Ancient Tokaido highway 

The Tokaido Line is the ancient route / road  linking Tokyo to Kyoto.

In the late 16th century near the beginning of the Edo period, the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu established Edo (now known as Tokyo) as Japan’s new capital.

However, the Emperor of Japan remained in Kyoto and remained as the spiritual center of the country.

Because of this geographical split, the Tokaido route “Eastern Sea Road” linking the two places rose in prominence and became vital to connecting the two main centres of political, religious and economic power.

For centuries Japanese used the Tokaido route to travel, trade and tour between the major centres.

As a result there was a steady flow of foot traffic along this route which in turn increased the number of businesses such as restaurants, supply stores and accommodation established to cater to the needs of the travelers.

Shizuoka had a total of 22 established ‘Shukuba’ or stops on the Tokaido Road and towns / cities grew up and flourished around each of these stops.

Many of these towns, such as Mishima, Numazu, Shizuoka City and Kakegawa still exist and are easily accessible from modern bullet train stations along the modern Tokaido Line.

“…the genius of the Japanese race is manifest in its roads. 

The Tokaido Highway runs from Osaka to Edo – from the empire’s belly to the head, if you will – and knows of no equal, I assert, anywhere on earth, in either modernity or antiquity. 

The road is a city, fifteen feet in width, but three hundred well-drained, well-maintained, and well-ordered German miles in length, served by fifty-three way stations where travellers can hire porters, change horses, and rest or carouse for the night. 

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, set in 1800, David Mitchell

Tokaido Road “ukiyoe”

The Ancient Tokaido Road was made famous Japanese Ukiyoe woodprint artists Utagawa Hiroshige & Katsushika Hokusai who created some of Japan’s most iconic imagery from the 17th century and are said to have influences world-class Western painters such as Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. 

The ancient side was captured beautifully by 19th century ukiyoe artist Hiroshige, who painted a scene of each of the 53 nightly inn stops along the ancient Tokaido Highway.

Each of the 22 stops in Shizuoka were portrayed through Hiroshige’s work and he was also responsible for some of the more well known illustrations in the series of picaresque novels, written by Jippensha Ikku, known as Tokaidochu Hizakurige which depict the travels of Yaji and Kita from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo) along the Tokaido Highway during the Edo Period.

It is said that these books were not only the first examples of Japanese ‘Manga’ but also represented some of the first ever tourism guidebooks in the World.

Hakone Hachiri (10th Station)

Kanbara Juku (15th Station)

Yui Juku (Satta Pass – 16th Station)

Fuchu Juku (19th Station)

Kanaya Juku (24th Station)

Nissaka Juku (25th Station)

THE MODERN TOKAIDO 

Today, the Tokaido Shinkansen is the modern evolution of the historical highway, and throughout Shizuoka, the route is alive with activities and attractions to explore.

Fast forward 350 years to 1964, and the establishment of the Tokaido Shinkansen.

The line was built at rapid speed and in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and signified for many the success of Japan’s post-war recovery.

Originally, the train line was called the New Tokaido Line in English as it follows very closely the route of the ancient highway.

In Japan, these travelling routes have been popular for centuries, used to facilitate the flow of people, goods, and information between major centres, and this tradition continues today.

Today, the Tokaido route is more than just a shinkansen line and space-age way to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto, it is, arguably, the most important of all the travelling routes in Japan.

The Tokaido route has a vast array of historical heritage to see, and amazing activities to experience.

Intrepid explorers walk the Tokaido route, enjoying the traditional inns and a taste of ancient Japan, or stop off in cities like Shizuoka to experience performing arts festivals and explore the modern side of Japan.

Tokaido highway “JUKU”

The ancient Tokaido Highway follows Shizuoka Prefecture’s winding Pacific coastline and expertly juxtaposes the modern and ancient sides of Japan the country has come to be known for.

Along the original Tokaido Highway there were a total of 53 Post Stations, or ‘shukuba’ / ‘juku’ – 22 of which were located in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Although much of the original road has unfortunately become a casualty of modern progress with many of the old roads becoming new tar sealed highways and train lines to carry the modern traveler between Tokyo and Kyoto it is still possible to follow in the footsteps of ancient travelers and along the Shizuoka leg of the journey you will still be able to experience what inspired artists and travelers all those years ago.

Edo period travelers would either have started or finished their Shizuoka leg of the journey between Mishima and Hakone and of all the remnants of the old road still remaining it is this leg of the journey that gives the visitor the best understanding of what traveling along this road would have been like 300+ years ago.

From Mishima along the coast of Shizuoka there are many stops that visitors can enjoy… 

Hakone Hachiri

Yui Juku

Satta Pass

Chojiya

Fuchu Juku (Shizuoka)

Kanaya Juku

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