One of the most fascinating things about Tōkyō is finding little hints of the great city of Edo still lingering. Sometimes it might be a building. It might be just a plaque. It might just be the layout of the street or the type of shops prevalent in the area. Sometimes, it might just be a place name.
Tonight while randomly looking around a map of 江東区 Kōtō-ku Kōtō Ward, I saw this place name. Given the location, I had a sneaking suspicion about the origin of the name and I decided to research it to see if I was right.
As mentioned before, Sendai Domain had their upper residence in present day Shiodome. If you went north up the coast of Edo Bay, you’d come to Kiba, and just above that to the location of Sendai Domain’s warehouses. This is where goods would be imported from the domain and, naturally, goods purchased in Edo would be sent back. Food stuffs for the domain serving sankin-kōtai duty were also stored here until they were needed.
Around the time of the 3rd shōgun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, a canal was dug here to increase water routes from the bay area. Sendai, being an extremely large domain, would have had an especially large warehouse facility here right on the canal. Since the Edo Period, many of the old waterways have been filled in or re-routed. Sendai Canal was no different and eventually the area around it was converted into a so-called hydrophilic park.* That is to say, it’s a big ass park with a lot of lakes and streams. I’ve never been there before – actually I’d never even heard of it before – but a Google image search pulled up pictures of a pretty nice looking park and one picture of the emperor.
* The Japanese word is 親水公園 shinsui kōen. While hydrophilic is usually a chemistry term, the Japanese word means something like “close to water” or “water-friendly” and refers to parks on rivers or lakes that make an effort to focus on the natural beauty of water.