One of my long time dreams is to walk the entire Tokaido, the 488Km route linking Edo (Tokyo) and the capital, Kyoto.
In the days of the samurai, people, merchandise and culture traveled this route mostly by foot, stopping at any of the 53 government designated post towns and checkpoints along the way. Each of these Tokaido post towns featured special inns called Honjin, Waki-Honjin and Hatagoya.
The Honjin were reserved for the Daimyo, the military aristocrats, the highest ranked samurai and the nobility who were required to attend the Shogun’s court at Edo, or the Imperial court in Kyoto. The Waki-Honjin were for the lesser ranked samurai and Daimyo, while the Hatagoya were for the common folk, merchants, craftsmen, pilgrims and lower ranked samurai.
(The last remaining Hatagoya on the Tokaido)
When a lord was in residence at the Honjin, large curtains featuring his family crest would be hung from the eves of the grand gates and main entrance way. Likewise, the more affluent travelers would carry a wooden name board to display out front of the inns to inform passers-by, particularly messengers, of who was staying there.
(One of just two remaining Honjin, lodgings for the Daimyo on the old Tokaido)
(Curtains with the guest lords crest were displayed when the lord was in residence)
Of the 53 original Honjin along the Tokaido, only two remain standing today. One is the Futagawa Juku Honjin in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, and right alongside it is the only remaining Hatagoya, the Seimeiya Hatagoya. Both are now historically and culturally preserved as close to original as possible, with the rooms prepared as travelers would have found them.
(The Tokaido Museum behind the old lodgings gives you an idea of life on the Tokaido road)
Although you can no longer stay at either the Honjin or Hatagoya, you can still enjoy old style hospitality with a cup of green tea and Japanese wagashi cake while enjoying a view of the garden from a traditional room. There’s a museum dedicated to the two old inns and information on the Tokaido behind the Honjin.
You can walk in the footsteps of almost every historical figure of the Edo Period along the narrow streets of the Old Tokaido, and enjoy seeing how the samurai and the travelers of old along the Tokaido lived. The architecture, the history and the atmosphere of Old Japan can be found at Aichi Prefectures’ Futagawa Juku Honjin in Toyohashi. It’s another of the Secrets of Central Japan.
(Enjoy a traditional tea and Wagashi sweets in one of the traditional rooms)
Chris Glenn is a bilingual radio DJ, TV presenter, producer, narrator, MC, copywriter, author and columnist, and Japanese historian, specializing in samurai castles, battles, armor and weapons. He is an inbound tourism advisor, and is often called upon as a lecturer and speaker on Japanese history and topics. He was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1968, and has spent over half his life in Japan, most of that time in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Chris is dedicated to promoting and preserving Japans’ long history, deep culture, traditions, arts and crafts.