The very complicated relief and the humid and rainy climate of the town made the opening of roads, their maintenance and viability very difficult at all times. However, for a long time in history, the construction of communication routes is remembered. In 549 a. C., under the Emperor Suisei, tradition records the construction of some roads in Chūgoku; later, in 158 d. C., reigning the Emperor Kinmei, the great artery of Tōkaidō was opened, one of the greatest communication routes that Japan has had and also famous for the illustrations that, at the time of the Tokugawa, the famous Hokusai made of it.
The road communications system began under the Empress Suiko, in 607 AD. C.; in this epoch the viability was improved with the repair of the old ones and the construction of new roads and hotels and change points for horses were established, to make traffic faster. However, there were no bridges on the major rivers and this was always a great obstacle to the speed of communications between the various provinces of the Empire, despite the fact that their lack was made up for with the establishment of ferries by boat or on the shoulder of a man.
According to the latest road law (1919), these are divided into 5 categories: national roads (kokud ō), with a width greater than 7 m. (6 m. If in the mountains), which include military roads and those that connect Tōkyō to the great temple of Ise, naval bases, open ports, divisional headquarters; prefectural roads (fukend ō), with a width greater than 5 m. and a half (4½ if in the mountains), which connect the prefecture capitals with other important points of the same; district roads (gund ō) and urban roads (shid ō) of the same width as the previous ones; and, finally, village streets (ch ō sond ō), with a width of no less than 3.5 meters. In 1924 in Japan there were just 8181 km. of national roads, 91,730 km. of provincial and district roads, 824,218 km. of urban and village streets. The bridges, calculating only those with more than m. 1.82 in length, were 420.694, of which 1132 in iron, 92.643 in stone, 160.121 in wood and 156.113 in masonry
As means of transport for men and goods they used in ancient chariots pulled by oxen, horses, or men; systems, these, imported from China. Today, after the introduction of European civilization, these means, especially human transport, are gradually being replaced by the mechanical ones that civilization has made available to peoples. In 1928 there were 2738 horse carriages for the transport of people, 306.473 horse carts for goods, 87.358 ox carts, 2.142.590 carts (including hand ones), 31.826 cars, 14.467 trucks and car wagons for goods, 55.530 jinrikisha (cars for the transport of passengers pulled by men: see), 11,705 motorcycles and 4,751,678 bicycles. The number of cars is increasing despite the fact that the country is poor in mineral oils. The first railway line was opened to traffic in May 1872, between Tōkyō and Yokohama (km. 27.5). Since then, the railway network has been developing rapidly. The following table concerns the imperial and private railways network of Japan’s own only.
According to nexticle, the number of staff in 1928 was 206,431 employees.
The main line is the one that connects Tōkyō to Ōsaka and Kōbe, passing through Nagoya; the line then continues to Shimonoseki, where it is interrupted by the Tsushima Strait to continue to Söul (Korea). Another line, also very important, goes from Tōkyō to Sendai and Morioka to Aomori, is interrupted there by the Tsugaru Strait (crossing by ferry-boat) and then continues to Sapporo, one of the main cities of the island of Yezo. From Sapporo there is an extension that reaches Toyohara, capital of the island of Sakhalin (crossing from the Sōya Strait by ferry-boat). The most important ferry-boats are: Shimonoseki-Moji (15 minutes with 30 departures per day), Shimonoseki-Fusan (9 hours, 2 departures per day in both directions), Aomori-Hakodate (4 ½ hours, 4 departures per day in both directions), Wakkanai-Ōdomari (8 hours). The gauge used by the imperial railways is mm. 1067. For urban communications there are numerous tram lines in large cities sufficient to meet the needs of city traffic.
The seafaring attitudes, traditionally excellent, as is moreover natural in a people, such as the Japanese, who inhabit an archipelago and have had continuous relations with the peoples of the continent since ancient times, had a good game when, immediately after the Restoration, in dependence on the government’s westernization program, it was a matter of creating almost the maritime communications that the shōgun, by abolishing long-distance navigation, had reduced to internal services.
The first Japanese company, the Mitsubishi Kwaisha, was born in 1873 with a fleet sold by the government, and already after three years it had 42 steamers, 11 of which over 1000 tons. But still in 1880 the Japanese navy was mainly made up of junks, as well as a core of 89,309 tons. of European-type ships. In 1882, in competition with Mitsubishi, Ky ō to Un-y ū Kwnisha was born: the two companies merged in 1885 giving life to Nippon Y ū sen Kwaisha, which is still the largest Japanese shipping company.
The war with China, first, the war against Russia, then gave a strong impetus to the development of the merchant navy of Japan. In 1914 the fleet consisted of 827 mechanically propelled vessels per ton. 1,642,000. Construction premiums, tax concessions, etc., helped to repair the losses (not excessive: 119,000 tons) suffered during the war, so that in 1919 the fleet had exceeded the pre-war consistency (1418 ships per ton. 2,325,266). It increased continuously in the following years. The maximum was reached so far in 1930 (tonnes 4.316.804). At 30 June 1931 there was a slight decrease: 1969 ships per ton. 4,276,341, including 1672 steamboats per ton. 3,763,925 and 297 motor vessels per ton. 512.416. By total tonnage, Japan occupies the 30th place among the world navies, the 80th place for the motor ships.