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Image 2 of from the map of the road to Kyoto.
Image 2 from scroll one of the Tokaido bunken ezu by Ochikochi Doin and Hishikawa Moronobu, 17-? Geography and Map Division.

The Road to Kyoto

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Edo (present day Tokyo) served as the seat of the Tokugawa Shogunate from 1603 to 1867. During the Tokugawa period, the Tokaido Highroad was the most important route in Japan. The Tokaido road stretched over 300 miles from Edo to the capital city of Kyoto. A cartographer named Ochikochi Doin surveyed the route in 1651. In 1690 the famous artist Hishikawa Moronobu painted Doin’s map in pen and ink. The map is titled Tokaido bunken-ezu.

The Tokaido bunken-ezu was used as a guide for travelers; pictorials on the map show the locations of temples, shrines and rest stops. In this post I am focusing on the Tokaido bunken-ezu and a few other works that were created by Ochikochi Doin and Hishikawa Moronobu.

The Tokaido Bunken-ezu in the Geography and Map Division was painted on two scrolls. A few selected images from the map are featured below. The entire map may be viewed here.

A view of a mountain is shown on the image.
Image 7 from scroll one of the Tokaido bunken ezu by Ochikochi Doin and Hishikawa Moronobu, 17-? Geography and Map Division.
A section of the the map with an illustration of a river flowing across the road.
Image 11 from scroll one of the Tokaido bunken ezu by Ochikochi Doin and Hishikawa Moronobu, 17-? Geography and Map Division.
A section of the map that shows an illustration of a waterfall.
Image 13 from scroll one of the Tokaido bunken ezu by Ochikochi Doin and Hishikawa Moronobu, 17-? Geography and Map Division.

Various versions of the Tokaido road map are held at other repositories. The Library of Congress holds two versions of the map. In addition to the hand-painted map in the Geography and Map Division, a facsimile is held in the Asian Division. Dr. Shigeru Kobayashi, a professor at Osaka University, visited the Library of Congress in March 2009 to conduct research on both the hand-painted map and the facsimile. Dr. Kobayashi prepared a paper titled A Report on the Tokaido Bungen-zu of the Library of Congress, Washington DC. Mr. Kobayashi made the following comparison of the manuscript map and the facsimile in his report:

Comparing the Tokaido Bungen-zu and the Tokaido Bungen-ezu (facsimile) it is remarkable that the design of pictures is almost the same, although those of the former are colored and those of the latter are black and white. There I found the other differences in the details of the pictures. For example, people on the road observed in the Tokaido Bungen-ezu (facsimile) were not drawn in the Tokaido Bungen-zu. However, it is indisputable that these picturesque route maps belong to the same group.

The manuscript map was transferred from the Asian Division to the Geography and Map Division during the fiscal year 2002. The map may have been originally acquired for the Asian Division through the efforts of either Dr. Kan’ichi Asakawa or Dr. Shiho Sakanishi.

Dr. Kan’ichi Asakawa, a professor at Yale University, served as a curator of the East Asian Collection of the Yale Library. From 1907 to 1908 Dr. Asakawa was commissioned by the Library of Congress to purchase Japanese materials. Over 3000 Japanese titles were acquired for the collections of the Library of Congress during that time.

Dr. Shiho Sakanishi was employed as a Reference Librarian in the Asian Division from 1930 to 1941. The number of Japanese titles at the Library of Congress tripled through her efforts to build the Japanese collections.

In addition to the Tokaido bunken-ezu, the Library of Congress holds other materials that were created by Ochikochi Doin and Hishikawa Moronobu. Featured below are a few examples.

In 1657 a fire destroyed most of Edo. A cartographer named Hojo Ujinaga surveyed and remapped the city after it was rebuilt. Ochikochi Doin served as his assistant. According to Marcia Yonemoto, the author of Mapping Early Modern Japan, Ujinaga’s manuscript map of Edo became the template for later printed maps. Ochikochi Doin made this woodblock print map of Edo in 1676.

A map of Edo, Japan that was published in 1676.
Edo oezu. By Ochikochi Doin, 1676. Geography and Map Division.

Hishikawa Moronobu created the deer hunting scene shown below. Hishikawa Moronobu became one of the first masters of the Ukiyo-e art form. Illustrations of Kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, and scenes from popular Japanese literature were common in Ukiyo-e art. Moronobu produced hundreds of illustrated books and woodblock prints.

A scene that shows warriors hunting deer.
Two scenes related to the Soga family. By Hishikawa Moronobu, dated 1694. Prints and Photographs Division.

The Tokaido Highroad was the most heavily traveled route in Japan during the Tokugawa period. I have provided a very brief history of the road and the cartographer and artist who mapped it. Learn more through the sources listed below.


  1. this is fascinating content! It’s great to learn how the Library built its fabulous collections.

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