The hyphen is important. It’s not Sannō Reservoir. It’s Reservoir-Sannō. “Why?” you ask. I’ll tell you. But we need to look into a little history. Some of which will take us all the way to Kyōto. Are you ready?
Let’s Start With The Complicated One
Sannō is a reference to 山王日枝神社Sannō Hie Jinja Sannō Hie Shrine in nearby Akasaka-Mitsuke (hyphen ranking: not so important).
The term 山王 is made of the kanji 山 mountain and 王 ruler. The meaning is something like “the mountain that protects the ruler.” The shrine is on a big hill. Edo Castle (the Imperial Palace) is nearby. In fact, the street is called 外堀通り Sotobori Dōri “Outer Moat Street.” Seems to make sense.
Sorry, you’re just scratching the surface.
Sannō Hie Jinja (commonly just called Hie Jinja) was affiliated with 日吉神社 Hiyoshi Jinja Hiyoshi Shrine, at the bottom of 比叡山 Hiezan Mt. Hie in Kyōto. According to the rules of 風水 fūsui feng shui used in urban planning in old Japan, Kyōto was built with Mt. Hie to its northeast side (the so-called 鬼門 kimon unlucky direction). Many temples and shrines are on Mt. Hie to protect the emperor’s palace (and therefore the city itself) from evil influences. One of several names used for Hie Shrine is Hiyoshi Shrine. Apparently the phoneme “HIE” can be rendered in to kanji as 比叡, 日吉, or 日枝.
There are many “branch shrines” called 日吉神社 Hiyoshi Jinja Hiyoshi Shrine all over Japan. The one in Akasaka was just another local branch. In many cases, wherever one of these affiliate shrines was built, the surrounding area took on the name 山王 Sannō.
Sounds good, right? Sannō Hie Shrine was built on this big ass hill to protect the shōgun and now the emperor. The area took the name Sannō. Got it.*
So How About Tameike? What’s That Mean?
溜池, sometimes written ため池** tameike means “reservoir” and is made of 2 kanji 溜 “collect” and 池 “lake.” The other day I wrote about Suidōbashi and briefly mentioned the main waterways of Edo, right? Well, maybe you can guess where this is going.
In the Edo Period, the 赤坂溜池 Akasaka Tameike Akasaka Reservoir was a massive lake that was used to collect and distribute water throughout this yamanote (elite) area. Today the reservoir is gone, completely covered with offices and such. Hard to believe that one of the main lifelines of the city is totally unnecessary now.
But that said, the area retained the name 溜池 Tameike in the form of 赤坂溜池町 Akasaka Tameike-chō the Akasaka Reservoir Neighborhood until 1967 when Japan implemented its current ZIP Code system.
So Why Is The Hyphen So Goddamn Important?
Well, in 1997 a new station was built to connect the Ginza Line and the Namboku Line. Tōkyō Metro had to work with 2 wards in the digging and building and – presumably – funding of said station. Those two wards would be 千代田区 Chiyoda Ward and 港区 Minato Ward. These are very rich, very prestigious, very well-funded and as such very proud wards. Apparently the local politicians wanted their respective wards’ names represented in the new station name. Bus stops already existed with the names 山王 Sannō and 溜池(町) Tameike(-chō), but since the Tameike bus stop was closer, Tōkyō Metro had a working-title of Tameike Station. 溜池町 Tameike neighborhood was on the border of the Minato Ward, Sannō was on the border of Chiyoda Ward. What to do? What to do?
So they just combined the two names, TAMEIKE + SANNŌ, and all the shitty politicians were apparently happy.
Wait a minute! You mentioned, Mt. Hie. Haven’t I heard of that before?
No, you haven’t. ***
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* Actually, we can’t confirm whether or not the shrine was originally built at this location. The tradition says that Ōta Dōkan built the shrine to protect his castle. Since the 神 kami enshrined here is the protector of Edo Castle it was also seen as a protector of the whole city, so the shrine was moved outside of the castle so the people of Edo could worship there. It was destroyed a few times by fires and rebuilt, but for most of its life it’s been located here on this hill and the area has been referred to as Sannō and the former locations are not called Sannō.
Oh, also it’s not on the 鬼門 (northeast evil side) of the castle. It’s on the 裏鬼門 (southwest just as evil side). But we don’t know where the original location was, so fuck it.
** And sometimes irritatingly written 溜め池.
*** OK, yes you have. Sorry I lied about that…
I just didn’t really want to get into this.
Fuck it. 比延山 Mt. Hie is the same Mt. Hie that is famous to all lovers of Japanese History, especially the 戦国時代 Sengoku Jidai Warring States Era. At the top of this mountain was a famous temple precinct called 延暦寺 Enryaku-ji Enryaku Temple (its name itself deserves a post, but not now). The mountain has primarily been associated with this temple because of its prestige among the samurai class. The temple was home to a large group of 僧兵 Sōhei “warrior monks” who stood in the way of Oda Nobunaga’s rise to power. So in 1571 he surrounded the mountain, and in a move that would have made General Sherman proud, he ordered his men to march up the mountain and kill anything that moved. The warrior monks were effectively dealt with and their slaughter was one of Nobunaga’s biggest steps to bring all of Japan under his rule.
Enryaku-ji’s history, indeed the history of Mt. Hie in general, goes back before the Heian Period. But, luckily for me, the history of Edo/Tōkyō does not**** so I can stop writing now?
**** Goddammit! Can I stop writing now? Please? OK, yes, the history of Edo/Tōkyō goes back to before the Heian Period, but I don’t know shit about it. So I’m done. Is that alright with you?
Thanks. Good night! 💟♥💟♡❤💟