Celebrating 400 years
as the Shogunate's Official Road
- Part 2
Written documents dating back to 713 (Shoku Nihon-gi), comment on the Kiso Road which leads on through a number of mountain passes to the plains of Matsumoto, in present Nagano Prefecture . .|
In the Ise Monogatari, you will find a story named "Azuma kudari", which describes Narihira's sojourn to Mt Asama and on to Musashino.
The Kokin-Monogatari-Shu has one story set near the present-day village of Hozumi, in western Mino Province, present day Gifu Prefecture.
These ancient anals however, consider the center of culture to be Kyoto, and anything beyond was "to the East" hence "the Azuma Road", or "the Kiso Road" which focused mainly on the road's most treacherous section. However, as power changed and the center of Government changed, Edo (present day Tokyo) became the focus of everyone's attention. All major roads now lead to (or splayed from) Edo, hence "the Nakasendo" or "middle mountain road".
Some time in the middle of the Edo Period, the Shogunate allowed free travel to pilgrims who wanted to make pilgrimages to temples and shrines. This started a travel boom, with lots of guide books, maps, and travel diaries being published. Some books even went into details about how to deal with sore feet and blisters, how to prevent heat exhaustion and sea sickness, and how best to take a bath on an empty stomach.
When Princess Kazu, younger sister of Emperor Komei, received a letter from the Shogunate in the eastern capital of Edo, she was very upset. Although it was usual for young princesses to become administers of the clergy, Princess Kazu had been betrothed to Prince Taruhito of the Arisugawa-no-miya royal family at the age of 6.|
The letter from the Tokugawa household asked for Kazu-no-miya's hand in marriage. From the very start, it was obvious that it was a political partnership. Foreign ships had started to enter the port of Yokohama. No longer could the Tokugawa family alone keep the fervour of the young clan leaders. A marriage between the Imperial house and the political rulers was thought to be the answer to the predicted troubles.
On Oct 20th in the first year of Bunkyu (1861), 15-year-old Princess Kazu boarded the carriage that would take her from home in Kyoto, and headed east towards Edo. Along with her went 10,000 servants and retainers sent from Tokyo to greet her and another 12,000 servants and retainers from Kyoto who would accompany her to her new home. To spite the dwaining coffers of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the delegation to greet Kazu-no-miya took with them lavish gifts, and gifts of money to the empoverished elites in Kyoto. From Kyoto Princess Kazu took with her several personal items as well as the cabinets that contained them. Instructions were given that the young princess should feel no lonliness at leaving the city of her birth. Her room in Edo was decorated so as to mirror her room in Kyoto.
In total, her entourage stretched for some 50 kms, it is said, and took 4 days for the last person to pass through each station town along the way. Ariyoshi Sawako, in her novel Kazu-no-miya O-tome, describes the stress of travelling in such a tiny carriage without the usual contact with family and staff. While travelling, meals were but twice a day, and the party travelled an average of 30 kms per day on foot.
Princess Kazu passed through the Mino area between the 25th and 29th, staying overnight at Akasaka, Kano, Ota, Okute, and Nakatsugawa. In Ota and Okute, records remain describing how much rice, and charcoal, and how many pillows and dishes were needed to accomodate the troupe. From the two lists (for example 1,380 pillows for Ota, 6,000 at Okute), we can gather that the requirement was much greater than what the stations were able to provide. Even Toson's Before the Dawn describes the clammor to fulfill the designated quota.
|Back to the Azuma-Nakasendo History ..p.1/3pp.||On to the 400th Anniversary of the Nakasendo Celebrations ..p.3/3pp.|
Gifu Prefecture's Hime Kaido page |
Japanese Literature Miyazawa Kenji Murakami Haruki Ariyoshi Sawako
American Literature Mark Twain Native American Mythology