Tokaidō bunken ezu is a volume of scaled (1 to 12,000) maps which shows the Tokaido in its entirety. (Click here to view the map in the UBC collection.) The Tokaido was a long road connecting Edo (present day Tokyo) to the capital (present day Kyoto), and the most important route among the Five Routes of the Edo period. This map was first printed in 1690 (genroku 3), and created by Ochikochi Doin, with the illustrations done by Hishikawa Moronobu. The collection of maps are made as an accordion book, and are divided into 5 sections:

Book 1: Edo to Odawara station
Book 2: Odawara station to Fuchu station
Book 3: Fuchu station to Yoshida station
Book 4: Yoshida station to Kameyama station
Book 5: Kameyama station to Kyoto

The map itself is black and white, although later versions have some colour to them. It is classified as a dochuzu, or a road map, and depicts everyday life all along the Tokaido. The map is  very detailed and fairly accurate, as there are small details everywhere. However, due to how the folded and long nature of the maps, they were probably not for actual use along the road, rather for “armchair traveling”, where one could imagine that they were actually traveling the Tokaido just by looking at this map. It was also used as a travel guide, because of its details which I will go into later.

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Depiction of Edo on Tokaido bunken ezu.

The collection of maps are relatively easy to find online. The collection I have been using, belonging to the University of British Columbia, has physical copies as well as digital ones online. There are also online versions published by the National Archives of Japan, and the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History, who also have pages dedicated to the map’s details.

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A daimyo procession, Volume 4


Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.10.15 PM.pngThere are fifty-three stations in total along the Tokaido, and on the map, each station is labeled. below each station’s name is also the name of the tonya (traders, or brokers) as well as each station’s travel fees. There is also a compass label at each station, which was to orient yourself on where you are in relation to north-south-east-west. Lastly, the distance to the next station is also labeled in ri (里) and cho (町). ri and cho were both units of measure in Japan, with one ri being 2.44 miles and one cho equalling to 109 meters.

Another feature of the maps is how much text there is on it. In addition to these labels on each station, there are countless labels about various famous places and teahouses. At times along the road, there are also poems written about that particular place.
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All along the road, there are people who are depicted as traveling somewhere, just as the road might have looked like during that time. There are big groups such as the daimyo procession in the picture above, but there are also small groups of people, and at some points there are people depicted who work the fields. This depiction of people on the map suggest that the map was not for practical navigation, but for, as mentioned above, armchair traveling.

Another feature on the maps that is labeled are the banshoBansho, or guard posts, were typically set up near the gates of the post station, and the purpose of these were to police the locals, collect travel charges and generally policing the area.

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The bansho is located on the left, labeled, 番所.

Yet another feature on the maps is the inclusion of the ichirizuka 一里Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.41.57 PM.png塚. The ichirizuka were just road markers, and they were marked by flanking mounds along the road. These were important in that they acted as milestones, and were a measure of how far you were from Edo in ri. Out of the 120 markers, 103 of them are depicted in this collection of maps, which emphasizes the ichirizuka‘s importance as well as the relative accuracy of the maps.

Famous, very well known places are labeled as well. In fact, some things are illustrated in more than one instance. Take for example, Mount Fuji. Because of its size, one can see Mt. Fuji from a variety of places. This map accurately depicts Mt. Fuji from a variety of angles, and appears in the map around ten different times. Another famous mountain in the Edo period, Mt. Oyama, appears along the road numerous times as well.

Certain meteorological patterns can be observed as well. Why does this happen? Jilly Traganou has said in her book “The Tōkaidō Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan” that these are a “preoccupation of ukiyo-e iconography”. I believe it also gives the maps a bit of life, and realism, as these things actually happen in real life. The same reason could be applied to the inclusion of commoners walking along the road as well.

The three examples of meteorological patterns are the snow on Mount Fuji, the raining near Hara station and the flooding of the Oi river. In Hara, you can see people holding up umbrellas as well as others running to find shelter.

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All these features help the reader imagine him/herself traveling along the Tokaido, traversing through the various terrain and post stations along the way.

Notable Stations

Seki Station 関宿

Seki station is the 47th station along the Tokaido, which makes it one of the last stops on the way to Kyoto. At the time, Seki was known as a lively post town because other roads intersected the station as well. In addition to the Tokaido, the Isebetsu Kaido and the Yamato Kaido passed through as well, which explains the station’s traffic. Now, the former post station is located in Kameyama, Mie prefecture, and is one of the only stations whose historical buildings are largely intact. If you ever get the chance to go here, you’ll be able to enjoy the old townscape.

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As it appears on Tokaido bunken ezu
Present day Seki station


Maruko Station 丸子宿

Maruko station, also known as Mariko station 鞠子宿 is the 20th station situated along the Tokaido. It has the distinction of being the smallest station of the ones along the Tokaido, and is now located in present day Shizuoka, Shizuoka prefecture.

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Maruko station on Tokaido bunken ezu

Despite being the smallest station, it is very famous for one thing: its tororo jiru (とろろ汁). Tororo jiru is a dish made out of grated Japanese yam (called jinenjo), and then poured over rice. The place which is famous for its tororo jiru, Chojiya 丁子屋 appears in numerous works, such as Utagawa Hiroshige’s famous Tokaido Gojuusantsugi, which are ukiyo-e prints of each station along the Tokaido. For Maruko, Hiroshige chose to draw Chojiya (seen below).

Depiction of Maruko station in Tokaido Gojuusantsugi

It also appears in Jippensha Ikku’s Tokaidochuhizakurige (known as Shank’s Mare in English), where the main characters Kitahachi and Yajirobei, upon arriving at Maruko station, attempt to eat this famous dish at Chojiya. However, they end up not being able to eat it as Chojiya’s owner and his wife get into an argument, and Kitahachi and Yajirobei are forced to leave.

Tororo jiru

While Kitahachi and Yajirobei were not so lucky, we still have the fortunate opportunity to eat tororo jiru. Chojiya, the place that was famous for this, still exists in the same area as it did in the Edo period – so, if you ever get a chance to travel to Shizuoka, make sure you go to Chojiya to try tororo jiru!


Works Cited

Chamberlain, Basil Hall, and W. B. Mason. A Handbook for Travellers in Japan: (including Formosa). London: J Murray, 1913.

Traganou, Jilly. “The Tokaido – Scenes from Edo to Meiji Eras.” Japan Railway & Transport Review, no. 13 (September 1997): 17-27.

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

“番所(ばんしょ)とは.” コトバンク. Accessed April 07, 2016.番所-118119.

今井, 金吾. 今昔東海道独案内. 東京都: 日本交通公社出版事務所, 1974.

松下, 幸子. “江戸食文化紀行-江戸の美味探訪- No.71「とろろ汁」.” 江戸食文化紀行-江戸の美味探訪. 2004. Accessed April 07, 2016.

“伊賀街道・大和街道の分岐点.” 歴史の情報蔵. 2008. Accessed April 07, 2016.

渡辺, 和敏. 東海道の宿場と交通. 静岡市: 静岡新聞社, 2000.

“東海道分間絵図について.” 神奈川県立歴史博物館. Accessed April 07, 2016.

東海道2峠6宿街道観光協議会. “駿河歩人(するがあいんど):丸子宿.” 駿河歩人. Accessed April 09, 2016.

Contributor: Kaito Koshizuka
(Edited by Elle Marsh)