Fujikawa Station

Consisting of fifty-three post stations, the Tōkaidō Road was a massive route that connected the “imperial capital”, Kyoto, with Edo, “the seat of the Tokugawa Shogunate”.[1] Purposefully-placed pine trees and stone lanterns decorated the road to aid in sheltering travelers from the weather.[2] In between Akasaka-shuku and Okazaki-shuku lies Fujikawa-shuku, the relatively quiet 37th post station. During the time the Tōkaidō Road was still active, roughly 1200 people occupied the post station.[3] The post station consisted of 302 buildings at its peak that were created in order to accommodate the officials and commoners that traveled along the Tōkaidō Road.[4] The buildings consisted of additional lodgings as well including one Honjin, one sub-Honjin (waki-honjin) and thirty-six Hatago.[5] Honjin were buildings that were exclusively created for “daimyo [feudal lords], high-ranking samurai, and government officials” to stay in.[6] No commoners were allowed to lodge in the Honjin regardless of their status in society.[7] In the sub-Honjin that Fujikawa held, however, wealthy commoners were permitted to stay when no daimyo and high-ranking officials were lodging there.[8] The Hatago were created for commoners who were usually lower in status and wealth to stay in.[9] The Fujikawa post station was significant for its simplicity through its buildings.

Early Modern Japan witnessed an increase in travelling despite the travel restrictions that were put into place in order to prohibit too much travelling by commoners on a road that was intended for the government’s “military needs”.[10] Later, travelling became a recreational act among commoners who travelled under the guise of going on a pilgrimage, which was officially permitted and encouraged by government officials.[11] During the early modern period, travellers included all social ranks, many of which ignored the rule that one can only travel with official permission.[12] Despite the blatant disregard for the regulations set, mobility in the early modern period was increased through the flexibility the government showed regarding unofficial travelling.[13] This increase and positive view on mobility was what defined “Tokugawa Japan from the 18th century and on[wards]”.[14]

The Tōkaidō Road also served as a way for daimyo to make their annual “alternate attendance” trips that involved traveling to Edo in order to “wait upon the shogun”.[15] Due to these trips being of annual occurrence, daimyo were regular travelers along the Tōkaidō Road. In order to aid in the daimyo’s journeys, they had aides that followed and inns such as the Honjin and sub-Honjin constructed by the government to help provide lodging.[16] Yet, regardless of the daimyos’ constant travelling through the Tōkaidō, commoners became the most frequent travellers and the early modern age became characterized through the travelling that commoners carried out, despite the less extravagant nature.[17]

Although the stations all fulfilled the necessary functions required by the government such as transportation services and recreational buildings, Fujikawa appears to have been created and known for its inns in particular, seen through the daimyo and commoners’ usage of the inns.[18] However, all post stations were obligated to have at least one Honjin as well as other sub-Honjins, and in most stations, the Hatago outnumbered the Honjin.[19] By looking at these aspects, the Fujikawa station does not stand out in comparison to the stations that surround it. For example, the nearby Akasaka-shuku specialized in brothels and prostitution, whereas the Fujikawa station was not known for any prominent rivers or specializations such as brothels. Albeit, the Fujikawa post station represented travelling on the Tōkaidō Road and its rapid development and increase of importance during the early modern period. This can be seen through the simplicity of Fujikawa-shuku and the inns that it houses, catering to the daimyo and commoners that passed through it. Fujikawa-shuku can be considered as a straightforward passing point in order to get to Edo, but the necessity of having this simple passing point shows that there was a great need for post stations that were well-known for its lodgings for commoners and government officials alike. This then implies the frequency of travel made across the Tōkaidō and displays the Fujikawa station’s significance in the early modern Japan. The necessity of a post station that consists of mainly inns and does not specifically specialize in a certain area depicts the large increase in travel and mobility.

Early Modern Japan’s idea of mobility was less static than originally thought and can be seen as somewhat flexible or relaxed in terms of the control system Japan had in place.[20] This is reflected in the thirty-six Hatago that existed in Fujikawa station which are physical representations of travelling becoming encouraged for commoners as the Hatago often outnumbered the Honjin in post stations.[21] The peasants’ travelling was what characterized Japan’s idea of mobility, and the contents of the Fujikawa station show this.

Today, Fujikawa station is apart of the city, Okazaki, in Aichi prefecture.[22] Several of the buildings that existed in the past still stand today. Through the efforts of the Okazaki city government, Fujikawa station has been commemorated through the creation of the Fujikawa-juku Archives Museum in the sub-Honjin that has survived. Next to the original East Checkpoint site is the Fujikawa-shuku woodblock print by Ando Hiroshige, recreated through a marker stone and a park. Beside the sub-Honjin, one kilometre of replanted pine trees line the original Tōkaidō Road. In terms of historical connection to the past, when walking through the present Fujikawa post station location, one may be able to see some connection through the old buildings that have managed to survive. However, what is left of the Fujikawa post station is not completely reminiscent of its past as it is empty of the once active town that held 1200 people, and has fewer buildings to remember it by.


[1]  Jilly Traganou, “The Tokaido – Scenes from Edo to Meiji Eras,” Japan Railway & Transport Review, no. 13 (1997): 17, accessed February 03, 2019, http://www.ejrcf.or.jp/jrtr/jrtr13/pdf/f17_tra.pdf.

[2] Constantine Nomikos Vaporis, Breaking Barriers: Travel and the State in Early Modern Japan (Cambridge, Mass: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1994), 44.

[3] “Tokaido Fujikawa-shuku/Fujikawa-shuku Museum,” Aichi Prefectural Tourism Association, https://www.aichi-now.jp/en/spots/detail/316/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Traganou, “The Tokaido,” 17.

[7] Vaporis, Breaking Barriers, 22.

[8] “Tokaido Fujikawa-shuku”.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Traganou, “The Tokaido,” 17.

[11] Vaporis, Breaking Barriers, 4.

[12] Ibid., 5.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Vaporis, Breaking Barriers, 12; Traganou, “The Tokaido,” 17-18.

[16] Traganou, “The Tokaido,” 17.

[17] Vaporis, Breaking Barriers, 12.

[18] Ibid., 22.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., 3-5.

[21] Ibid., 22.

[22] “Tokaido Fujikawa-shuku”.


Traganou, Jilly. “The Tokaido – Scenes from Edo to Meiji Eras.” Japan Railway & Transport Review, no. 13 (1997): 17-27. Accessed February 03, 2019. http://www.ejrcf.or.jp/jrtr/jrtr13/pdf/f17_tra.pdf.

Vaporis, Constantine Nomikos. Breaking Barriers: Travel and the State in Early Modern Japan. Cambridge, Mass: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1994.

“Tokaido Fujikawa-shuku/Fujikawa-shuku Museum.” Aichi Prefectural Tourism Association. https://www.aichi-now.jp/en/spots/detail/316/.

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