Why this book?
Vaporis’ Breaking Barriers gave me the background knowledge to understand how developed the system of travel was in Edo Japan. Both in relation to the infrastructure and the regulations imposed by the Bakufu under the Tokugawa regime. I was particularly impressed to learn about the sankin kotai, which is the travel expeditions of the regional lords (the daimyo) for their mandatory alternate residency in Tokyo, and the different protocols and checks across the roads.
Despite the harsh laws of the Tokugawa’s system of roads, barriers, relays, and permits, I was surprised to discover the social reality of the roads and how travelers managed to overcome the regulations and escape from social restrictions. I also enjoyed the multiplicity of sources that Vaporis is using to describe the culture of the road beyond the official records: from diaries and literary sources to woodblock prints.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
Travel in Tokugawa Japan was officially controlled by bakufu and domainal authorities via an elaborate system of barriers, or sekisho, and travel permits; commoners, however, found ways to circumvent these barriers, frequently ignoring the laws designed to control their mobility. In this study, Constantine Vaporis challenges the notion that this system of travel regulations prevented widespread travel, maintaining instead that a "culture of movement" in Japan developed in the Tokugawa era.
Using a combination of governmental documentation and travel literature, diaries, and wood-block prints, Vaporis examines the development of travel as recreation; he discusses the impact of pilgrimage and the…