Jigsaw puzzles from Japan
Feature page for April 2007
The picture on the right is part of a drawing made by Engelbert Kaempfer, explorer and physician, of the Dutch delegation of which he was a member on its way to meet the Shogun in Edo (modern Tokyo). This journey, of around 1000 km, was made partly by ship across the Inland Sea, but the remainder overland - and with not a wheel in sight. The coastline of Japan is almost unremittingly hostile, and therefore the main communications network consisted of often tortuous routes through the mountains, leaving legs as the only plausible means of locomotion. For many this meant walking, but Kaempfer himself rode a horse, and the most privileged simply sat in a palanquin and were carried.
Of course this network has long fallen into disuse, replaced first by winding roads, now by almost straight tunnels, but all shifting away from the original to more accessible lines. Thus many traces remain, and some of the routes have become ways of pilgrimage, providing a well-preserved taste of times gone by.