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The Araimachi Sekisho (aka the Arai Barrier)

 
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JLBadgley
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:46 pm    Post subject: The Araimachi Sekisho (aka the Arai Barrier) Reply with quote
I recently had the chance to visit the Sekisho in Araimachi, one of the few (only?) barrier stations to have survived from the Edo period, and it looks like they are trying to expand by rebuilding parts that had been torn down over the years.

Barriers were set up since the Asuka and Nara periods along major roads to prevent the fee flow of people around the country, which was seen as a destabilizing force. The Edo period continued this tradition, particularly with the enforced movement of daimyo households through the sankin-kotai (btw, if anyone wants a fun movie to watch, I recommend "Samurai Hustle", which deals with barriers, at least tangentially).

The idea seems to have been to put these barriers in places where it would be hard to pass without coming through the checkpoint. In the case of the Arai barrier, it was across the mouth of lake Hamana, on the famius Tokaido, and the ferries from the other side would land there, forcing all passengers to go through the checkpoint. While one could, theoretically go around the checkpoints, there were enough places for you to be stopped that it would end up looking suspicious. In addition, without the aid of modern orienteering equipment, if you lost the road, who knows how long until you found out again? This is why finding your way through the mountains was considered a specially trained skill, generally for covert action.

The Arai Barrier appears to have employed about 45 officers at any given time. There were the chief officials, clerks, soldiers, and those who helped keep things ruining. Among the more interesting employees were the Aratame Onna: women whose job was to check the physical description of a traveler against their passport, looking for any women or children who might be trying to leave Edo illegally. Women, children, monks, and anyone who could be a woman in disguise, it would seem, were checked to make sure they were who they said they were. "No guns in, no women out" was the mantra for Edo.

The Arai Sekisho was renovated in the 1800s, and is use as a checkpoint was abolished with the Meiji government. Fortunately, it survives, though only the actual inspection station building. The outbuilding for the Aratame Onna, and the gates are gone. They have preserved some of the wharf, though most of the area to the east, which used to be open water, has since been filed in to form the new Araimachi. There is also a small museum with information on the barriers and how they worked.

The town is currently doing more research and attempting to build up the barrier station to better represent what it would have liked like for travelers back in the day. In fact, we ran into a small neighborhood festival while we were there, apparently in celebration for the work that is underway.

I'll see if I can get some pictures up in a bit too show people the current structure.
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JLBadgley
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Pictures...

The front of the Sekisho. Travelers would pass in front of these buildings, where the officials kept watch:



In the back was a garden, and rooms where officers and soldiers could relax when they were off-duty. There were offices where people could complete paperwork, etc. The original plans had even more rooms in the back area, but many of those were taken down in later years. I suspect that they were originally there to support the staff and give them somewhere to live, and I wonder if the smaller building, but same workforce, indicates they were using external barracks, quartering people in the town, or just using a local labor force.





They have recently made replicas of the signboards that stood outside the sekisho. The originals are in the museum:



And, of course, this being Japan, they had the following out, kidsized, so you can have your picture taken being examined by the Aratame Onna:

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Very neat, and good to know about. I believe that Futagawa (in Toyohashi, Aichi) has a relatively large and intact honjin museum sort of thing going, with a nice archive of documents, but I wasn't sure about sekisho. Now I know I have somewhere to go visit if I need to get a bit of that in-person sense of what the sekisho looked like and how they worked.

Ooh. And now that I look it up on the map, I see those two are quite close to one another. Could easily visit both in one trip. Sweet.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hey Obenjo, next time we're in Oku-Mikawa, I think we need to take a trip!

Seriously if things work out I'll be in Okazaki again in March if my trip gets approved, so thanks JL and Ameth for this information. I had no idea these were there, and while I've seen the Hakone Sekisho a few times, it would be neat to compare the one at Arai. And the Honjin museum sounds awesome.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The Futagawa Honjin Shiryôkan put out a nice exhibit catalog about the Ryukyu missions, which is why I know about it. (琉球使節展)

It would seem that they have a good number of surviving documents relating to the hosting/reception of the Ryukyuan embassies. I haven't heard of / come across very many documents at all coming from other shukuba, but I wonder whether Futagawa is really exceptional in this, or whether it's just that other places haven't cataloged, published, publicized their holdings on that particular topic...
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2014 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
ltdomer98 wrote:
Hey Obenjo, next time we're in Oku-Mikawa, I think we need to take a trip!

Seriously if things work out I'll be in Okazaki again in March if my trip gets approved, so thanks JL and Ameth for this information. I had no idea these were there, and while I've seen the Hakone Sekisho a few times, it would be neat to compare the one at Arai. And the Honjin museum sounds awesome.


Hope you do come back! It would be fun to go tear-assing through Mikawa and Owari again with you-- and if we can add Suruga to the mayhem, great!!!

I visited Arai back in the summer of 2010 while traveling part of the old Tōkaidō with Mrs. Obenjo. It was really interesting visiting the checkpoint, as well as the nearby area, where the old Kinokuniya Hatago can be toured. Here are a few additional photos from Arai and the Kinokuniya.


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The Kinokuniya Hatago



If anyone is interested, most of the photos that I posted on Flickr from my travels down the Tōkaidō can be found here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rekishinotabi/sets/72157617323542162

As for the Futagawa Honjin Museum and the Semei Hatago, it is great-- I have been here two times. Domer- I think it was on a must-visit list I gave you during your first tour of duty in Okazaki. It's really a cool place and I am sure you will like it, even though it is 100% Edo period.


Specific photos from Futugawa can be found here:
https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=29656795@N06&q=Futagawa
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