A Remarkable Survival

Azumako akindokagami [Mirror of Merchants of the Azuma Association].

Many fine woodcut views & street maps. 78 folding leaves (incl. leaf 16bis). Oblong 8vo, orig. patterned wrappers, orig. block-printed title label on upper cover. Edo: Komoto Oshiroya Ryosuke, Preface dated 1855, under the author’s pen-name (“Ryozan Ko”).

First edition of this invaluable travel guide, covering inns, restaurants, shops, and notable sights from Kyoto and Osaka to Hokkaido; we have rarely seen a book so packed with information, all of which can be exploited for many kinds of research. During the 19th century, there was a considerable increase in travel within Japan, both for commercial purposes and religious pilgrimages. This created a need for guides, several of which were issued by associations of hoteliers. The present work was, for a decade or so, the most popular such guide and offers an invaluable picture of Japan of the period.

The Azuma Association was founded in the early part of the century by Ryosuke Oshiroya. In this work, the Association provides a list of inns and restaurants guaranteed to be safe and clean. Each member inn posted with pride a sign stating that it was a member of the Azumako. And it a was reciprocal process: before leaving home, the travellers were given wooden membership plaques stating that they, too, were reliable and trustworthy. The first woodcut, which is charming, shows a traveller presenting his wooden membership “card” to the hotelier, who has his list of approved travellers by his side, issued by the Azumako. Another traveller is washing his feet at the hotel’s entrance, while a hotel employee is soliciting potential customers on the street.

This is followed by a wonderfully useful index. The rest of the book is devoted to the cities or villages of Japan — and hundreds are included — each with a detailed map with street names, ads for every kind of merchant (including doctors, dentists, sake and tea dealers, oil merchants, dried fish dealers, hardware stores, etc., with their trademarks), lists of approved inns (no harlots allowed) and eateries, the notable sights, the location of the pleasure quarter, etc., etc. The detail is just incredible.

Guides like this are typically used to death and thrown away. Our copy is in very fine and fresh condition and a most remarkable survival.

Price: $7,500.00

Item ID: 6922

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