Journey on the Tokaido (Shinagawa is Stop Number Two)
2nd Stop on the 53 stage Tokaido (Edo-Kyoto Highway during the Edo Period)
Now that we have left the first stop Nihonbashi (described in my previous article), we are approaching our next stop of Shinagawa. Imagine you are traveling from Edo (Present Tokyo) to Kyoto during early 1800’s. It is highly likely that Tokaido Road was used to make your journey. It runs north and south along the eastern shore of Japan from Tokyo (formerly Edo) to Kyoto. Along this path, there are 53 stops conveniently located to provide food, drink and the place of rest. This is the story of 53 Tokaido rest areas and I am going to take you through the journey one stop at a time and point out what I know about that certain place.
Shinagawa is the second station starting from the north heading down south before Kawasaki station. An artist depicted each stop and these paintings are call “Ukiyoe”. The Shinagawa photo depicts a beautiful ocean (Tokyo bay) colored in a light to dark blue with a series of one story wooden houses belonging to the merchants of the time, lined up very close to each other along the Tokaido Road.
Eight wooden sail boats are docked in the bay and they seem to be waiting to either load or off load merchandise from the ship before taking off to destinations far across Japan. In the distant horizon, what appears to be an early morning sunrise for clouds are colored with shades of orange and pink exactly like the ones we witness in early morning sunrise in the eastern sky of Tokyo nowadays.
A bit different view is seen these days in Shinagawa. Instead of wooden merchant houses, we can observe, along the same shore line, multistory concrete buildings. The buildings seem to be everywhere along the highly developed transportation system, both rail and vehicles.
Today, I picked this topic, not only because it is the second stop on the Tokaido Gojusantsugi but also because I live in Shinagawa. Shinagawa is now home to the very centrally located Japan Rail (JR) and Keikyu stations as well as home to several museums, embassies, many fine traditional and modern restaurants and one can also see the presence of many international/domestic companies. To name a few, Microsoft, BP, Cannon, Marriott, Volkswagen, Prudential Life Insurance, DHL Supply Chain, Bentley Motors, Automobili Lamborghini, Audi and the elegant mansion of Mitsubishi clan can be seen between Shinagawa train station and my apartment in Gotenyama. On a nice day, the white snowcapped landmark of Japan’s Mount Fuji can be seen toward the south west direction.
Just as in Nihonbashi area, many old samurai movies depicted old Shinagawa area (Edo) in a series of TV and movie shows call “Jidaigeki”.
As I walk along the seashore today, I see areas that did not exist back in 1800’s for landfill was created to support the much needed business expansion in Tokyo area. I try to imagine how the people used to live in those days in Shinagawa and quite frankly, it must been very exciting with both having so much new growth and activities in surrounding area but also trying to balance Japanese tradition and outside culture.
I’ve attached photos of Gotenyama Trust Park where I live and this park is a well hidden secret to many people and it provides such a peaceful atmosphere during all season. If you have a chance, do stop by and see great cherry blossom, fall to see vibrant red and yellow autumn leaves, listen to cicada or locust singing in summer and the peaceful white of a winter garden. Next to the park is the Hara museum where you can look at the art and at the same time enjoy a nice lunch.
Now, let’s continue on our journey of Tokaido, to our next destination – Kawasaki.