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Kisokaido: Honjo - Station 10

Keizai Eisen - Series of the 69 stations of the Kisokaido: Honjo station (11th print), The Kanna-gawa river ferry (Honjo shuku Kannagawa watashiba)   © Trustees of the British Museum

At the Honjo station, the Kiso road arrives at the edge of the Kanto plain and the terrain becomes more difficult as it enters the mountains. The night is falling and a feudal lord in his closed palanquin (1) and his retinues is returning home by crossing the bridge. In the distance, ferry-boats (2) will take the procession over the deeper section of the river. Stone lanterns (3) on either side of the river mark the crossing point. These lanterns were erected in 1815 after subscriptions were raised from passerby. The buildings of the village can be seen in the distance beneath three mountains: Mt.Akagi, Mt.Haruna and Mt.Myogi.

The print here is a later impression missing both Eisen’s signature and the publisher’s seal. Earlier impressions had metallic pigments (5) used to represent the snow glittering in the last rays of the sun and a smooth band at the foot of the mountain to create the effect of mist rising from the river. These effects were lost in later impressions like the one above.

(Source: The 69 stations of the Kisokaido, Sebastian Izzard, Brazillier 2008)


And now ?

Honjo was a castle town with a castle built in 1556, but destroyed in early 17th century after Japan was unified. An old temple and a modern memorial are its only remains. The station itself was created in 1625 with the Shogun’s support with a first honjin at Tamura in the norther part of the village. But there were so many official travelers that a second honjin was built in the Southern part in 1792. Each honjin was erected on a plot of land over a half acre large and the living quarters were between 5,000 sq.ft. and 8,000 sq.ft. Only the gate of the Tamura honjin remains. In 1804, there were 475 houses in Honjo with 58 inns. The bridge has been replaced by a new one in concrete where  the national road runs.

On Mt.Haruna, a charming lake is the subject of many prints. A good example is the one from Noel Nouet (1885-1969), a French university teacher who lived in Japan from 1926 to 1960 and made many drawings and prints of Tokyo before and after the war. You can find more information at

The bridge on Kannagawa river in 2006                    

The temple gate with the ruins of the Honjo castle

 The Tamura Honjin Gate at Honjo

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