Shinagawa Post Town
on the Old Tōkaidō
The Tōkaidō was a medieval highway linking the shо̄gun’s capital in Edo with the imperial capital in Kyōto. Shinagawa was the largest post town and the entrance to city for almost 300 years. It’s a great example of what happened to Edo after all the earthquakes and wars.
Heritage Tourism, Historical Tourism, Urban Hiking
Go granular! Anyone can walk Japan’s most famous medieval highway, the Tōkaidō, immortalized in a series of 53 woodblock prints by the master Utagawa Hiroshige. But if you don’t know what you’re looking at it, it’s just a road like any other in Tōkyō. I specialize in exploring the streets and shops of Edo Period post towns and love diving into the spacial anthropology of these amazing neighborhoods.
Shinagawa (sometimes called Shinagawa-shuku or Shinagawa-juku) was arguably the largest and most important post town in all of Japan during the Edo Period. To cash in on the heavy traffic of samurai and merchants coming and going, hundreds of shrines and temples were built in the area. There are something like 30 festivals that take place here every year.
- Cannon Batteries
We’ll pass by a handful of cannon batteries set up to protect Edo from Commodore Perry’s Black Ships in the 1850’s.
- Ebara Shrine
The tutelary shrine of Ebara Province (ancient name of this area) famous for plum blossoms and its stunning crimson bridge.
- Fishing Boats and Traditional Houses
This area was famous for fishing until 1950’s, but some traditional fisherman families still operate in the area.
I’ll show you the exact spot where the King of Monsters himself came out of the sea and rampaged through the capital.
One of the shōgun’s seaside villas which was gifted to the public as a hanami spot in the 1700’s.
- Ruins of the Honjin & Waki-honjin
These were inns reserved for feudal lords and shōgunate officials.
- See the Original Seawalls of Edo Bay
Famous from woodblock prints, most of these walls from the Edo Period, Meiji Period, and Shōwa Period have been destroyed, except for in a few little-known spots.
- Shinagawa Bridge and the Meguro River
Today this spot is a famous meet up spot and cherry blossom viewing area.
- Shinagawa Historical Museum
Excellent local museum that shows how life used to be in Shinagawa’s heyday as a post town.
- Shinagawa Shrine
The main Shintō Shrine of the area famous for cherry blossoms, mini-Mt. Fuji, and crazy festival where they carry a portable shrine out into the ocean!
- Shōwa Neon
One of Tōkyō’s major post-war neon sign manufacturer. Company founder was a collector of shop signs from the Edo Period up until the Meiji Period (1600-1912).
- Suzugamori Execution Ground
One of Edo’s notorious Big 3 execution grounds. Well worth the visit.
- Takanawa О̄kido
The official gate from the provinces into the shōgun’s capital and namesake of the Yamanote Line’s newest station!
- Traditional Edo Period Shops
There are handful of family run businesses (everything from crafts to restaurants) that maintain traditional work methods and recipes to this day.
- Various Buddhist Temples and Cemeteries
There are literally hundreds of shrines and temples that dot the length of the Old Tōkaidō Highway, we’ll check out the coolest ones!
- Take a fishing boat out on Tōkyō Bay
- Noodles for dinner at a family-owned soba restaurant established in 1856
- See the spot where Katsu Kaishū and Saigō Takamori negotiated a peaceful surrender of the capital to the Imperial Army in 1868.
- See the headquarters of NEC and the first street in Tōkyō to have electric lighting in the 1920’s.
- Head over to Tamachi for dinner in a Meiji Period seafood restaurant with a connection to the 47 Rōnin.
- Fancy dinner in ultramodern Roppongi Hills or Toranomon Hills.
My motto is “there’s a lot of Edo left in Tōkyō, you just need to know where to look and what you’re looking at.” Hopefully this walking tour will shine a bright light on the continuum of Edo-Tōkyō, which most people – even locals – miss. If you’re heading out to any preserved post towns (for example in the Kiso Valley in the Japan Alps), this might be a good preview or review to supplement your post town experience.
Starts at ¥55,000
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