reversing Tokaido’s polarity
The Emperor’s palace has been located in
Kyoto since the 8th century. The character kyo, which can be found in both Kyoto, ‘Capital’, and in Tokyo,
‘Eastern Capital’, has a double meaning, namely ‘capital’ as well as ‘court-capital’. In 1868, when the Shogun
handed power back to the Emperor and the court moved from Kyoto to Edo, it was natural for the name of
the capital to change as well. In ordinary language, the place where the Emperor resided was used as a compass
for travel directions. Before 1868, when referring to a journey to Kyoto one spoke of ‘going up’ in almost ‘heavenly’ terms and ‘going down’ when travelling eastward to Edo. Tokaido print series traditionally began
numbering in Edo, counting in the direction of Kyoto. A far more worldly reason is that Edo was the metropolis
where most travellers left from, and where the Nihonbashi, ‘Japan Bridge’, was the official point zero for
every distance and every road in the country.
When the Emperor moved to Edo, Tokyo instantly became the place where people travelled ‘up’ to. This inversion of the compass has now been generally accepted in Japanese minds and their common language. This modern series preserved the same sequence and numbering, but for convenience the traditional numbering is in a smaller letter size next to the new one in this book. The operating base was Kyoto and our journey ended in Tokyo.