Journey on the Tokaido Goju San Tsugi (53-station Highway)
First Stop on the 53 station Tokyo-Kyoto Highway: Nihonbashi
Recently, I took a casual walk to a very famous Tokyo locale known as “Nihonbashi”. It is to the North of JR Tokyo station. It was a nice 10-plus minute walk from the station and as I walked carefully with a sharp eye on my surroundings, I noticed the concentration of major businesses concentrated in the area…much like it was so many centuries ago.
The wooden Nihonbashi Bridge was built to connect both sides of the Nihonbashi River in 1603. A stone bridge was constructed later in 1911, but until then, wood was the focal resource for bridges. During the Edo period, this town represented Japan’s economic center, in fact, exactly as it is now. The old Nihonbashi area covered quite a large area spanning from far north at Akihabara, Ginza to the south, Otemachi to the west and the Sumida River to the east.
During the Edo period, the Mitsui family emerged as a major economic power-house and introduced high-end Mitsukoshi department stores to the Nihonbashi area.
The ruler (Shogun) of Japan in the Tokugawa Bakufu, Tokugawa Ieyasu, created 5 main arteries of travel across Japan and the Tokaido 53 station highway was one of the main methods of travel for transportation between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. This highway was considered one of the most important routes and was a well-traveled road during this time.
Days Long Past
During those days, to go from one area of Japan to the other, people had to obtain a permission document in order to go through security check points at each stop. Try to imagine yourself traveling from Edo (Present Tokyo) to Kyoto during early 1800’s. Tokaido Road your choice for the journey. Along this road, there were 53 stations for rest and recuperation. They were all conveniently located and you can find food, drink and lodging for your travels.
This is the story of 53 Tokaido scenic areas depicted on “Ukiyoe” and I am going to take you for a nice long journey starting old Edo and head down south towards Kyo (Kyoto) each month. I will tell you a brief history of each stop and points of interest both during its heyday and for modern times as well.
Shinagawa will be our next stop after Nihonbashi before reaching Kawasaki station. Now you know a little bit about our starting point Nihonbashi and we will kick off our journey now to the next to stop at Shinagawa where I happen to reside. Get your walking “Zori or Geta”, along with comfortable “Fundoshi” for the men and kimono for women. Oh, it’s a good idea to bring a walking stick too.