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
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.