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!
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5 thoughts on “What does Kayabacho mean?”
I’m working in Kayabacho for 3 months. Thanks for this. It never crossed my mind to ask about the place name. Will talk to my japanese colleagues tomorrow about this!
By the way, can I ask a question? Why do you put long marks over the letter O in Kayabacho and Tokyo?
Japanese has 2 types of vowels: long and short. Long vowels are literally pronounced longer than short vowels.
So, in Kyōto, the first ‘o’ is held longer than the final ‘o.’
Hope this helps!
Thanks for the explanation!
In one of the books on 100 views of Edo here, in Russia this ukiyo-e print is attributed as the area between Kayabacho and Koamicho:
Definitely not much, I see, but nonetheless.
There’s a lot to see there! The fireproof kura (warehouses) on the banks of the river. You can see a wealthy woman with her parasol. Bails of hay being transported in the background. And there’s a ferry boat with passengers as well. Lots going on here!