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Breaking Barriers: Travel and the State in Early Modern Japan

Breaking Barriers: Travel and the State in Early Modern Japan

by Constantine Nomikos VaporisConstantine Nomikos Vaporis


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Travel in Tokugawa Japan was officially controlled by bakufu and domainal authorities via an elaborate system of barriers, or sekisho, and travel permits; commoners, however, found ways to circumvent these barriers, frequently ignoring the laws designed to control their mobility. In this study, Constantine Vaporis challenges the notion that this system of travel regulations prevented widespread travel, maintaining instead that a “culture of movement” in Japan developed in the Tokugawa era.

Using a combination of governmental documentation and travel literature, diaries, and wood-block prints, Vaporis examines the development of travel as recreation; he discusses the impact of pilgrimage and the institutionalization of alms-giving on the freedom of movement commoners enjoyed. By the end of the Tokugawa era, the popular nature of travel and a sophisticated system of roads were well established. Vaporis explores the reluctance of the bakufu to enforce its travel laws, and in doing so, beautifully evokes the character of the journey through Tokugawa Japan.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674081079
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/06/1995
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #163
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 402
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.06(d)

About the Author

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction

  1. The Arms and Legs of the Realm

    • Growth and Expansion of the Tokugawa System
    • The Road Infrastructure
    • Maintenance and General Road Conditions
    • Bridges and River Crossings

  2. The Social Organization of the Gokaido Network

    • Sukego Taxation
    • The Nature of the Sukega Levy
    • Economic Problems of the Post Stations
    • Contention and Confrontation

  3. A Curious Institution

    • Sekisho Before the Institutionalization of Alternate Attendance
    • The Strategic Role of Sekisho
    • Military and Police Functions
    • Guard Force and Back-up Mechanisms
    • Sekisho Regulations and Policy
    • Maintaining Civil Peace
    • Domain Barriers

  4. Permits and Passages

    • Applying for a Travel Permit
    • Types and Methods
    • Who Needed a Travel Permit?
    • Women and Travel Permits
    • Passing Through the Barriers

  5. The Benevolence of the Realm

    • Flexibility with Defective Permits
    • Entering the Brush
    • Short-cuts and Cross-Dressing
    • Graft and the Purchase of Permits
    • Attempts to Regulate Pilgrimage

  6. Travel as Recreation

    • The Development of a Travel Industry
    • The Secularization of Pilgrimage
    • The Major Pilgrimage Sites
    • Social Participants

  • Conclusion
  • Appendices
  • Notes
  • List of Works Cited
  • Index

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