This introductory chapter provides a background of the concept of travel in the Edo period. In the centuries that preceded the rise to power of the Tokugawa, journeys were prominently utilitarian or generally undertaken out of necessity. In the early modern period, a new type of journey emerged: travel as a conscious sociocultural act, undertaken not out of practical necessity but from the simple desire to break with the ordinary and engage with an out-of-the-ordinary space and time—a goal only the lifelong peregrinations of wandering monks, nuns, and mountain ascetics (yamabushi) had approximated in the past. With this shift in focus, the road took on a new function. No longer the inert, flat line between two points of interests, it became an active stage on which meanings could be discovered, created, and communicated.
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