Tokaido bungen no zu

     Tokaido bungen no zu is a map created in 1690, early Edo period. The map consists entire Tokaido road which starts from Edo to Kyoto, and illustrates road in scale of 1 to 12000, however, since the map is very long, it is divided into five accordion-folded books. Each includes: Edo to Odawara (Book 1), Odawara to Fuchu (Book 2), Fuchu to Yoshida (Book 3), Yoshida to Kameyama (Book 4), and Kameyama to Kyoto (Book 5). A map is drawn in only black and white, and only Tokaido road is drawn exclusively. This type of map is called a route map, “Douchuzu (道中図)”, and used by travelers who travel from Edo to Kyoto. The creator of this map are two person, Ochikochi Doin (遠近道印) as a surveyor of geography and Hishikawa Moronobu (菱川師宣) as a painter of the whole map. In this essay, I will introduce about this map and significant features as a Douchuzu.


About Tokaido

Tokaido is a road which established in Edo period by Tokugawa bakufu, however the road itself is used from very early period as a connection between eastern Japan and western Japan. When it is established, it is classified as one of Gokaido (five roads established in Edo period), and given name of Tokaido. After establishment, it is used by people as a measure of transportation, religious travel, and political transportation.


Ocikochi Doin is a Japanese surveyor in early Edo period. He works under Houjou Ujinaga, inspector-general of Tokugawa bakufu, and Tokaido bungen no zu is also created by order of Takugawa bakufu. He is known as specialist of surveying, and therefore, he completed multiple maps other than Tokaido such as Shipan Edo Soto Ezu (1671), which is map of northern and eastern suburb of Edo. Because of accuracy of surveying, he is titled of Zuou (図翁), the sage of map. For Tokaido bungen no zu, he works as surveyor, so he surveyed all geography of Tokaido and put all information on manuscript for painter, Hishikawa Moronobu.

Shinpan Edo soto ezu
Looking Back Beauty

Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-1694) is a “Ukiyoe” artist who did actual paintings of Tokaido bungen no zu based on Doin’s manuscript. He is first person who brought up the picture into the one single art from just an illustration of literature, therefore, he is known as an establisher of Ukiyoe art, but he also stepped into the other genre and types of arts such as Makurae, Joururie, and Yamatoe. One of his famous work is Mikaeri Bijin (Looking Back Beauty). As seen in Mikaeri bijin, he is superior on drawing people and their customs which is named Fuzokuga (Paintings depicts customs), and such his style is shown on the map.



Important features of this map

In this map, there are three features which is significant to be used as Douchuzu. Each are very distinct from common map and reflects creators’ personality.

First, basically, map exclusively illustrates Tokaido road. In the map, we can see Tokaido road, travelers walking, and buildings along it, however most scenery object outside of Tokaido road is omitted. Although some important nature object and scenery (like Mount. Fuji) depicted, others unnecessary common object (trees, side streets, and unknown mountains) are not drawn or simplified. This is because the map has more focused expected user. As mentioned earlier, Douchuzu is a map specifically used by those who uses Tokaido, and people who uses Tokaido do not need much information outside of the road, since it is one single road from Edo to Kyoto, therefore a map itself also a one long picture (divided into five) and does not need complex geographical information and illustrations to be written. However, even road is one straight line, travelers’ purpose may vary, so Hishikawa illustrates what users may need on map. For example, for those who love sightseeing, he draws significant building or natural objects to ensure where they are and what can be enjoyable to see along the road, and for those who walks shrine to shrine for religious purpose, he draws Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple among omit drawing other buildings.

Castle as a land mark, volume 4


Buddhist Temple drawn in map, volume 1







He also puts instructions to help travelers how to walk the Tokaido. In this time period, even though the Tokaido is established by bakufu, there are not particular transportation system established to cross the river, so Hishikawa writes instructions of how to cross the river, also at the entrance of every city or town, he put distance to the hotel and the name of hotel to stay.


Information of hotel and distance to next city, volume 3
People crossing river and its description as a instruction, volume 3

Those information, may not need for common map, however, Hishikawa tends to draw this information to entertain and help travelers over role of simply telling geography as a map. This is because Hishikawa is an artist and has more interest in people than geography. As introduced earlier, he is an Ukiyoe artist who tends to draw people and their custom, therefore, he may be looking at travelers more importantly than geography by analyzing what traveler needs and provide information to satisfy their purpose. As a result, this type of Douchuzu, in later period, given a further name of Douchu annai zu (route guidance map), and widely used by various types of travelers.






Second, this map is uniquely straightened to adjust the shape of book. As explained at introduction, this map is in five accordion folded books because of its length, however, actual shape of Tokaido does not fit to straight paper since the actual road curves in shaped along the south eastern coast of Japan. Such change of shape in map effects on drawings of map. Compass is necessary item for map to find out direction. In this map, compass can be found at most of city, and at some city, two compasses are drawn in same page, more uniquely, some of such two compasses point to different direction. For example,  in the below picture, we can see two rectangles are drawn as a compass, and in each rectangles, four Japanese character are drawn which each represents east (東), south (南), west (西) and north (北), however, as we see, two norths are point towards different direction. Also, Mountain Fuji, which should be only one in Japan, has been drawn in same book, but in different size.

Two compasses shown up in same page, volume 2
Picture of Mount Fuji in page 9 of volume 2
Picture of Mount Fuji in page 12 of volume 2

These facts tell that in order to fit in the shape of book, map pf Tokaido is straightened. Since the map straightened and sense of direction twisted, there has to be multiple number of compasses drawn to tell that the direction changes at some points, and so Mount Fuji shows up on different location since we see it from different direction but facing Fuji as background. Such technique can only be used in Douchuzu. Since there is only one, traveler does not have to rely on direction, and so the map does not have to keep the direction in one way like a common map and can change the shape anyway.




Third, even Douchuzu does not have strict sense of direction, as a map, it has strict sense of measurement and distance. Since the road is straight, travelers do not need to worry about direction, however still they need to know where they are on the road. In the title of this map, Tokaido bungen no zu, the word bungen (分間) can be translated as surveying in English, and Ochikochi Doin, who worked for surveying geography of Tokaido gives much information on the map which is enough to prove that this map has sense of distance.


Distance to Mishima, volume 2
Distance to Hakone, volume 2

For example, in the first page of second book, distance to next city is mentioned as; 箱根へ四里 (four ri to Hakone), and in the city of Hakone, distance to the next city Mishima is mentioned as; 三嶋へ三里充八町(three ri and eighteen cho to Mishima).







Also, along the very long street in the city of Edo, number of districts are written at bottom of each house such as 一丁,二丁,三丁, and tells reader their location on the street. Also, according to the introduction of this map. The map is drawn in the scale of 1 to 12,000, which means, about 109 m of Tokaido road reduced to just 9 mm. Even though the map is drawn very artistically by Hishikawa, Ochikochi’s accurate surveying identify this map as accurate measured route map.

Street and houses in the city of Edo, volume 1








     Tokaido bugen no zu is an ideal route map which introduces how Douchuzu is distinct from other common maps. Between two different professionals, Hishikawa and Ochikochi, the map became both artistic and accurate map which attract and help people travel according to their purpose.


Works Cited:

Gunsaulus, Helen C. “A Painted Scroll of the Early Ukiyo-É School.” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago (1907-1951) 24, no. 4 (1930): 44-46.

Traganou, Jilly. The Tōkaidō Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Yonemoto, Marcia. “The “Spatial Vernacular” in Tokugawa Maps.” The Journal of Asian Studies 59, no. 3 (2000): 650-53.

“東海道分間絵図について.” 神奈川県立歴史博物館. Accessed April 19, 2018.

“東海道Q&A.” 東海道への誘い. Accessed April 19, 2018.