This Edo No Zu, created by Kitagawa Sōchō in 1853, is the map of Edo centered with Edo Castle, which was surrounded by the moat during the Edo period. The Edo period, also known as the Tokugawa period or the pre-modern Japan, is the period from 1603 to 1868. The Tokugawa shogunate was founded by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in Edo on March 24th, 1603, three years after the battle of Sekigahara, where he eliminated his rivals in 1600. It is also the third and the last warrior governments (the first two being the Kamakura and Muromachi shogunates) in the Japanese history. And this long Japanese history was ruled under the Tokugawa shognate and the country’s daimyo, the Bakuha system. This paper will discuss about some interesting features drawn on this particular Edo No Zu, why are they important and how are they related to the Japanese history of the Edo period.

The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the Tokugawa bakufu and the Edo bakufu, has a very strict hierarchy system created by the shogun Tokugawa. The system used to rule the country was called the Bakuha system. Hall mentioned in his article, “Bakuha system (bakuhan taisei), coined by modern Japanese historians, recongnizes the fact that under the Edo bakufu, or shogunate, government organization was the result of the final maturation of the institutions of shogunal rule at the national level and of daimyo rule at the local level.”. With this kind of ruling method, the Tokugawa shogunate also established a four-class system (Shi-no-ko-sho), the samurai, farmer, artisan, and merchant, in descending order of ranking, in order to keep things in control. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, roughly 10 percent were samurai, with the population of close to 30 million people. The ranking of a samurai is relatively high; not only is he permitted to hold two swords to show his identity to the public, he could also cut down people’s head when he felt he has been insulted; and it was not uncommon during that time. In the Shank’s Mare, one samurai felt he was insulted by Yajirobei and intended to cut Yaji’s head off using his swords. Fortunately, both his and his companion’s swords were unable to use, and that was how Yaji was lucky enough to escape from this fate, and to keep his life and continue on his journey with his companion Kita to their final destination, Ise.

Below the shogun were the daimyo, or domain (han) lords, and the shogun’s direct vassals. Those who are entrusted the most by the shogun were called shinpan, the collateral houses, who worked on provincial administration. Below them were the “house” (fudai) daimyo, who had been following Tokugawa before the battle of Sekigahara. And the rest were made up by the “outside” (tozama) daimyo, who gained the name before the rise of the Tokugawa. The total number of daimyo by the end of eighteenth century was around 260. To help the shogun controlling all the daimyo living in different parts of Japan, the shogunate introduced the alternate attendance (sankin kotai) system, which forced the daimyo to visit shogun and the Edo once in every period of time, usually every other year but depended on the region. In order to make this policy happen, a daimyo had to reside his wife and children in a residential estate or palace (yashiki) in Edo, which normally cost around 70 to 80 percent of his income.

In the center of the map, we could see there are two kanji reading “oshiro” (castle) and “nishinomaru” (Western circle/quarters). The area on the map referred to the Edo-jo, which located the Tokugawa family members and ministry officials of the time. We could also see another interesting feature on this map, the red clan symbols, is called the mon, showing on the houses. They only appeared on the spaces relatively bigger than the others, since the property belonged to the members of Tokugawa government, and therefore more power and more money than an ordinary citizen in the society. Even though the governors had more money than the regular citizens, a performance of an alternate attendance, usually involved 2,000 people per trip, would cost around three thousand ryo, which, after converting into yen using nowadays, is roughly around two hundred million yen, for a thirteen-day-twelve-night trip. In a result, many daimyo had to borrow a huge amount of money just to complete this mandatory performance, and at last, led to the bankruptcy of the family.

The four classes, Shi-no-ko-sho, only categorized the men during the Edo period, and not the women. Women, who were married to the daimyo, were usually settled with their children in a residential estate in Edo as mentioned above. For most part of the houses and names seen on the map resided only women and children, because the daimyo were out of Edo city to stay at important positions and protecting them for the shogun. In the beginning of the Edo period, there were only limited number of travel literature records composed by women; and most of them were usually the wives and daughters of the daimyo, who have the time and money to do so. During those years, only a few women were willing to take the risk to go on the road, therefore, there were only very few records recording in the official records about females. However, a couple of years later, the number of women travelling on road had increased, and more and more frequent for them to appear on the official records. “A document produced by the checkpoints of Hakone and Nebugawa on 1715/9/23, for instance, reveals that in the second month of that year alone a total of forty-nine women had transited through the two barriers. Of the 171 travel permits collected therein in the span of five months, 167 had been issued for female travelers. As women traveled in larger numbers, their categories became more diverse. By 1721 the authorities acknowledged that ‘recently in the cities the number of people who on a daily basis request travel permits for women has grown,’ coming to include ‘even lower classes and servants’ (suezue karukimono mademo)”. Despite of an increased number of women travelling during the period of Edo, in most of the cases, women’s appearances in the history remained hidden because their journeys and diaries simply did not survived the time. Not only the works of the women, they were the same for men’s as well, “unless she (or he) filed a petition to obtain a passport, made a recorded donation at a temple, inscribed her (his) name onto a memorial stone.”.

Even though there are a lot of different kinds of maps created by various artists for the city of Edo, the reason why I have chosen this one to analyze is because this particular Edo No Zu is more colourful than the others and therefore has a more lively feeling. With this brighter use of colours, in contrast with the stubborn hierarchy and Bakuha system during Edo period, I feel like it gives us a closer feeling to the everyday life of Edo. With the strict rules created by the Tokugawa shogunate, everyone has to obey them, or else they would be treated as not loyal to the shogun or a traitor to the country. One might think that being a daimyo would be easier than being an ordinary person living in Edo, however it may not be the case, since being a daimyo meant that he has to own a residence in Edo for his wife and children to live, and moreover, he has to participate in the alternate attendance, which cost a crazy amount of money per trip, which usually occurred every two years. Being a woman during Edo period might not be as easy as just living in the palace, which her husband has bought for her and her children, in Edo, there are many reasons that their appearances remain hidden behind the scene. Since women usually remained hidden from the official records, we are not sure about their statuses and their life styles. We only know that towards the end of the Edo period, the number of women travelling to other cities has increased.

Works Cited

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Translations from the Asian Classics : Early Modern Japanese Literature : An Anthology, 1600-1900. New York, US: Columbia University Press, 2002. Accessed March 19, 2017. ProQuest ebrary.

Hall, John Whitney, Marius B. Jansen, Madoka Kanai, Denis Twitchett, James L. McClain, and Cambridge Histories Online 2012 and Preceeding. 1991. Early modern japan. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Rotolo, P. (2013). Mapping social hierarchies onto the city of Edo. Osher Map Library: Smith Center for Cartographic Education. Retrieved from

Nenzi, Laura Nenz Detto, and Project Muse University Press Archival eBooks. 2008;2007;. Excursions in identity: Travel and the intersection of place, gender, and status in edo japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.


Contributor: Evita
March 27, 2017