Atami City acts as the gateway to Izu Peninsula, conveniently located at its north-eastern corner, and on the Tokaido bullet train line that connects Japan’s 3 largest cities – Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. It takes just 40 minutes to reach Atami on the Kodama Tokaido bullet train from Tokyo or Shinagawa Stations.
Artiste Philippe Delord heralds from Tours, and in 2017 published a book of his contemporary paintings following in the steps of Hiroshige along Tokaido.
Kawazakaya Inn, one of the few remaining original Edo Period inns (shukuba) on the Tokaido is at Nissaka, about a 20 minute drive east from the Shinkansen station at Kakegawa. You can enter and enjoy looking around this recently renovated building, constructed in 1852 after a fire destroyed most of the buildings in the post town. If you are really lucky one of the volunteer guides on duty might sing for you one of the songs of Tokaido travellers, as they puffed their way over the tough Pass which is so vividly captured in Hiroshige's print.
Mariko has been a post town since the first Shogun, Yoritomo, granted the area to local warriors in 1189. Chijoya was established as a teahouse there in 1596. In 1601, Tokugawa, who established Edo as Japan's new capital, introduced the post horse system whereby elite and urgent travellers could exchange tired horses for fresh horses at frequent intervals along Tokaido. This encouraged Mariko's rapid development as a post town, busy with couriers, feudal lords, and travellers.
Mr Yamamoto is the thirteenth generation manager of Amasake Chaya. Together with his wife, their quaint little establishment serves thirsty Tokaido travellers with the sweet, warm, amasake their family has been serving for four centuries.
Four centuries ago exactly, the second Edo Period Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada, ordered the planting of sugi (Japanese Ceder, Cryptomeria japonica) along both sides of Tokaido to shade travellers as they made their way around the shoreline of Lake Ashinoko towards Hakone Checkpoint. 420 of these magnificant specimens remain, towering straight, fat, and proud into the Hakone sky along Ceder Avenue.
Tokaido had checkpoints at various intervals to ensure that travellers were bonefide and to protect the Shogun in the capital, Edo. Hakone was the closest checkpoint to Edo, so was one of the most severely policed. Perched between the waters of Lake Ashinoko and the steep mountainous terrain of Hakone, Tokaido travellers had no alternative but to submit to inspection.