.

35. Yoshida: Yoshida is located in present-day Toyohashi City. This town, located on the northern edge of Atsumi County and south of Toyokawa City, was once a thriving center of the east Mikawa region. It was one of the two biggest towns in the area, along with Okazaki. Long ago, people called it "Imabashi," perhaps deriving from a new bridge constructed at the time in Toyokawa City. In the Edo period, when the place started being called Yoshida, it became one of the 53 way stations on the Tokaido, and also prospered as a castle town. When the Tokaido Railway Line was constructed, Yoshida lost the role of station that it had enjoyed at the time of the old Tokaido, but it is still convenient for transportation, making it one of the region's major economic centers. Silk reeling, dyeing and weaving are the town's main industries. Yoshida

Goyu 36. Goyu: Nowadays, this town is a part of Toyokawa City in Aichi Prefecture. In the Edo period, it was located at a branch in the road where the Motosaka Road, heading toward Motosaka Pass, split off from the Tokaido. Thus, this way station was highly prosperous. The beautiful pine trees that line the road from Goyu to Akasaka have been designated as a Japanese Natural Monument.

37. Akasaka: In the Edo period, this town flourished as one of the 53 way stations of the Tokaido. The presence in town of the headquarters of the governor of the Mikawa region, who managed the Tokugawa family's feudal estate, made Akasaka a particularly famous stop. However, the townspeople refused to allow construction of the Tokaido Railway Line through Akasaka, so after the trains began to run the town lost its advantageous location and fell into decline. Akasaka

Fujikawa 38. Fujikawa: Even now, this town retains a nostalgic atmosphere. The old Tokaido still runs alongside National Highway 1, lined with a stand of pine trees that have been designated as a Japanese Natural Monument, which create a tasteful scene.

39. Okazaki: Okazaki is a town that developed at the meeting-point of the Ohira River flowing from the east and the Yasaku River, which passes the western edge of the Mikawa region. Okazaki is located in the eastern part of the Okazaki Plain, which runs below Nishikamo and another county. This town prospered not only as a way station of the Tokaido, but also as the castle town of the Okazaki Plain. Okazaki

Chirifu 40. Chirifu: Located in present-day Aichi Prefecture this town, which is now known as Chita, became a city in 1970. The origin of the name ("Pond-carp-crucian") comes from Engishikinaisha (old shrine), because there were carp and crucian in the pond at Chita Shrine. Chirifu prospered as the main marketplace for selling Mikawa cotton and horses, as is depicted in this drawing.

41. Narumi: Narumi, located in the southwestern corner of Aichi County, is an eastern suburb of Nagoya City, with the Tenshiro River running between it and Nagoya City's Mizuho Ward and Minami Ward on the opposite bank. This town developed as a way station on the old Tokaido, where tie-dyed cotton fabric called "Narumi-shibori" was produced. Narumi

Miya 42. Miya: In present times a part of Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, Miya is located close to Atsuta Shrine, on Ise Bay. In the Edo period, Miya prospered thanks to the many pilgrims who visited Atsuta Shrine, as well as its designation as a Tokaido way station and a castle town.

43. Kuwana: Kuwana is a port town located at the mouth of the Kiso River, on Ise Bay. Long ago, this strategic point for transportation by both sea and land was one of the major way stations of the Tokaido, as well as a principle market-place for rice and various goods produced in the surrounding region. Kuwana

Yokkaichi 44. Yokkaichi: This northern Mie Prefecture port city is located on the west side of Ise Bay. Nowadays, it is famous for the asthma suffered by its residents because of environmental pollution from petrochemical plants. The name Yokkaichi ("fourth-day market") derives from the town's 16th-century custom of opening a large public market on the 4th, 14th, and 24th day of each month.

45. Ishiyakushi: The name of this town derives from Ishiyakushi Hall, dedicated to the Buddhist Physician of Souls, in Saifuku Temple. In the old times, this town boasted rows of prosperous houses, but more recently it has fallen into decline. Ishiyakushi

Shono 46. Shono: It is said that Shono was designated as one of the Tokaido way stations at a later time than the others. Long ago, it had rows of prosperous houses, but it is now somewhat in decline.

47. Kameyama: Kameyama is located on the left bank of the Suzuka River, in the southern part of the Ise Plain. It is also situated at the parting-place of the Kansai and Sangu train lines. Thus, in modern times, Kameyama has become the most prosperous town in this area, as a strategic transportation point through which quantities of freight are moved. Kameyama

Seki 48. Seki: Seki is located in a basin of the Suzuka mountain range, on the northern bank of the Suzuka River. The Tokugawa government established a checkpoint at Suzuka Pass, which was dubbed one of the "Sanzeki" ("Three major checkpoints"), along with the Fuha Checkpoint in the Mino region and the Aichi Checkpoint in the Echizen region. However, the Suzuka checkpoint was moved down from the pass and into the town of Sekidai after the opening of Yamato Road. Since then, people started to call the town "Seki" ("Checkpoint"), and it became one of the Tokaido way stations. Seki prospered as an important transportation point because it was located at the crossing of the Iga Road, Sangu Road, and other major thoroughfares.

49. Sakashita: The name of Sakashita ("Below-slope") derives from its location at the foot of Tazukami Slope, which descends from Suzuka Pass. The southeastern side of this pass is in Suzuka County, Mie Prefecture, and the northwestern side is in Koga County, Shiga Prefecture. It was one of the most difficult crossing points of the Tokaido, similar to the mountains of Hakone. Sakashita

Tsuchiyama 50. Tsuchiyama: This town is located in the southeastern corner of the Omi Basin, north of the Tamura River, as the headwater of the Nosu River is called. This area has many tea plantations, and its most famous product is Tsuchiyama Tea. Geologically speaking, the earth of the region is of Paleozoic composition. The Tamura River, headwater of the Nosu, runs through the town, which is famous for its plentiful rainfalls.

51. Minakuchi: Minakuchi was earlier written in three different ways, including the modern spelling which means "Port-mouth," reflecting the town's location at the mouth of the Yokota River. Minakuchi developed as a castle town, and from long ago its major product has been cane-work crafts, which become particularly famous in the Edo period as "Minakuchi cane work." Minakuchi

Ishibe 52. Ishibe: This town, located in Shiga Prefecture, has had significant interchange with many different regions since the 8th century. Even now, the town boasts many historical points of interest, including the Choju and Joraku temples.

53. Kusatsu: This city is located in Shiga Prefecture, near Lake Biwa. In the Edo period, Kusatsu prospered as the meeting-point of the Tokaido and Nakasendo, two of the roads designated as principle thoroughfares by the Tokugawa shogunate. Kusatsu

Otsu 54. Otsu: 1,300 years ago, this town was the capital of Japan, at which time it was known as Otsukyo. In the Edo period, Otsu prospered as a way station on the Tokaido. It is a most historical place, and is located on the shore of Lake Biwa, the biggest lake in Japan.

55. Kyo: Kyo prospered as the capital of Japan in older times. Many cultural treasures are housed in this world-famous city to this day. The balustrade of the great Sanjo Bridge, which spans the Kamo River, is still decorated with old-style metal knobs, creating a nostalgic atmosphere. This bridge is one of the three great bridges of Kyoto, along with Shijo Bridge and Gojo Bridge. Kyo

Hope that you enjoyed your look at the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road - Ukiyo-e Woodcut Prints By Ando HIROSHIGE.

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