It was a bustling place in their heyday with as many as one hundred forty hotels in total. Most of them are now gone, but you can still see its magnificence in the great pine trees along the highway that connects the two towns.
The trees were planted in the beginning of Edo period, in early 17th century by the local governor to offer shade to the wayfarers during summer, and shelter from wind and snow during winter. They have been cared by the locals and witnessed travelers passing under them since then.
Among the most prominent travelers were Daimyo, great feudal lords. Tokugawa shogunate instituted an alternate residence duty, Sankin Kotai which mandated Daimyo to pay liege homage to the ruling shogun every few years and stay in Edo for a year after seeing him.
So, they alternated living between Edo and their home castle. The result is the procession of feudal lords with several hundred to one thousand entourage each up and down Tokaido Road.
In Akasaka, a Hatago, traditional Japanese hotel from Edo period, had operated until March 2015. The former hotel, Ohashi-Ya, is now going through renovation to be reopened as a tourist information center in April 2019. The hotel was founded some three hundred and seventy years ago. The current building dates back to 1716 and showcases classic post-town hotel.
In Goyu, there is a small but interesting museum which houses artifacts from the days when Tokaido Road was the artery of Japan. On the wall hangs a sedan chair used by a doctor in the 19th century. You can see the travel attire from the same period, too.
Also on the exhibit is a divorce certificate kept by a townsman. It is written on a small piece of washi Japanese paper with neat strokes of a brush. It says that the woman named was divorced and free to remarry in vertical three lines and a half. Since the custom to compose a divorce certificate in three lines and a half became so pervasive, people still refer to this length as a metaphor for severing relationship in modern day Japan, like “I handed him/her a three-lines-and-a-half”.
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