Kagurazaka (Entertainment of the Gods Hill)
Don’t you just love these names?
This one doesn’t have much of a story, but it’s definitely a cool spot in Tokyo. Kagura is a kind of Shinto ritual dance. It’s ancient and stylized and… I’ll be honest, I don’t know very much about it besides the name. If you want to learn more about it, read here: Kagura.
Anyways, the name was most likely given around the 1820’s (Edo Period) because music coming from the shrines echoed through the streets.
In the Edo Period this area fell outside the very outermost boundary of Edo Castle (the present day, much diminished Imperial Palace). As you can imagine, rich samurai and the feudal lords are the only types who could live or enjoy recreation in the areas surrounding the castle. “Kagura Hills” was just such an area. It wasn’t a “pleasure quarters” in the sense that Yoshiwara was, but it was the site of several high end shops for enjoying entertainment by Edo’s top geishas. If I’m not mistaken, the only 2 places in Tokyo where you can still see geisha are Kagurazaka and Ginza – the shops are extremely expensive. There might be some other places, but Kagurazaka is the most famous.
The area retains some of the Edo flavor, so it’s a nice area to visit if you want to get a feel for the traditional look of Edo/Tokyo. There is a huge French ex-pat community in Kagurazaka, so if you want to get a feel for Paris, you can do that here, too…. lol