The English Captain Osborn, who travelled along part of the road about the year 1858, says that of these stages on the Tokaido:
The lords of the various manors are compelled by the authorities to maintain these places of refreshment for travellers; they are vastly superior to the caravanserais of the East, and relays of horses or porters are always ready at these post-houses, and must do all work at a regular fixed charge, ridiculously small according to English notions. Another and still more onerous duty falls on these establishments, and that is the responsibility of forwarding all Imperial dispatches between the two capitals, or from Yedo to any part of the Empire. Runners are consequently ever ready to execute this task.
The social status of the person is indicated by the manner in which he travels. The daimyo and people of the upper class travel in norimono, which are roomy enough to allow a fair amount of ease, and are comfortably furnished. The sides can be opened or closed at will, as a protection against the weather. The length of the pole proclaims the rank of the passenger; if a nobleman, a long pole borne by five or six men at each end; a person of lower rank, a shorter pole and only four carriers. If the occupant is a prince of the royal family, the pole rests on the palms of the hands, otherwise it is borne on the shoulders. Humble individuals have to be satisfied with a hago carried by two porters, which entails a very cramped position. In steep mountain regions everyone, whatever their rank, is obliged to use a hago.
From 'Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints' - Edward F. Strange