Kaido (road) (街道)

A Kaido is a traffic route or road which connects one place to another by land. Kaido almost always start from towns and villages, while frequently ending at remote shrines and temples.

Kaido spread throughout the country have their own origins, their names derived from various sources.

A number of names in particular are used for several Kaido. Alternatively, a majority of the names have been applied since the Meiji period out of necessity by the road administration.

From the Meiji period onward, making a distinction between national roads and local roads became easy with the introduction of the numbering system. Although road numbers and their designated sections have rapidly changed over the years, sections and places where Kaido routes have not changed remarkably has resulted in many people feeling a warm affection for Kaido names.

A number of Kaido have changed their shape many times to accommodate the development and decline of traffic systems in each period. Today, many Kaido remain as residential roads running parallel to main roads. Quite a few Kaido have been cut off or eliminated due to disasters or construction work for city planning and improvement.

Kaido in Japan are described below. Several old roads in other countries are also called "Kaido" (i.e. Rome-Kaido "Roman roads").

History of Kaido in Japan
A sequence of historical events leading to the establishment and construction of Kaido is outlined below in chronological order.

Refer to "Nihon no kodai doro (roads of ancient Japan)" for a detailed history about Kaido from the Asuka period to the Heian period.

Refer to "Kokudo (National road)" for details after the Meiji period.

The period prior to the existence of a unified authority (ancient times)
Before the existence of a unified authority, regions were separated into small, village-sized groups where conflicts occurred repeatedly. During this time, people and goods were allowed to travel between regions, yet there was no notion of developing a well-equipped traffic route (Kaido).

After the birth of Yamato Administration (the Asuka period)
With the birth of the Yamato Administration in the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto), traffic routes were improved for connecting the ancient capital Kyoto and surrounding regions governed by ruling clans, as well as for traveling between regions and the harbor (tsu).

The Yamanobe-no-michi Road, Takenouchi-Kaido Road and Nagao-Kaido Road were among the traffic routes improved during this period. Several roads called "Taishimichi", which are believed to be used by Prince Shotoku had also existed during this period.

After the enactment of the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code)
After the Taika Reforms, with the enactment of the Ritsuryo system aiming to govern all of Japan under the unified standard, traffic routes connecting each district were improved for governing and collecting taxes smoothly. Post stations were also upgraded due to the development of stations for horses such as Ekiba (horses for transporting official travelers) and Tenma (horses for transporting goods).

It is believed that many Kaido were improved by a high-ranked priest named Gyoki during the Nara period. The Kaido connecting Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara) to other places was also upgraded during this period and is now called "Nara-Kaido Road."

The Medieval period
After the Nara period, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples were built in various areas. Not only locals gathered to pay respect to the temples, people from remote areas also gathered to venerate these places, resulting in well maintained traffic routes connecting each area. The major roads included in this were the Koya-Kaido Road and Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes.

During the Kamakura period, the route connecting Kyo (the ancient capital) and Kamakura became significant when the administration founded its headquarters in the middle of a remote area outside of the Kinai region.

When it became the Sengoku period (period of warring states), samurai warriors and local ruling clans struggled with each other seeking to expand their influence, resulting in Kaido being used as traffic routes for transferring troops and transporting supplies. Sekisho (checking stations) were also installed at regional boundaries with the aim of collecting tolls from people who passed the boundaries.

The Edo Period
During the Edo period it became a peaceful time, and the Go-Kaido Road (the five major roads starting from Edo - present day Tokyo), Wakiokan (main roads other than the roads included in the Go-Kaido) and post station towns were improved nationwide for civilian travelers and feudal lords traveling for Sankinkotai (a system during the Edo period which required feudal lords to spend every other year residing in Edo).

As the pilgramage to Ise became popular during this period, the routes connecting Ise-jingu Shrine to other areas were upgraded and named "Ise-Sangu-Kaido" (Kaido for making a pilgrimage to Ise Shrine).

The majority of roadside signs such as "Ichirizuka" (milestone marker for a "Ri"- about 3.927km), "Choishi" (milestone marker for a "Cho" - about 109m) and "Michishirube" (guideposts) remain today in many areas and are assumed to have been installed during the Edo period.

After the Meiji Restoration
After the Meiji Restoration, the "National Route" system was introduced under a national policy and the main Kaido were designated as national routes.

Large scale maintenance was not conducted on roads except for those running through central Tokyo, however, since the leading mode of land transport had shifted to the railroad.

With the arrival of the high economic growth period after Pacific War, old Kaido were paved, expanded and renewed to accommodate the widespread use of cars. On the other hand, abandoned old roads such as routes passing over a mountain were left without maintenance and their existence gradually forgotten.

Main articles on Kaido
(The following key words link to many Wikipedia articles related to Kaido)
Go-Kaido Road (the five major roads starting from Edo - present day Tokyo)
Kyo-Kaido Road (Kaido connecting to Kyoto)
Nara-Kaido Road (Kaido connecting to Nara)
Ise-Sangu-Kaido (Kaido for making pilgrimages to Ise-jingu Shrine)
Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes

Main Kaido developed for district-specialty products

The Chubu region
Meruhen-Kaido Road (fairy tale road)
Nomugi -Kaido Road (Kaido to transport yellow tail)
Cosmos-Kaido (Kaido surrounded by many cosmos flowers)
Nihon Alpine Salad-Kaido (Kaido connecting fruit and vegetable production centers in Nagano Prefecture)

[Original Japanese]