Old Sanyo Road
The ancient governments of Japan, under the Ritsuryo Legal Code, developed
public roads linking the capital cities, Nara and later Kyoto, with local provinces.
The governments also provided rest stations for travellers in the main centers of
local states along the public roads. People in those days relied on the Sanyo
Road for their transportation as the only major road connecting the capital and
Dazaifu (in Fukuoka Prefecture), an important government organ in charge of
diplomacy and security. At each station, the governments built an ekiko (station
house), hayuma (horse house) and ekiden (agency to raise money necessary to
run the facilities of the stations).
Following are names of rest stations along the old Sanyo Road in Hiroshima
Prefecture: Kannabe - Fukuyama - Mitsugi - Mihara - Hongo - Takehara -
Higashi Hiroshima - Seno - Numata - Hatsukaichi - Ono - Otake.
After the medieval era, the new Sanyo Road ran closer to the coastline of the
Inland Sea replacing the old Sanyo Road.
In the early modern era, the Sanyo Road was often called Saikoku Kaido (a
road running through western provinces). Each rest station for travellers was
built with a main building, sub-buildings and lodging facilities. Milestones were
put along the road indicating the distance every four kilometers. The present
Route 2 roughly traces the Sanyo Road.
The stone pavement of the old Sanyo Road (Photograph taken circa 1994)
In 731, Kumakori Otomo, age 18, a resident of Higo Province (now Kumamoto Prefecture), became resolved regarding his path in life and went to Nara. On the way, he got sick and died at Takaniwa Station in the former Saeki region. Later, having been moved by Kumakori's death, a famous poet, Okura Yamanoue, composed six short poems for him. The poems, included in the Manyoshu from the 7th-8th centuries, were a reflection of Kumakori's grieving about his death and the pain he thought his parents would have from his death.