Tsuko-tegata (通行手形)

Tsuko-tegata was a certificate for people in the Edo period to prove that they were traveling with permission. Travelers were obliged to carry it as a proof of the permission during their travels, and it is equivalent to the present passport and identity card.


In the Edo period, sekisho (checking stations) and kuchidome-bansho (checkpoints) were set up at various places to strictly control the movement of people. There were various reasons for travels, such as house moving, official or commercial trip, visiting temples and shrines, a hot-spring cure, and in cases of women, marriage and live-in domestic service. Generally, however, traveling was not allowed with ease except for a pilgrimage to Ise Shrine that was permitted unconditionally. Visits to famous shrines and temples, such as Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine and Zenko-ji Temple, were allowed in most cases.

However, unlike in modern times, there were no tourist resorts developed then, therefore the visits to shrines and temples themselves were pleasure trips. Traveling, in the first place, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the common people (like traveling abroad before the high-growth period). However, according to a different theory, people were actually able to travel without restraint as long as they made notification, which is like traveling abroad after getting a passport in modern times, considering the fact that domains in the Edo period were like semi-independent states..

Control over movement of women in samurai families was stricter than that over the common people, and tsuko-tegata for women was indispensable.

Samurai asked for tsuko-tegata to be issued at Hancho (government building of domain). The common people asked town or village officers, or their family temples to issue their tsuko-tegata..

It can be said that the wording of tsuko-tegata is quite similar to that of the current passport. Identity of the person who carried the tsuko-tegata, purpose of travel (such as visiting temples and shrines in various provinces), request for passing sekisho, request for convenience and protection to related officers, identity and address of the issuer and the like were written on it.

Existing tsuko-tegata are materials to indicate the movement of people in the Edo period.