Odenmacho district

. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo 江戸の名所 .
Oodenmachoo, Ōdenma-chō 大伝馬町 Odenmacho district   
Ōtenma-chō 大てんま町 Ootenmacho / 御伝馬町

in Chuo-Cho ward 中央区 - 日本橋大伝馬町 Nihonbashi Odenmacho

Part of 伝馬町 Tenmacho, with the two sections,
Large 大伝馬町 Large and Small 小伝馬町 Kodenmacho.

. Kodenmachō 小伝馬町 Kodenmacho district .
Prison and execution grounds

CLICK for more photos !

The packhorse and messenger superintendent 馬込勘解由 Magome Kageyu from Mikawa (now Aichi) was the first to establish his business here. He welcomed Tokugawa Ieyasu in Edo and was given the privilege as superviser and head of the ward.
Many of his men from Mikawa made a living as horse keepers in Edo and made some extra money by dealing in cotton from Mikawa (momendana 木綿店). They lived mostly in the second district of Odenmacho.

Magome's daughter, O-Yuki お雪 was married to
. William Adams, the Miura Anjin (1564 - 1620) 三浦按針 .

denma 伝馬 horse messenger, packhorse relay service

source : ameblo.jp/tkyburabura

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Ōdenma-chō Cotton Shop (大伝馬町木綿店 Ōdenma-chō Momen Dana)
As a name, "Ōdenma-chō" is said to have resulted from the locating of a remount station
along a road serviced by official post horses ("tenma" in Japanese).
The townspeople providing the horses began to act as brokers of cotton
coming to Edo from 三河 Mikawa Province.
Overtime, these brokers evolved into cotton traders with some 55 being active in 1705.
Indeed, another name for the area was 木綿店 "Momen-dana" (literally "cotton traders"),
with the location equating to what is now Nihonbashi Ōdenma-chō 1-chōme to 3-chōme.
source : Tokyo Metropolitan Library

for hikyaku 飛脚 see below

- quote
Odenmacho - Edo's Communications Center
Although most of the the people traveling on Japan's highways go on foot, or by kago (foot carriage), every now and then you can see people riding on horseback, or leading teams of pack horses laden with goods. Most of these horsemen move along the highway at a leisurely pace, only a bit faster than the people on foot, but every now and then, a rider will dash past with a cloud of dust, spurring his horse as fast as it can run. If you see one of these horses in downtown Edo, and follow it to its destination, chances are you will end up in the neighborhood of Odenmacho.

The horse messenger services in Odenmacho, Kodenmacho and Minami-denmacho are the nerve center of the Shogun's communications network. The official messenger services located in these three towns, supported by horse messengers stationed at each juku (lodging town) along the major highways, can deliver messages to all parts of the country in just a few days. The ability to communicate with all areas of the country by horse messenger allows the bakufu to provide much better administration and support to regional leaders than was possible in the past.

The horse messengers (denma) are essential to Japan's network of communications and transportation, and the three denmacho are the command center for this communications network. The word denmacho means "horse messenger town". When Edo was first built, this part of the city was set aside specifically for the horse messengers to live. As the bakufu (government) grew and developed, the functions of the horse messengers became more complicated, so the area was divided into three separate denmacho, each with its own functions.

The Shogun naturally tries to maintain as much control as possible over the messengers' activities, since communications are very important to the person who runs the country. Each juku is responsible for buying its own horses, feeding and taking good care of them, and supplying riders to carry the messages. However, the management of the lodging towns is handled by the bakufu. Each of the lodging towns has a leader who reports directly to officials in the three denmacho (horse messenger towns).

All three denmacho are located in the same area; just off the main highway and less than one kilometer from Nihonbashi bridge. Odenmacho and Minami-denmacho are responsible for communications and transportation issues along the five main highways of Japan. The riders and administrators in these two towns take turns doing the management and delivery work for half a month at a time. In the first half of the month, Odenmacho handles all official writs and messages from the government, while Minami-denmacho handles private messages. In the second half of the month, Minami-denmacho handles the official messages while Odenmacho delivers the private mail and parcels.

Kodenmacho, meanwhile, handles all matters related to local communications and transport within Edo and on the smaller roads close to the city. In addition to horses and riders, all of the denmacho also have foot messengers, known as hikyaku (literally "flying feet"). Kodenmacho relies on these men, more than the other two towns, because local messages do not necessarily need to be sent by horse to arrive there quickly.

The horse messengers at the three denmacho carry messages and parcels, just like the riders at each of the juku towns. However, their job is much harder because they have to handle traffic on all the main roads, instead of just one. Packages are carried from Odenmacho and Minami-denmacho to Shinagawa (on the Tokaido highway), Senju (on the Oshu Kaido), Itabashi (on the Nakasendo) or Takaido (on the Koshu Kaido). In addition, the denmacho do not have a specific number of horses that they are required to provide, but they ARE expected to deliver all messages when asked. This means that they have to have plenty of extra horses and riders, just in case they are needed. They may even be asked to provide riders to work temporarily at some of the juku in cases where the volume of messages is too great, or if horses and riders at the juku are sick or injured and can't work.

Since they are "not allowed" to run short of horses and riders, and have to be prepared for any emergency, the managers of the denmacho maintain large stables in the area between Odenmacho and Minami-denmacho. The long rows of stables, with their musty scent of horsehair and manure, face onto a large, grassy central square. Not only are the horses kept here; all of the riders live at the stables as well, when they are on duty. That way, they are always ready to quickly mount up and be on their way with a message. The central square is used as an exercise ground where horses can get some exercise even when there are no messages to be carried.

In addition to the main stables in the center of the city, the messenger services maintain their own horse pastures for spare horses in several other locations on the outskirts of Edo. These rural stables are mainly used for older horses, mares with young colts, and for horses that are sick, injured or just worn out from too much riding. They are also used as training centers, where young horses are trained to be denma (messenger horses). In an emergency, though, even these animals can be pressed into service.

Although their work is very tiring and strenuous, the messenger horses are well cared for. They are carefully groomed every day, and fed extremely well. Horses are considered extremely valuable, and therefore they are often cared for even better than the men who ride them.You can always find another person to be a rider, but it is hard to find a good, strong and reliable horse.

Some horses are bred and raised at ranches in the outskirts of Edo, but the best horses generally come from northern Japan, or from Shimosa and Kazusa -- the hilly provinces just to the east of Edo. The grassy hillsides in these areas are ideal for raising horses, and the animals grow up strong and swift. The horses raised in the suburbs tend to be weaker animals, and are generally used only for the short-distance messenger services in Kodenmacho

The messages sent by horse are usually written on a long strip of paper which is then folded up several times and sealed with wax. The sender then stamps their own private seal on the wax so that nobody can open the letter and read it without breaking the seal. This is a good way to ensure privacy. If the seal is broken when it arrives at its destination, it is obvious that one of the messengers must have broken the seal. Since each juku keeps careful records of who is working on which day, and what messages they carry, it would be fairly easy to figure out who the prime suspects are if a seal was ever broken. Fortunately, this is rarely necessary. The messengers are highly trained professionals, and they do their job well.

Usually, messages are collected for several hours before they are dispatched, usually at regular hours, two or three times a day. That way, each rider can carry many messages at once. However, in the case of urgent messages, the riders will immediately take the message and ride as fast as they can from juku to juku. Messages with the highest-priority can be carried from Edo to Kyoto or Osaka (about 450 kilometers) in 30 to 35 hours. Considering the many mountains and rivers that must be crossed, this is a remarkably fast communications system.
Messages can be sent round-trip to Kyoto in just three days.
- source : Edomatsu

Kimonoshop in Odenmacho / Hiroshige


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Nihonbashi Odenma-cho is derived from "Tenma", the horseback relay delivery by horses system in the Edo Era. There were a number of merchants in the town, cotton wholesalers in the Edo Era, and textile wholesalers after the World War II. Consequently, the town was prospered. We interviewed maestro. Katsutoshi Hamada was the 12th owner of "Edo-ya". Edo-ya was producing and selling hake and many brushes at Edo Shogunate in about 300 years in the town.
... The founder of Edoya was first trained in Kyoto, and then he or she started to craft hake makeup brushes for ladies. Also, he or she designed painting brush for the personal painters of the Shogun within the inner place of the Edo Shogunate. The Shogun family gave their shop a name "Edo-ya" in 1718, and they have been in business for about 300 years since then. After Meiji Era, they started to make western brushes to fit the lifestyle changes.
- source : tokyochuo.net/issue/traditional -


bettara ichi べったら市 market selling bettara pickles
In the area of Odenma-cho and Torihatago-cho, close to Nihonbashi in Tokyo.
The freshly pickled radish of this year are sold.

The 20th of October was the day dedicated to the deity Ebisu and a market was held in his honor. Apart from Bettarazuke, salted salmon and pots were sold. But it soon changed to Asazuke and Takuanzuke as local specialities.

. bettarazuke (べったら漬) "sticky pickles" .
kigo for late autumn


hikyaku 飛脚 courier, messenger "flying legs"

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Hikyaku were couriers or messengers active in the medieval and early modern periods, who transported currency, letters, packages, and the like. In the Edo period, the network of hikyaku messengers expanded dramatically, and also became more organized and systematized.

Sando hikyaku (三度飛脚) traveled the Tôkaidô three times a month, and were generally employed by shogunate officials in Osaka and Kyoto to communicate with the shogunate in Edo. The messengers made use of horses made ready at post towns along the way - in theory, three horses ready and available at any given time - to ensure they would always have a fresh horse and thus the ability to travel more quickly.

The same term, sando hikyaku, was also used to refer to an independent network of messengers (i.e. not working directly for the shogunate) who operated commercially in transporting messages and goods along the Tôkaidô, beginning around 1664. These commercial messengers were also known as jô bikyaku in Edo, and junban hikyaku in Kyoto, and operated out of roughly 86 establishments in Kyoto and at least nine in Osaka, with branch operations in Edo, and roughly twenty post-stations along the route.
A much smaller group of messenger operators, known as jôge hikyaku (上下飛脚) or rokkumi hikyaku (六組飛脚) were based in Edo, and specialized in transporting materials for provincial daimyô. The Kyoto/Osaka-based messengers soon expanded their business, establishing routes connecting those cities with Tanba and Harima provinces, and with major provincial cities such as Sendai, Nagasaki, Kanazawa, and Fukui. Each company ran on a different schedule, generally sending and receiving messengers three times every ten days; a manager called a sairyo oversaw operations and took responsibility for the safety of packages.

The shogunate also operated a network of messengers along all five major highways (the Gokaidô) called tsugi hikyaku (継飛脚), to convey official messages to shogunate and daimyô domains. Horses were kept ready at stations called tsugitate, spaced roughly eight kilometers apart, for use by the messengers.

Some of the most powerful daimyô maintained their own messenger networks, called daimyô hikyaku or shichi-ri-hikyaku, as these networks generally had horses ready every seven ri (shichi-ri). The two most prominent daimyô who maintained such networks were the Gosanke Tokugawa branch families based in Wakayama and Nagoya. Messengers in the service of Wakayama han left Edo on the 5th, 15th, and 25th of each month, and left Wakayama on the 10th, 20th, and 30th.

All in all, the time it took to convey messages from Osaka to Edo or vice versa, across 500 km, settled into a standard of six days by the end of the 17th century; in the 18th century, as the economy boomed and road and river traffic increased, delays due to congestion and other factors increased as well, and what once took six days now more frequently took ten or twelve. Meanwhile, however, commercial messenger services sought ways to cut down their times, and soon haya hikyaku (quick messengers) were making the journey in five, four, or as little as three and a half days, gaining time by running at night, and by making stops at fewer stations. In the 19th century, messengers somehow managed to cut the time even further, making the journey in as little as two days. However, these super express services were quite expensive, costing as much as four, or even eight or nine ryô for three-and-a-half day delivery of a message.

- - - - - Continue reading :
- source : samurai-archives.com -

daimyoo hikyaku 大名飛脚 messenger of a Daimyo lord
hayabikyaku, haya hikyaku 早飛脚 quick messenger
joobikyaku, jô bikyaku 定飛脚 commercial messengers (Edo)
jooge hikyaku, jôge hikyaku 上下飛脚 small group of messengers
junban hikyaku 順番飛脚 commercial messengers (Kyoto)
rokkumi hikyaku 六組飛脚 group of six messengers
sando hikyaku 三度飛脚 messenger on the Tokaido
shichi-ri-hikyaku 七里飛脚 messenger running seven Ri
tsugi hikyaku 継飛脚 highway messengers

source : honnesia.doorblog.jp
photo of a Hikyaku, about 130 years old


. Hikyakugitsune 飛脚狐 the Fox messenger "with flying legs" .
There have been quite a few in the service of local lords.


- - - - - H A I K U and S E N R Y U - - - - -

nanohana no naka ni fun hiru hikyaku kana

the fast messenger
shits in the middle
of a rapeseed field

Tr. Gabi Greve

. 夏目漱石 Natsume Soseki .

source : blog.goo.ne.jp/oyuse13 - 南伸坊 『笑う漱石』


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 .

yuudachi to kaga mo pappa to tobi ni keri

the cloudburst
and the Kaga messengers
flew right by

In the present hokku a cloudburst soaks the post road and the area around it, but it is a small storm apparently consisting of a single cloud, and it quickly moves on. Around the same time, a group of official fast couriers (hikyaku 飛脚, lit. "flying legs") from the big Kaga domain (Kaga no Chiyo's home) on the Japan Sea pass through on their way to Edo.

Tr. and comment by Chris Drake


kusa karete kitsune no hikyaku tori keri

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 and Fox Haiku .

yuku toshi no Seta o mawaru ya kanebikyaku

running round Seta
at the end of the year -
money messengers

蕪村 Yosa Buson

. Seta 瀬田 and the Big Bridge 瀬田の大橋 .

kanebikyaku, kane-bikyaku かねびきゃく / 金飛脚 money-carrying messengers
between Edo and Osaka

- - - - - and the modern version


正岡子規 Masaoka Shiki

阿部完市 Kan'ichi Abe / Abe Kanichi (1928 - 2009)


. Legends and Tales from Japan 伝説 - Introduction .

. Hikyaku 飛脚 伝説 legends about fast messengers .


- - - To join me on facebook, click the image !


. Edo bakufu 江戸幕府 The Edo Government and Administration .

. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo 江戸の名所 .

. Doing Business in Edo - 商売 - Introduction .

. shokunin 職人 craftsman, craftsmen, artisan, Handwerker .

. senryu, senryū 川柳 Senryu poems in Edo .

. densetsu 伝説 Japanese Legends - Introduction .

- - - - - #odenmacho #hikyaku #magomekageyu - - - -

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