Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Nakasendō (中山道) was one of two Tokugawa-era roads connecting Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto in Japan. Unlike the coastal Tōkaidō, the Nakasendō travelled inland, hence its name, which means "Road through the Central Mountains."
Creation of the Edo period road system
At the battle of Sekigahara, northeast of Kyoto, in the year 1600, Ii Naomasa – one of Ieyasu Tokugawa's closest allies – decisively beat Ishida Mitsunari, commander of the "Army of the West". Signalling the end of one hundred and fifty years of warring and confusion, the forces of Tokugawa had finally defeated those of Toyotomi Hideyori, his strongest challenger in a bid to unite Japan under one leader. Three years later the Tokugawa shogunate was established, heralding two and a half centuries of almost unbroken peace known as the Edo period. Many political, legal, cultural and intellectual changes took place in the early years of the Edo period. None was more important, perhaps, than the rejuvenation of Japan's thousand year old highway system. Five roads were formally nominated as official routes for the use of the shogun and his feudal lords (daimyo) and to provide the Tokugawa shogunate with the communications network that it needed to stabilize and rule the country. One of these five roads was the Nakasendo stretching from Kyoto, where the emperor and his court exercised purely nominal authority, through the central mountain ranges of Honshu Island and on to Edo, from where the shogun wielded the real power.
Perhaps the most famous section of the Nakasendo is the stretch between Magome and Tsumago in the Kiso Valley , made famous by the 19th century writer Shimazaki Toson, who chronicled the effects of the Meiji Restoration on the valley in his landmark novel Yoake Mae ("Before the Dawn"). This section of the road can still be travelled along comfortably by foot, and Tsumago has preserved its traditional architecture. The poet Bashō also travelled along the Nakasendō.
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