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Yamanote Line: Hamamatsu-chō & Tamachi

In Japanese History on February 12, 2017 at 5:11 am

浜松町
Hamamatsu-chō (beachside pine tree town)
田町
Tamachi (rice paddy town)

train

Hamamatsu-chō

So, we’re finally at the end of this series which has spanned the middle of 2016 to the beginning of 2017. I’m hoping that finishing this series will bring some closure to me and to all my longtime and future readers[i]. It’s been a wild year for me, so once again I apologize for the delay in getting this article out there for you.

Anyways… with all that said and done. Let’s get into to what is, for the time being[ii], our final two stops on the Yamanote Line. Hamamatsu-chō Station is located on Edo Bay[iii] in Minato Ward[iv]. Because both loop lines, the Yamanote Line[v] and the Ōedo Line[vi], stop here, this is the perfect location for us to really get off the train, step on to the platform, and scratch our heads.

hamamatsucho_station

Not one of Tōkyō’s more beautiful stations…

The bulks of both the Yamanote and the Ōedo lines are on solid ground, but in comparison to modern day Tōkyō, Edo was built up from a small portion of the bay towards Edo Castle, outward from which it radiated into suburbs and then in countryside. Hamamatsu-chō can be thought of as a convenient seaside suburb of Edo. In fact, not only did many daimyō have beachfront property here, the shōguns themselves had a massive villa replete with extravagant gardens, saltwater moats[vii], and duck hunting grounds. The estate was known as the 浜御殿 Hama Goten Seaside Palace, but today is called the 旧浜離宮庭園 Kyū-Hama Rikyū Tei-en Former Hama Detached Palace Garden[viii]. A short distance away[ix], is a former suburban daimyō residence that is known today as 旧芝離宮庭園 Kyū-Shiba Rikyū Tei-en[x] Former Shiba Detached Palace Gardens. While they are a mere shadow of their Edo Period glory, both plots of land are parks that bring together a mix of classic Japanese gardens and the ultra-modern skyline of Tōkyō.

hama-goten

Hama Goten in the Edo Period. Notice the castle-like fortifications.

The active word in the transformation of both palaces into public parks is 離宮 rikyū which is usually translated as “detached residence” and is a reference any residence of the imperial family that isn’t 皇居 Kōkyo, the remains of Edo Castle, where they are currently squatting. While Shiba Rikyū is a bit more modern, Hama Rikyū actually retains a decent amount of the Edo Period Garden despite all the later development.

And while much of the gardens and duck hunting areas remain intact, sadly none of the Edo Period structures are left except for some of the old stone work. Worse yet is that the magnificent view of Edo Bay has all but perished – replaced by manmade islands that are home to warehouses and industrial harbors. The once beautiful bayside views of pleasure boats cruising on the calm waters from lively teahouses[xi] under the bright hanging moon which were famed in ukiyo-e, poetry, and place names are long gone. If I seem like, I’m getting depressed and unfocused while still waxing poetic about this area that’s because… well, that’s how I am. I love this area today. It’s fucking awesome. However, I really get hung up on how over developed the area has become. I guess I’m just in a real love-hate relationship with the area[xii].

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Hama Rikyu as it looks today.

One final note: Shiodome Station, where the original Shinbashi Station was located is just a few blocks away[xiii]. If you’re in the area, you should definitely check it out[xiv]. You’re also even closer to the Ōedo Line’s Daimon Station which gives you access to Zōjō-ji’s Great Gate and the destroyed mausolea of the Tokugawa shōguns[xv] and Tōkyō Tower.

Further Reading:

tamachi-station-empty

Tamachi Station with no people in it. Weird.

Tamachi

Two commissioned pieces of artwork at Tamachi Station get overlooked everyday by droves of salarymen, salarywomen, and hung over students who schlep through this station like herds of cattle during the morning rush hour. But that artwork, a stone monument and a mosaic that’s easy to miss, are testimony to how important this area was to the End of the Tokugawa Shōgunate and the beginning of the Japanese Empire.

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Statue commemorating the site where Katsu and Saigō met.

What these two monuments commemorate is a famous meeting by Katsu Kaishū and Saigō Takamori. The gist of the meeting was this: Saigō intended to lay siege to the shōgun’s castle and behead the shōgun. Katsu knew Saigō was just crazy enough to try to burn the city of a million inhabitants – not just the largest city in the Japan, but arguably the largest city in the world. Saigō’s path was through war, Katsu’s was through negotiation.

The two met in a seaside teahouse here in Tamachi near the suburban palace of Satsuma Domain[xvi] and worked out a peaceful transfer of power. The newly formed imperial army wouldn’t have to fight the shōgun’s army or kill a million people by fire. The shōgun and his loyal retainers would leave the city peacefully[xvii]. The emperor was then free to enter the castle. Katsu Kaishū had negotiated a deal rarely seen in history.

KeioUniversity.jpg

A few years before the negotiation that saved a million lives, this area also saw the birth of a school for foreign learning. This institution would become Japan’s first western style university, today called 慶応大学 Keiō Daigaku Keiō University, which is now part of Japan’s Ivy League. Tamachi station will lead you directly to the campus, still boasting some Meiji Period architecture and a history deeply entwined in the tumultuous years surrounding the Bakumatsu.

One thing most people don’t think about is why did Saigō Takamori and Katsu Kashū have their meeting here. While all of this area is Tōkyō today, in their time this was actually the border of the shōgun’s capital of Edo and 荏原郡 Ebara-gun Ebara District on the Tōkaidō Highway. If the imperial army coming from the south was going to invade Edo, they’d pretty much have to come this way.

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Takanawa Ōkido – entrance to Edo

If you do a bit of walking from Tamachi Station towards Shinagawa Station, among rows of office buildings and old temples you can find a small trace of the actual city limits. All that remains is a small stone wall overgrown with grass and weeds. Apparently, it looked much this way at the time of Saigō and Katsu’s negotiation as the three traditional entrances in and out of Edo were de-fortified about 100 years before due to a stable peace[xix].

takanawaokido01-l

The Ōkido back then

Today, Tamachi is a great place to go drinking. There are lots of izakaya and small privately owned restaurants that cater to middle aged salarymen working in the headquarters of manufacturing companies as well as students aspiring to be corporate drones. There’s an interesting, and uniquely Japanese, intersection of young and old, modern and historical here.

And on that note, I think this is a good place to finally wrap up this series on the Yamanote Line. I think I’ve made a good case that it’s more than just an ruthless drinking game and I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

Further Reading:

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Explore Edo-Tōkyō

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[i] I wanna get back to place names, dammit!
[ii] A new station will supposedly be added before the 2020 Olympics. As it’s already 2017 and no construction that I know of has taken place, this now remains to be seen.
[iii] Or “Tōkyō Bay” to you noobs.
[iv] Literally “Harbor Ward.”
[v] A true “loop line.” More here.
[vi] Not quite a true “loop line.” More here.
[vii] Other than being ostentatious, this was presumably of inconsequential defensive worth. I mean, salt water may kill a freshwater fish, but a mammal with a sword doesn’t give a shit about salt water.
[viii] Originally, the 浜御殿 Hama Goten seaside palace of the Tokugawa shōguns.
[ix] Actually, closer to Hamamatsu-chō Station than the shōguns’ villa is.
[x] Originally, the residence of the Ōkubo clan and then the Kishū Tokugawa clan. After the Meiji Coup, the Arisugawa branch of the imperial family took over.
[xi] Pronounced “drinking & whoring.”
[xii] Definitely more on the “love” side, though.
[xiii] Which gives you access to the modern Shinbashi Station.
[xiv] Most Tōkyōites don’t know it exists.
[xv] Truth be told… between Shinbashi and Akabanebashi, you’ll find an area dotted with shrines, temples, and graveyards which once were overseen by the powerful priests of Zōjō-ji – all of whom reported directly to the Tokugawa shōguns.
[xvi] Today it’s the headquarters of NEC.
[xvii] Most did, but a small contingent of loyalists holed up at Kan’ei-ji, present day Ueno Park, in anticipation of a final showdown.
[xviii] All the country samurai who had been required to live in Edo were sent back to their native domains.
[xix] And a fairly rigorous system of checkpoints on the highways far away from Edo, and strategic placement of loyal daimyō surrounding the shōgun’s capital.

Yamanote Line: Yūraku-chō & Shinbashi

In Japanese History on January 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm

有楽町
Yūraku-chō (literally, “leisure town” but more at “Oda Nobumasu’s town”)
新橋
Shinbashi (literally, “new bridge”)

yurakucho

Yūraku-chō Station shot from within the former castle grounds.

Yūraku-chō

 

The area called Yūraku-chō lies in an area that used be a fortified island between the inner and outer moats of Edo Castle. In fact, the elevated train tracks supported by red brick foundations are built on the reclaimed outer moat of Edo Castle. The palaces of the daimyō most closely aligned with the Tokugawa shōguns were located here and to this day, you can still walk on a road from 数寄屋橋 Sukiyabashi[i] (literally, “tea-house bridge”) to Tōkyō Station on a road that was nicknamed[ii] 大名小路 daimyō koji daimyō alley.

This neighborhood was home to the 南町奉行 minami machi bugyō-sho office of the southern bugyō, a kind of magistrate/governor[iii]. Actually, if you go to the area today, you can see a few remains of the bugyō office. There are some stone walls[iv], plumbing[v], and a cistern[vi] preserved in the basement of the イトシア ITOCiA shopping center[vii].

old-shit

The average Tōkyōite doesn’t realize they’re sitting on an Edo Period plumbing system. One more reason to learn as much about Edo before you visit Tōkyō. Jussayin’.

My Ōsaka readers[viii] may be scratching their heads saying 有楽町 is pronounced Uraku-machi while my Edo peeps are probably saying “Ōsaka people are ridiculous; everyone knows it’s Yūraku-chō.” Both areas are written with the same kanji, and both are attributed to the same individual, a certain 織田信益 Oda Nobumasu, brother of 織田信長 Oda Nobunaga[ix]. Oral tradition maintains that the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, granted him a plot of land for his residence near Sukiyabashi Gate on the banks of the outer moat[x].

Nobumasu became a tea master and used the name 有楽 or 有楽斎 which are Uraku and Uraku-sai respectively[xi]. In the Kansai area – Kyōto and Ōsaka – it retains the Uraku reading. In Kantō, which was admittedly not as cultured as Kyōto at the time, the same characters were read as Yūraku. Which reading is correct? It seems difficult to say because while people in Edo used one reading, and people in Ōsaka used another, Nobumasu himself was native to Owari Province which used a dialect altogether different from those two. However, the reading Yūraku is more prevalent in the modern language, probably because Standard Japanese is essentially the Tōkyō Dialect. However, Uraku is most likely what Nobumasu would have expected to be referred to as.

guardo-shita

Modern Yūraku-chō is partly reasonable shopping district[xii] and partly ガード下 gādo shita drinking town under the tracks of the Yamanote Line and shinkansen. There are great casual dining and drinking establishments in the area with a lingering tinge of post-war Shōwa Period grit. The area is a comfortable middle ground between the sophisticated shopping district of 銀座 Ginza and the salaryman wasteland of 新橋 Shinbashi[xiii].

Further Reading:

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Some wasted corporate shill in Shinbashi. Love it or hate it. Shit gets real real quick in Shinbashi.

Shinbashi

 

The next station on the Yamanote Line is 新橋 Shinbashi, which literally means “new bridge.” Since I wrote my original article on Shinbashi, I’ve come across more information on the so-called “new bridge” which made what I first said unclear. But without getting into the nitty-gritty, the bridge which appeared on Edo Period maps as シン橋 Shinbashi[xiv] seems to have been an auxiliary bridge or a kind of service entrance to the castle. It wasn’t defended with a 御門 go-mon gate or 見附 mitsuke fortified approach. The area was fortified in the early 1700’s and renamed 芝口御門 Shibaguchi Go-mon Shibaguchi Gate, but the area was lost to a fire about 10 years later and never rebuilt.

After the Meiji Coup, the first station of the first train line in Japan, the Tōkaidō Main Line was built in the bordering area that’s called 汐留 Shiodome today. The station was named 新橋駅 Shinbashi Eki Shinbashi Station. The present day Shinbashi Station area was actually known as 烏森 Karasumori the Crow Forest in the Edo Period and is located a good 5 or 10 minute walk from where the original station sat[xv].

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Karasumori Shrine

Shinbashi is a Shōwa Era shitamachi gem in Tōkyō that takes some getting used to. I’ve heard many times from other expats about how much they hate the place. To them it represents old, drunk salarymen drenched in spilt sake and shōchū who reek of cigarette and kitchen smoke stumbling through the streets and pissing down unlit basement stairways before they rudely push their way onto the crowded last train home.

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Original Shinbashi Station (reconstructed)

Not unsurprisingly, some of the rawest drinking spots in Tōkyō are located here. Like all Shōwa Period towns, it’s far more social than most of the big city. And believe it or not, it’s considered one of the best ナンパスポット nanpa supotto pick up spots for middle aged office workers of both sexes[xvi]. Some of the ママさん mama-san proprietresses of small スナック sunakku local dive bars are known to match-make solo drinkers for the night in hopes of bringing a pair of lonely hearts together… if only for the moment[xvii].

The present-day Shinbashi area was home to the 中屋敷 naka-yashiki middle residence[xviii] of the Date clan from 仙台藩 Sendai Han Sendai Domain, where the wives and children of Date Masamune’s descendants lived.

Additional Reading:

 

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[i] Where that sushi restaurant from Jirō Dreams of Sushi is located.
[ii] And still bears the informal name.
[iii] There were actually two machi bugyō in Edo. The minami machi bugyō was located in Yūraku-chō, while the kita machi bugyō, the northern bugyō, was located in Yaesu, near present-day Tōkyō Station.
[iv] Complete with 刻印 kokuin symbols denoting the provenance of the stone work.
[v] Repurposed as benches for shoppers.
[vi] That’s another term for a well.
[vii] Don’t ask me about the capitalization, I didn’t name the place.
[viii] Do I even have any?
[ix] The first (and craziest) of the 3 Great Unifiers of Japan.
[x] That said, the area wasn’t officially referred to as Yūraku-chō until the Meiji Period when the area was disconnected from the castle and redeveloped as civilian.
[xi] The Edo Period equivalent of a DJ name.
[xii] A refreshing alternative to neighboring Ginza, which has long been considered the standard bearer of high fashion and designer brands in Asia.
[xiii] It also melts into Hibiya and Marunouchi. The more I think about it, Yūraku-chō is like a chameleon.
[xiv] The katakana seems to have been used to clarify the reading – the kanji 新橋 could also be read Arabashi.
[xv] Needless to say, by the “original station” I’m referring to the former Shibaguchi area, which is considered the Shiodome area today.
[xvi] Yup, this is an actual thing.
[xvii] And presumably continued patronage to their bars…
[xviii] Not sure what a “middle residence” is? Have no fear, here’s my primer on the Tokugawa shōgunate’s policy of alternate attendance.

The Year in Review – 2016

In Japanese Holidays on January 9, 2017 at 3:18 am

めでてー!めでてー!
Medetē! Medetē! (“Happy happy! Joy joy!” in the Edo Dialect)
Congratulations!mochi

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve update JapanThis!. In fact, the last article was published on August 3rd, 2016. That’s almost a half year ago; that’s the longest time the site’s gone dark in a long, long time. In that time, I’ve heard from more than a few you of asking if everything is OK with my health or if I’d quit doing the site completely or what.

Well, thank you for all your concern, and I can assure you that there is nothing wrong with my health and I’m most definitely not quitting the site. The real cause for my silence was merely a technical issue. My computer died. With it I lost the research for the final articles for the Yamanote Line Series (and a lot of other stuff not JapanThis!-related). As a Christmas present to myself, I got me a new ‘puter and a new version of MS Office and now I’m back in action. Actually, getting MS Word is just as critical to writing as having a computer. I tried writing using Google Docs and some other options, and it’s just not the same[i]. What’s more, buying MS Word in Japan is like twice the cost of buying it in the US for some reason.

Anyhoo, everything is set up and good to go, so expect to see the site updated with new articles regularly.

ny

Happy Nude Year!

What Happened in 2016?

 

Long time readers know that I like to make my first post of the new year a retrospective. I try to round up all the place names we looked at this year and then I give you a few other updates and things to look forward to in the next year. This year is no exception.

First, you may have not noticed yet, but there was a major – yet subtle – change to the site that came this summer. If you look up in the browser address field you may notice that it no longer says markystar.wordpress.com. The site has an official domain name and that’s the way things will be from here on out[ii].

I’ve decided on a few stylistic changes that are very minor – and, honestly, they won’t be noticeable until well into the new year. These are boring things like, how pages are layed out. For example, until now, I’ve just been putting section headers in bold print, but from now on I’m going to format them as actual headers (a difference that mainly only matters when dealing with HTML). There aren’t many of these changes and they don’t really affect the reader, it’s just more silly stuff I hafta do behind the scenes to make the site look pretty and still be usable.

30005-1

Good luck in 2017!

Where Did We Go in 2016?

 

Well, since half the year was silent, we didn’t really have a lot of articles. That said, we still covered a lot of Edo-Tōkyō in a short time.

Early in 2016, we explored Kōnan and Ōsaki (two places we would revisit in our soon-to-be-completed Yamanote Line Series). I always love getting down to this area because it’s really water, both the rivers and the bay, that brought life to Edo-Tōkyō. While we were down here, we took a little time to explore Irugi Shrine – a shrine most would overlook, but actually has a great history. We also looked at Goten’yama, one of Edo’s most famous hanami spots, which is now just a shitamachi town in Shinagawa.

Then, we took an epic look at Shinjuku’s sordid past (and present) as well as Ōme, whose pre-modern highway passed through the area[iii]. It was nice to have the chance to re-do Shinjuku and give it the attention it deserved. And while way out, suburban Tachikawa wasn’t high on everyone’s To Do List, it was a reader request and so we took a quick look out that direction.

We also looked at some  areas that are synonymous with government, Nagata-chō and Kioi-chō. The latter of the two is no doubt of interest to fans of James Bond, as a few scenes from You Only Live Twice were shot in the area.

The last place name we visited in 2016 was Harajuku, one of Tōkyō’s many fashion districts. I was actually surprised I hadn’t covered it yet, but apparently, it was one of the few remaining “big names” in the metropolis that merely got mentioned here and there.

9784805313114__09290.1455208216.1280.1280

We reviewed two excellent books this year. First, there was Terry Bennet’s Photography in Japan: 1853-1912 which was published by Tuttle and is a great look at the evolution of this art and science in Japan. The other was Taschen’s lovely hardbound issue of Hiroshige: One Hundred Views of Edo the artist’s epic series on daily life in the shōgun’s capital.

The bulk of the year consisted of the series, Explore the Yamanote Line. This was meant to be a companion guide to the Explore the Ōedo Line series and, of course, was meant to be finished quickly. Unfortunately, when my computer died, the last 2-3 articles got put on hold indefinitely. I intended to finish those articles as soon as possible and put that project behind me. One cool thing about the Yamanote Line series, if you go back, there are now short videos for many of the station areas with their corresponding platform chimes produced by my friends over at Digital Hub.

av-kimura-tsuna2-1

Oh, and today is Cumming of Age Day.

Milestones in 2016

 

Despite leaving the blog to lie dormant for the last half of the year, we crossed a couple of amazing thresholds and grew quite a bit.

First, in the beginning of spring, just as the weather started getting nice again, I announced 5 or 6 super-geeky historical walking tours based on the history of Edo-Tōkyō. While people aren’t banging down my door every day to take these tours, quite a few groups and individuals did. We had a lot of fun on all the tours I’ve done so far and I look forward to doing some more in 2017. I’m going to add a few more possible courses to the existing ones and I hope to have those up in time for spring.

A big anniversary came in May of 2016. That was the 300th article posted on JapanThis! – a definite major achievement, if I do say so myself. The big thanks actually go to you the reader because you guys keep me going!

img_1514

And while I’m patting myself on the back, I might also add that sometime between Dec. 31st 2016 and Jan. 1st 2017, the number of my Twitter followers passed the 3,000 mark. The reason I bring this up is because I initially joined Twitter just to promote JapanThis!, and I remember very well how lonely it felt tweeting out to only 10 followers – most of whom were just friends and family showing their support[iv]. These days promoting the blog isn’t even 1/10th of what I tweet. I generally just use it to goof around with likeminded people, probably people like you.

Alright, that’s about all I have to wrap up this year. And if anyone’s interested, you can compare 2016 with past years and see how I did:

The Year in Review: 2015
The Year in Review: 2014

And on that note, Happy New Year to all of you. Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and encouraging me to keep on keepin’ on. Here’s to 2017, let it be a year that would make the 11th shōgun Ienari blush[v].

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[i] For example, I need MS Word to get Word Press to play well with certain features of the JapanThis!, like the footnotes.
[ii] You don’t need to update your bookmarks or anything because the old address will just forward you to the new one.
[iii] That being, of course, the 青梅街道 Ōme Kaidō.
[iv] And probably counting down the days to when they could unfollow without me noticing lol.
[v] Longtime readers will remember that Tokugawa Ienari was my most favoritest shōgun ever.

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