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Kusatsu-juku

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Replica, at the National Museum of Japanese History, of a lantern erected at Kusatsu in 1816. The inscription reads, roughly, "To the left, the Nakasendô and Mino Road; to the right, the Tôkaidô and the road to Ise"
  • Japanese: 草津宿 (Kusatsu-juku)

Kusatsu was the third-to-last post-station on both the Tôkaidô and Nakasendô Highways during the early modern period, and was one of the few places where the two highways met or intersected. The town fell within the territory of Zeze han.

For the distance from Kyoto to Kusatsu, the Tôkaidô and Nakasendô were one. The main road running north from Ôtsu, through the old post-town of Kusatsu, past honjin, waki-honjin, and so forth was thus considered a section of both highways at once. About 100 meters north of the Tanaka Shichizaemon honjin was where the two diverged. Traveling north from Ôtsu, through the post-town, the road historically came directly to a river crossing, where travelers would have to make their way across the Kusatsu River (Kusatsu-gawa). The river was often quite shallow, and travelers could simply wade across; however, at times they needed to hire help, or if the river was high enough, were simply prevented from crossing entirely. Once across the river, the road became the Nakasendô, continuing north to Moriyama-juku. Meanwhile, the Tôkaidô makes a sharp right turn to run eastward along the river. A large lantern marking the intersection stood on this side of the river, at this corner. Today, the river has dried up and been filled in, becoming a public park / green space; the river crossing was replaced in the Meiji period by a tunnel dug through (or under) the riverbed.

Honjin

Kusatsu was home to two honjin, operated in each generation, respectively, by men named Tanaka Shichizaemon and Tanaka Kuzô. While the former is operated today as a historical house museum, the latter has been replaced by private shops.

In 1853, the 9th Tanaka Shichizaemon, also known as Teibun 貞文, requested of the lord of Zeze han to be permitted to retire and to take on the name Sôbun 叟文. His successor, the 10th Shichizaemon, became quite weak with illness, however, so Sôbun returned to an active role overseeing the honjin for a short time before requesting retirement again. In 1859/9, the lords of both Zeze and Sadowara han granted permission for this, and another successor took over the honjin as the 11th Shichizaemon.[1]

The Kusatsu-juku Honjin and the associated Kusatsu-juku kaidô kôryûkan today hold a sizable collection of surviving documents and artifacts, including a large number of daifukuchô records (recording visitors to the honjin, the number of people in their group, and the amount in silver or gold they presented to the honjin in exchange for the lodging), and some 460 wooden sekifuda and 2900 paper sekifuda.[2]

Preceded by:
Ishibe-juku
Stations of the Tôkaidô Succeeded by:
Ôtsu-juku
Preceded by:
Moriyama-juku
Stations of the Nakasendô Succeeded by:
Ôtsu-juku

References

  • Gallery labels, Road Marker at the Junction of the Nakasendo and Tokaido Roads, National Museum of Japanese History.[1]
  • Signs on-site.
  1. Honjin shoku ha tsurai yo 本陣職はつらいよ, exhibit pamphlet, Kusatsu City Board of Education, 2020.
  2. Kokushitei shiseki Kusatsu-juku honjin, Kusatsu, Shiga: Shiseki Kusatsujuku honjin (2014), 27.
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