Tokaido Ichirenzu



Tokaidō Ichiranzu was printed by Shōtei Kinsui in 1830 with the help of Ichigorō Sanoya. This map illustrates one of the famous Five Routes, which connects Edo (Tokyo in modern days) and Kyoto in Japan. In this map, we can see that there are a lot of major components that occupies the entire space, such as mountains, station names, descriptions on the top, and houses. Everything was drawn in detail especially, if you look close to the buildings, the stone wall, the gate, and even the roof tiles were drawn precisely. One interesting thing in this map is that the roof top of the houses that are located in capital or main cities were painted in blue. The reason behind it is because the cluster of houses represents a jōkamachi (城下町), castle town.

20160302_163524   (The roofs are drawn blue)


Directly translates to mean “the town below the castle” (Satoh, 217). Castle town served as an important role in the formation of urbanization and commercialization. Its existence was, in fact, a necessity. The location of castle towns provided strategic benefits to either its economy or its defensive construction. Also, its distinctive segmentation within a castle town shows the four principle elements to its formation.

20160302_163547   (Nijo Castle)

Jōkamachi, castle town, was formed around a castle, which, later on, became an opportunity for the formation of urbanization and commercialization. Castles were built for one main reason and that is to create fortification. Wars were spreading around in ancient Japan and to create a fort that could withstand weapons and firearms was a necessity. “Earth, stone, and wooden walls; holes, ditches, moats, and natural barriers were the principal forms employed from early times” (Kirby, 4). Nevertheless, the importance of castles began to diminish during the peaceful time under Tokugawa reign. Castles at this moment then served as multiple roles. It merely functioned as a fort, but an administration centre, court of law, and political centre. With the absence of union and a form of central government, local daimyō then established their own domain in their own castles. They acted as the lord of the city who had the absolute power to set their own “laws, taxation rates, and even systems of weights and measures” (Nishi, 102).  Castle town can be formed in many different ways; however, what was in common among all the castle towns were that the opportunities had been discovered by the civilians living around which attracted them. For example, in Kanazawa, thousands of people were migrating to this place for settlement which increased the population exponentially due to that this city had been cultivated well enough to grab their attention. Farmers, textile houses, and merchants saw the surplus of demand which was an opportunity for their businesses to grow. Furthermore, by opening up new roads for easier transportation, Kanazawa had expanded the market even further and more convenient (McClain, 268). With the most important element, population, cultivating the city, urbanization and commercialization thus began.

According to Shigeru Satoh, castle towns can be categorized into five different forms, but before that, we have to take a look at how Japanese castles, in general, were categorized. Despite Japanese castles’ design, structure, and size, they were simply categorized by its topographic location. Sanjo, hirajo, and hirasanjo are the names that defined the castles whether they were built on a hill top, on a plain land, or partially on mountain and partially on plain land respectively (Kirby, 4). They all share various advantages and disadvantages in war time. For example, if the castle was built on a hill-top then its vision of surrounding would be clearer than those castles that were built on a plain land. However, the difficulty of constructing the castle on a hill-top would be must harder since they had to transport all the heavy materials all the way to the top of the mountain. The location of the castle is also important for the process of castle town development; the location became part of a critical strategy for the speed of urbanization and the success of economic development. For example, in Satoh’s identification of castle towns, if they were built on the coast or along the riverside, they had great advantages in trading. Especially when maritime trading was active, large quantity of goods could be traded right at the ports. “The coastline affected development of the urban areas, and consequently their spatial composition sometimes became dynamic and unique” (Satoh, 221). Satoh also identified other three types of castle towns and they are “castle towns with a mountain castle”, “castle towns located on a horseback-hill”, and “castle towns with a hill-on-the-plain castle” (Satoh, 221). These castle towns may not favour the advantage of merchant trading, like the ones built at the coast or riverside, which could boost their economy faster; nevertheless, it does not mean that it would slow down their economy. One big common advantage among these three types of castle towns is that their castles were built at better locations for exceptional military base. For example, he explains the most typical castle town formation was built at the foot of the mountain castle before sixteenth century. As previously mentioned, castles that were built on a mountain had a superior advantage on vision. Hence, with better security, population would definitely increase due to fewer casualties and due to attracting more migrants; also, businesses could develop better without interference.


20160302_163530   (Edo Castle)

20160302_163535   (Warriors’ houses)

20160302_163651   (“Urban Commoners’ buildings)

20160302_163541    (Temple/Shrine)

Castle towns are divided into four zones: “a castle, residential areas for warriors ranked by class, areas for ‘urban commoners’, and temple and shrine sites” (Satoh, 223). This distinctive zoning is also well shown on this, Tokaido Ichiranzu, map. Castle towns would consist of four main elements. The first is a castle, this is where political power centered. It also symbolizes, as previously mentions, as a fortification which used to defend from foreign attacks. The second is the residential area for warriors. This was usually constructed around the castle as protection. A hierarchical system was strictly enforced in this area. The higher class warriors were able to live in larger houses whereas lower class warriors resided in row houses. The third is defined by Satoh as “urban commoners” area. This was where commerce in the area was centered. People such as merchants, traders, and tailors were living in this region. One interesting point is that in Edo castle town, streets were named after what was traded in that area, “for example, lumber street, tub-maker’s street, and so forth” (Schmorleitz, 110). Last but not least, is the temple and shrine region. It was where religion was practiced at the time. As religion always played an important role in the development of a country in history, it is influential and inevitable. Temple and shrines were built in this area and people would go there to practice their rituals. These were usually located at the edge of the castle town or on a mountain (Satoh, 224).






Kirby, John B. From Castle to Teahouse: Japanese Architecture of the Momoyama Period. 1st ed. Tokyo: C.E. Tuttle Co, 1962.

McClain James L.. “Castle Towns and Daimyo Authority: Kanazawa in the Years 1583-1630”. Journal of Japanese Studies6.2 (1980): 267–299. Web. Mar. 26, 2016.

Nishi, Kazuo, and Kazuo Hozumi. What is Japanese Architecture?. 1st English ed. New York;Tokyo;: Kodansha International, 1985.

Satoh, Shigeru. “Urban Design and Change in Japanese Castle Towns”. Built Environment (1978-) 24.4 (1998): 217–234. Web. Mar. 26, 2016.

Schmorleitz, Morton S. Castles in Japan. Rutland, Vt: C. E. Tuttle Co, 1974.



Written by Charlie Feng