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  • Japanese: 伝馬 (denma)

Denma were post-horses used to carry luggage and packages along the Tôkaidô and other highways in the early modern period. Horses were typically used only between one post-station (shukuba) and the next; after arriving in each post-station, couriers or porters would change for new horses at the town's toiyaba.

Horses were divided into three general categories based on the amount of weight they could be used to carry. Honma 本馬 and norikake 乗掛 horses were typically used to carry up to 40 kanme (approx. 150 kg) worth of materials, or 20 kanme and a rider, while karajiri 軽尻 horses were used to carry either a rider and a small amount of weight, or up to 20 kanme worth of cargo.[1] Honma and norikake horses were typically the same cost to rent, and karajiri typically cost roughly 2/3 of that price. Porters typically carried about five kanme (20kg) each, and cost about half the price of renting a honma or norikake horse.

That said, for merchants and ordinary travelers, prices were typically negotiable to some extent.[2] For those traveling on official business, they either paid rates set by the Tokugawa shogunate (osadame chinsen) - typically about half the rate ordinary travelers could negotiate - or, with the right papers, they were entitled to be provided with porters, post-horses, and other services for free. Those paying set prices included daimyô on sankin kôtai journeys to and from Edo as well as some categories of those traveling on official business. The rôjû, Kyoto shoshidai, and certain other high-ranking shogunate officials had the power to issue goshômon documents entitling someone to free services; meanwhile, the shogun's own red seal (goshuin) provided court nobles, designated temple priests, the shogun's official tea suppliers, and select others free services as well.

The osadame chinsen set prices for daimyô and others rose considerably by the end of the Edo period; rates during the Bakumatsu (1850s-60s) were often as much as 7 1/2 times as much as in the 1710s.[3]

This relay system was known as shukutsugi 宿継, and it is from this that the typical Japanese name for the 53 "stations" of the Tôkaidô - Tôkaidô gojûsan tsugi - derives.


  • Gallery labels, Futagawa-juku honjin shiryôkan, Toyohashi, Aichi.[2]
  1. "Karajiri," Digital Daijisen.; "Honma," Digital Daijisen.; "Norikake," Nihon kokugo daijiten.
  2. This was called aitai chinsen 相対賃銭.
  3. Gallery labels, Futagawa-juku honjin shiryôkan, Toyohashi, Aichi.[1]