by Jippensha Ikku

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 476

*Tokaido Highway

*Tokaido Highway (toh-ki-doh). Also known as the Eastern Sea Road, a road running along Japan’s Pacific coastline, on which Yaji and Kita travel. Organized and administered by the central government in the seventh century, the road was usually easier to travel on than others, except that its rivers were often more difficult to cross. The road was the most important communication route during the Edo period. In the modern era, the Tokaido saw heavy development as a transportation corridor, industrial belt, and the most heavily populated area of Japan.


*Edo (ay-doh). Japan’s capital city; later renamed Tokyo. Edo was a small fishing village with a run-down castle nearby when in 1590 it was given to Tokugawa Ieyasu to be the center of his domain. He developed a grand castle and town that by 1750 had a population of as many as one million people. It became the central political city and an important economic center. By the end of the Edo period in 1868, the city had grown so dominant that the new government retained the city as their capital, renaming it Tokyo, for “Eastern Capital,” in deference to the former capital at Kyoto.

*Ise shrine

*Ise shrine (ee-say). Shinto shrine dedicated to the ancestors of the Japanese imperial family that is considered to be the most sacred place in Japan. Located in the city of Ise, on the south-central coast of Hnshu, the shrine is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year and is the destination of Yaji and Kita. They make a small offering of rice at the family temple but usually show little regard for religious customs or decorum.

*Hakone Range

*Hakone Range (ha-koh-nay). Mountain range that Yaji and Kita cross during the journey. The climb of twenty miles across the mountains was one of the famous parts of the journey between Tokyo and Kyoto. A well-known Japanese poem states that it is not possible to cross the Hakone range even on horseback, but Yaji and Kita joke about loin cloths with a silly ballad singer before they begin their crossing.


*Kanazawa (kah-nah-zah-wah). Seaside city where Yaji and Kita notice that all the teahouses have two stories with balustrades and overhanging galleries allowing for views of the sea. The girls who work at the teahouse beg for the two heroes to enter and try their food. The men enter, order fish and wine, joke with the serving girls, and then ask directions from a boy who happens by, but he refuses to talk with Yaji or Kita until they buy him a rice cake.


*Osaka (oh-sah-kah). Large city about 320 miles southwest of Edo where Yaji and Kita’s journey ends. While passing through this city, Yaji and Kita tell stories and sing songs. The ancient name for Osaka is “Naniwa,” used by the heroes in their singing and storytelling.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 157

Aston, W. G. A History of Japanese Literature. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1972. Pages 369 to 375 present biographical information on Ikku and offer two evaluations of Hizakurige, “the most humorous and entertaining book in the Japanese language,” which “people of nice taste had better not read.”

Kato, Shuichi. The Modern Years. Vol. 3 in A History of Japanese Literature. Translated by David Chibbett. New York: Kodansha International, 1983. Sets Ikku in the context of Edo culture and identifies several important features of his writing.

Keene, Donald. World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976. Provides a brief discussion of the author and his story and situates it within the context of its time and culture.

Satchell, Thomas, trans. Shanks’ Mare: Being a Translation of the Tokaido Volumes of Hizakurige, Japan’s Great Comic Novel of Travel and Ribaldry, by Jippensha Ikku. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1960. Provides biographical information about the author.

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