Today’s Tōkyō place name is simple. It’s made of 3 kanji: 茅 kaya (hay, straw), 場 ba (place) and 町 chō (town, neighborhood). It sounds so strange in a supermodern, bustling international metropolis like Tōkyō, but there it is. It’s actually a major business and financial center. During the day time it’s salarymen everywhere. At night it’s drunk salarymen for a little while and then it turns into a ghost town.
So why is there an area called “straw place town” in the middle of central Tōkyō?
This area was originally a plain full of nice grass, so when Edo Castle was being built, they came here to get straw for the thatched roofs of some of the buildings. So the area naturally became known as THE place for buying straw for all of Edo’s thatched-roofing needs.
I’ve looked all over for pictures buildings in Edo Castle with thatched roofs but I couldn’t find much (presumably most of them had burned down before the advent of photography). So by the Bakumatsu they’d either replaced all of the roofs with nice fireproof tiles… or through some strange coincidence no one managed to photograph any of those buildings. My guess is that in 250 years of rule, the Tokugawa found the time and money to upgrade.
Actually, I tried to find pictures of Kayabachō from the Bakumatsu and Meiji Periods and I couldn’t find anything on the web. I’ll keep looking and update this page with a picture if I find something.
If you, dear reader, know of pictures of Kayabachō from the old days, let me know!