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Why is Kiba called Kiba?

In Japanese History on May 14, 2013 at 12:35 am

木場
Kiba (Wood Place)

Hanami at Kiba Park

Hanami at Kiba Park

Just a quickie today!

If you have any familiarity with traditional Japanese buildings, you’ll know they were made of wood. The great cities of old Japan were all wooden fire hazards waiting to happen. As such, wood was always in demand. But to stockpile lumber you need a lot of space, so special areas called 貯木場 chobokujō lumber yards were set aside to fill the lumber needs of cities.

Another problem with wood is that it’s big and heavy. You can’t just carry a bunch of huge pillars across town. The best way to do it was by boat. So most old Japanese chobokujō were located near the sea and rivers (ideally both).

In the early days of the Edo Period, the shōgunate designated present day Kiba as a lumber stockyard. It was near the mouth of the Sumida River and located right on Edo Bay. This made it a perfect location outside of the city for storing and distributing wood.

A Hiroshige print of Fukagawa-Kiba

A Hiroshige print of Fukagawa-Kiba in the winter. Nice picture, but I feel sorry for the dudes working on the water in the snow. (Enjoy this beautiful picture because from here on out there are only pictures of logs. Literally!)

A quick word about chobokujō and kiba.

貯木場 chobokujō literally means “supply wood” + “place” (Chinese reading)
木場 kiba literally means “tree place” is the same word minus the first character and uses the Japanese reading of the kanji (usually more desirable for place names)

The Edo Period lumberyard was located in the present day 木場公園 Kiba Kōen Kiba Park. The area was usually referred to as 深川木場 Fukagawa Kiba. After the Meiji Restoration, the government began a process of extending the coast with landfill. From this period, the lumberyard ceased to be directly on the sea. The introduction of trains changed the distribution method of lumber and so the sea/river location became less important. The area remained a lumberyard until 1969, when it was moved to 新木場 Shin-kiba (New Kiba). The old Kiba was then turned into a park. Ironically, part of the reason for the relocation was that Shin-Kiba is on the sea, as Japan had become increasingly reliant on imported wood from overseas. But the location also had better land routes available too. The area hasn’t had much residential encroachments so it’s a weird part of Tōkyō. A famous club called Ageha is located near Shin-kiba Station.

One final thing, because all old Japanese cities needed lumber yards, identical place names and related places names are numerous throughout the country.

Fukagaw-Kiba in the Edo and Meiji Periods. Yup. It's pretty much just a freakin' lumberyard.

Fukagaw-Kiba in the Edo and Meiji Periods. Yup. It’s pretty much just a freakin’ lumberyard.

That last 2 are Show. The top one is maybe Taisho, I'm not sure because it's just a freaking lumberyard.

That last 2 are Showa. The top one is maybe Taisho, I’m not sure because it’s just a freaking lumberyard. Wood looks the same in every era.

 

  1. Wow. that’s a lot of wood

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