Edo Five Routes

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The Gokaidō

The Five Routes (五街道 Gokaidō?), sometimes translated as "Five Highways", were the five centrally-administered routes, or kaidō, that connected the capital of Japan at Edo (now Tokyo) with the outer provinces during the Edo period (1603 – 1868).[1] The most important of the routes was the Tōkaidō, which linked Edo and Kyoto. Tokugawa Ieyasu started the construction of these five routes to increase his control over the country in 1601, but it was Tokugawa Ietsuna, the 4th shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate and Ieyasu's great-grandson, who declared them as major routes. Post stations were set up along the route for travelers to rest and buy supplies.[1] The routes thrived due to the policy of sankin-kōtai, that required the daimyo, or regional rulers, to travel in alternate years along the routes to Edo.[1]

The Five Routes[edit]

Nihonbashi's highway distance marker, marking the beginning of the five routes

Each of the routes started at Nihonbashi in Edo. From that point, each road linked the capital with other parts of the country.

The Tōkaidō had 53 stations and ran along the Pacific coast, connecting with Kyoto.[2] Once it reached Kusatsu-juku, it shared its route with the Nakasendō.
The Nakasendō (also often called the Kisokaidō) had 69 stations and ran through the center of Honshū, connecting with Kyoto. The Nakasendō's Shimosuwa-shuku served as the end point for the Kōshū Kaidō. Also, the Nakasendō merged with the Tōkaidō at Kusatsu-juku.[3]
Kōshū Kaidō
The Kōshū Kaidō had 44 stations, connecting with Kai Province (Yamanashi Prefecture), before ending at the Nakasendō's Shimosuwa-shuku.[4]
Ōshū Kaidō
The Ōshū Kaidō had 27 stations, connecting with Mutsu Province (Fukushima Prefecture). There were subroutes that connected to other places of northern Japan, too.[5]
Nikkō Kaidō
The Nikkō Kaidō had 21 stations, connecting with Nikkō Tōshō-gū in modern-day Tochigi Prefecture.[6]

Other routes[edit]

The Tōkaidō in 1865
Nakasendō's Magome-juku

In addition to the five routes, there were minor routes that were either branches of or alternates to the main routes, or infrequently used routes. Some of the routes were referred to as hime kaidō, as they were alternate paths for main trade routes, but none were officially called that.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Gokaidō". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-11-10. 
  2. ^ Forbes, Andrew; Henley, David (2014). Utagawa Hiroshige's 53 Stations of the Tokaido. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. B00LM4APAI
  3. ^ WebJapan Atlas: Nakasendo. Accessed August 2, 2007.
  4. ^ Yumekaidō: Kōshū Kaidō Map (Japanese) (Translate: Google, Babelfish). Accessed September 4, 2007.
  5. ^ Yumekaidō: Ōshū Kaidō Map (Japanese) (Translate: Google, Babelfish). Accessed September 4, 2007.
  6. ^ Nikkōdō (Japanese) (Translate: Google, Babelfish)[dead link]. Accessed August 15, 2007.
  7. ^ Nagasaki Kaidō. (Japanese) Nagasaki Prefecture. Accessed March 12, 2008.