Itabashi bridge at the intersection of the old Nakasendo Road and the Shakujii River

Japanese place name|Beautiful Japanese culture!| Itabashi


Do you know about Japanese place names? The name Itabashi comes from the name of the bridge that crosses the Shakujii River, where the former Nakasendo Road intersects. At 4T-AMKY, Teachers and Students write about Japanese culture, food, history, many spots to visit, and other stuff. Enjoy reading and knowing about deeper Japanese culture!


Itabashi-Shuku on Nakasendo Road

I walked around Itabashi-Shuku, which is said to be the area where the path of Nakasendo, one of the five highways developed in the Edo era (1603-1867), remains as it was. Shukuba-machi (inn towns) extend along the old Nakasendo Road from near JR Itabashi Station to Hiraoshuku, Nakashuku, and Kamishuku, stretching about 1.7 km.

The entrance of Itabashi-Shuku on the old Nakasendo Road
The entrance of Itabashi-Shuku on the old Nakasendo Road

The only buildings remaining from that time are temples, but there were explanatory boards for each of the famous and historical sites. It was fun to read them and walk around looking at the scenery and thinking about the distant past.

An explanatory board of the map of old and new Itabashi-Shuku
An explanatory board of the map of old and new Itabashi-Shuku

Itabashi-Shuku is the first inn town along the Nakasendo Road, counting from Nihonbashi. Along with Shinagawa-Shuku (Shinagawa Ward) on the Tokaido Road, Senju-Shuku (Adachi Ward) on the Oshu and Nikko Roads, and Naito-Shinjuku (Shinjuku Ward) on the Koshu Road, it is one of the “Edo Shi (Four) Shuku” located at the entrance and exit of Edo (present-day Tokyo).

The Okido at the entrance to Kamishuku is the boundary with Edo, and inside the Okido is the Funai (Edo) area. It is said that criminals who were sentenced to Edo exile could live a normal life once they left this Okido. Currently, nothing remains. It reminded me of Yotsuya Okido. And I was once again convinced of the meaning and role of the Okido in the city of Edo.

Itabashi (literally means “bridge of boards”), which is the origin of the name of the place of Itabashi, was located between Nakashuku and Kamishuku. This bridge crosses where the old Nakasendo Road and the Shakujii River intersect.

The Itabashi Bridge on the Shakujii River
The Itabashi Bridge on the Shakujii River

According to the explanatory board, the bridge in the Edo era was a drum-shaped wooden bridge. (It is truly a bridge of boards.) It was restored at least twice during the Edo era. Later, it was replaced in 1920, and in 1932, it was replaced with a concrete bridge to accommodate the spread of automobiles. In 1958, the Shakujii River overflowed due to a typhoon, causing severe damage in Itabashi Ward. As a result, the river was repaired, and in 1972, the bridge was replaced with the current one.

The Shakujii River used to make a big bend at the point of this bridge, but it was straightened to prevent flooding. And the remaining old stream channel is now a park. It reminded me of Otonashi Water Park in Kita Ward, where the old channel of the Shakujii River was turned into a park.

Park created using the old channel of the Shakujii River
Park created using the old channel of the Shakujii River

By actually walking around Itabashi-shuku, looking at Itabashi and the Shakujii River, and learning about its origins, I realized the preciousness of the wisdom, technology, and labor of our ancestors to protect the town and its people from disasters. It also made me feel grateful to be able to live safely in the midst of abundant nature.

The name Itabashi is said to be already visible in old books written from the Kamakura to Muromachi eras, and because of this bridge, it became the name of an inn in the Edo era, the name of a town in 1889, and in 1932, it was adopted as the name of the ward and became Itabashi Ward.