Seven windings of Itsukaichi-kaido at Ozaki

These big trees grow in the garden of a local farmer whose family lives here hundreds years.
"Kaido" are roads or highways which connect distant destinations and serve as important transport network. Some of them have their origin in the ancient time, but many of them were constructed in the Edo Period (1603-1867) and integrated into the national road network under the modern Japanese government of Meiji Period (1868-1912).

In the neighborhood of my house I can find such highways as Koshu-kaido, Hitomi-kaido, Itsukaichi-kaido and Oume-kaido. Among them Koshu-kaido was the most important as one of the five main roads of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was originally conceived as an evacuation route for Shoguns in case Edo was occupied by hostile corps. However, the Edo Period did not experience any warfare and Koshu-kaido was never used for military purposes. Its main users were feudal lords who had their domains in the present Yamanashi prefecture and marched through Koshu-kaido in their official tours till and from Edo.

On the other hand, Itsukaichi-kaido, which is the nearest to my house, was and is just a local road and stretches over mere 52 km. It braches off from Oume-kaido at Koenji-minami and leads to Itsukaichi, now a part of Akiruno city in the west of the prefecture Tokyo.

Itsukaichi-kaido was constructed in the early Edo Period as a route to transport charcoal produced in Akikawa valley to Edo - the capital of Tokugawa Shogunate and the present Tokyo. The road was initially called Ina-michi, then in various ways such as Itsukaichi-michi, Oume-kaido waki-michi, Edo-michi, Koganei-michi and Sunagawa-michi. Throughout the Edo period, it served as transport way for diverse agricultural products. It was also used by tourists who wanted to see cherry blossom in Koganei. The present name Itsukaichi-kaido was fixed in the Meiji Period.

Its original width varied from place to place dependent on the capability of the communities along the road. Within the present Suginami-ward area, the road was as narrow as 3 ken (ca. 5.4m) in the eastern part and 8 ken (ca. 14.4m) in the western part. Itsukaichi-kaido was constructed mostly on a flat terrace land in the east-west direction. Only where it had to cross the valley of Zenpukuji-gawa River and adjacent low swamp land at Ozaki, an extremely winding route had to be chosen to avoid steep slopes. Nevertheless the winding route was detrimental to smooth traffic and carts were often overthrown at a sharply bending corner or on a slope. Therefore, "Ozaki-no-Nanamagari" (Seven windings at Ozaki) became notorious as a difficult section of the Itsukaichi-kaido.

Only around 1920 the ups and downs of the road were corrected and windings were straightened. Then the road was widened and finally a new bridge was constructed at Ozaki a few years ago. The present Itsukaichi-kaido is administratively called "Tokyo prefectural road Route 7" and it deviates in some places from the original route. It is interesting to trace the old route and discover hangovers from the feudal time. This article picks up the earlier section of "Ozaki-no-Nanamagari" and transmits you the atmosphere of old local highway.

The road on the right is the former Itsukaichi-kaido. This part is called "Shirasaka" (white slope). There is a "Koshin house" in the middle where three stone Buddda statues are housed.

All buddha statutes (From right to left Jizo (1698), Bato-kannon (1760) and Jizo (1753) ) were erected by the farmers in the neighborhood
wishing for rosperity.
The starting point of "Nanamagari";
The narrow alley on the left is the original Itsukaichi-kaido.
The deviation from the present route starts here. The road curbs to the right and crosses the modern route where the wooden house of a rice shop stands. Then relatively steep downhill slope exists ahead. This is called "Shirasaka slope" and the last difficult part of the Seven Windings when people came from provinces.

Rich shop in a traditional wooden house
At the corner with Mabashi-michi, there is a tiny temple housing three stone Buddha statues. Farmers in the neighborhood contributed them wishing happiness and prosperity.

Then, the old road comes back to the present Itsukaichi-kaido and crosses Zenpukuji-gawa River. The historical bridge existed some 10 meters upward the river from the present concrete bridge.

At the end of a narrow alley, the old Itsukaichi-kaido turns 90 degrees to the left. At the corner with the present Itsukaichi-kaido there is Hoshoji Temple. In its gateway there stands an old monument which commemorated the building of a stone bride at Machikado and served as a signpost. The alley goes straight, crosses the main road and turns again 90 degrees to the right. At this corner, the old settlement Machikado, there was a stone bridge crossing a narrow irrigation water ditch. The monument in the gateway of Hoshoji Temple was originally placed next to the bridge. A parapet of the bridge is now placed in the court of Ozaki Shrine.

Then the road comes back again to the present Itsukaichi-kaido and crosses it. An alley passes by a children's center and a construction company and reaches an old farm house. I could trace the name of the family also in the document dating back to the 18th century. Though it was not a large landowner, the family still possesses several ha farmland in the midst of residential area. High keyaki trees grow in its garden (see the photo above).

Gateway to Hoshoji Temple

Rest of the Michikado bridge (now placed in Kumano shrine)

Jizo statue (1663)

Monument to commemorate the completion of Michikado Bridge(1864)

Koshintou (1708)
The engraved figures are Shomen-Kongo (the main figure) and three monkeys (symbolizing not seeing, not saying and not hearing).

A tiny inari shrine
At the fence of the farmhouse, the old Itsukaichi-kaido turns sharply to the left and once again crosses the present Itsukaichi-kaido. Then the alley slightly curves right and on the right side of the alley there is a tiny Inari shrine. After a few hundred meters, the alley turns right and goes down a relatively steep slope. At the junction with the present Itsukaichi-kaido, there stands a koshin-to (*) dated 1708.
"Koshin" is the name of a day which recurs every 60 days according to the traditional Chinese calendar. The belief or superstition related to "koshin" became very popular in the Edo Period.

It was believed that special worms living in the human body called Sanshi go to the Lord of Heaven during the koshin night to give negative reports of the person concerned while he or she sleeps. Therefore, people should stay awake through the whole night to prevent Sanshi so that they can secure happy fortune. In the Edo Period there were numerous groups of people who helped one anther to overcome the sleepiness during the koshin night. After successful years of sleepless nights, people used to contribute monuments among others with the engravings of Shomen-Kongo and three monkeys.

As the Meiji Govenment destroyed such superstitious monuments, we cannot find many examples, though a great deal of koshinto might have been built.
Ozaki-no-Nanamagari stretches over ca. 1 km. If you drive through the new main street, you cannot notice much. But, even in the old side alley we can still find some interesting hangovers from the past.