The bridge into Honjo, depicted in Hiroshige’s print, only crosses part of the river. The bridge was built in 1781 by a local businessman to encourage free travel along the highway and, presumably, to his shop. Unfortunately, he lacked the funds to extend the bridge across the entire river. A boat carried travelers the remainder of the crossing, and the boatman charged his due fare, doubtless no different from the fare charged before any bridge construction began.
In 1843, Honjo had 4,554 other people, equally divided among men and women, and was considerably larger than any post-town in modern-day Saitama prefecture. At that time, it was a center of trade in silk thread and a major market town. Today, silk manufacturing has moved to China and the area has fallen into relative decline. Although Saitama has the fastest population growth rate in Japan, Honjo is too far away from Tokyo to have yet felt the positive impacts of suburban growth. The town has defaced its character with bland facades to hide the genuine frontages which once graced this prosperous post-town. It is as if in the 1960s the town anticipated too early the expansion of Tokyo which will one day surely come to it.
Leaving Honjo, a derelict pachinko parlor is passed before the landscape widens onto the spacious flatlands with the vinyl-covered hothouses of garden farms. The urban metropolis which has stimulated the conversion from rice paddies to market gardening is beyond sight, but not far ahead.