Reenactment of daimyo procession, Kanda, Tokyo, c. 1910.

1910sAmusements & RecreationsArts & CultureHistoric EventsModernization
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Reenactment of daimyo procession, Kanda, Tokyo, c. 1910. Sankin-kōtai (“alternate attendance”) was a policy of the Tokugawa shogunate feudal lords, daimyō, to alternate living for a year in their domain and then a year in Edo, the capital city. The daimyō wife and heir were required to remain in Edo as hostages while he was away. The expenditures necessary to maintain lavish residences in both places, and for the procession to and from Edo, sometimes numbering into the thousands, placed such financial strains on the daimyo it made them unable to wage war. The frequent travel of the daimyo also encouraged road building and the construction of inns and facilities along the routes, generating great economic activity.

See also:
Tokaido Highway, Tokyo, woodblock reprint, c. 1920

“The Tokaido, known to all lovers of color prints through the work of Hiroshige and Hokusai, as its name implies, runs in an easterly direction from Kyoto, the old imperial capital, to Tokyo, where the Shoguns held court.

“… The princely inns once found in every village have long since disappeared. Gone are the palaquins and the kagos, their former patrons, swallowed by the road of steel now paralleling the Tokaido. Gone are the picturesque crowds, and picturesque they must have been, if one is to believe Hiroshige.

“Twice a year every daimyo took this road in an obligatory journey to Tokyo to prove his loyalty and allegiance to the ruling Shogun. Accompanied by a horde of camp followers and by as large an armed force as private fortune permitted, each daimyo vied with the other in gorgeousness of equipment; each tried to out-rival the other in luxury.

“Love of excitement, show and glitter, if not desire for travel, brought the common people to this same thoroughfare, resulting in a congestion usually seen only in the crowded streets of the big city.”

Motor Days in Japan, by Trowbridge Hall, 1917

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