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What does Inokashira mean?

In Japanese History on June 28, 2013 at 3:10 am

井ノ頭
Inokashira (Well’s Head, but more at Top of the Well – a poetic way to say “source of water”)

Inokashira Park in the day time.

Inokashira Park in the day time.

This place name has some written variants:

井頭
_________

井之頭
_________

井ノ頭
_________

井の頭
_________

They are all read the same way.

Also there is some dispute over the correct pronunciation of the name. The name is pronounced Inogashira or Inokashira and people who prefer one pronunciation will ardently defend their use of it by saying that the other one is just stupid. But I’m a foreigner and a non-native speaker, so I don’t fucking give a shit. Both pronunciations are perfectly acceptable[i].

wCkVnGTy_ZWuo-0

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Alright, now that we’re one F bomb deep,
I think we’re ready to get started.

The area that is called 井之頭 Inogashira[ii] derives its name from the lake, 井ノ頭池 Inogashira Ike Inokashira Pond. On a falconry outing to the Mitaka area for the first time, the 3rd shōgun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, is alleged to have said something along the lines of 「ほら此処は井之頭じゃhora koko wa i no kashira ja “Yo, this is where the water comes from, homie.”

Inokashira Lake is the source of the Kanda River.

Inokashira Lake is the source of the Kanda River.

What the hell was he talking about?

Well[iii], before the Tokugawa came, Edo was a tiny coastal town. With the establishment of the shōgunate and the establishment of Edo residences for all of the lords across Japan, water came into short supply. One of the primary sources of water for Edo Castle was Inokashira lake, located some 10 km outside of Tōkyō in modern Mitaka (to be specific, Kichijōji). Whether the story of Iemitsu visiting the lake for the first time and naming the well is true or not, the fact was that this lake which had natural springs in it was providing fresh water to the shōgunal residence and providing water to the other daimyō (feudal lords) living in the yamanote. Soon that waterway was diverted to other samurai families and later to the general populace of Edo in general.

So, whether Iemitsu really named the lake or not doesn’t really matter (and I totally made up the quote). Maybe the engineering team who came in and started the building project came up with the name and Iemitsu got credited for it. What does matter is that it demonstrates how massive the city of Edo had become in a short time and that the shōgunate had the wherewithal to increase the water supply in a timely manner. It was mostly under Tokugawa Iemitsu’s watch that these changes took place.

By the way, some of the walking paths through the park were formally part of the 玉川上水 Tamagawa Jōsui Tama River Aqueduct. They’re labeled in Japanese, but I don’t think there’s anything in English. Let me know if you’ve seen English signs.

There is another story about the lake. As the area was used for falconry by the Go-sanke, the local villagers asked Tokugawa Mitsukuni, the vice-shōgun, and lord of Mito if they could also use the water for drinking. Mitsukuni said, “Go ahead, I don’t give a shit.” The people were happy and they built a special stairway to thank him. The stairway can still be seen in the park.

Anyways, to today’s modern Tōkyōite the name is associated with the park in Kichijōji which is next to Mitaka. There is also a train line that runs from Shibuya to Kichijōji called the Inokashira Line[iv].

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Some guy’s blog about the extant portions of the Tamagawa Jousui (Japanese only):
http://hakkaisan-photo.com/y-ok/2013/06/tamagawajyosui-8.html
The first pix are in Inokashira Park.

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[i] I would say the 江戸っ子 Edokko native Tōkyōites of 2 generations or more prefer “ga” over “ka” and that it is a dialect thing, but I’ve been told by one or two people who qualify as Eddoko that it’s not. I don’t know who to believe and at this point, it doesn’t matter. Dialects change. Personally, I use “ga” because it’s easier to say.

[ii] Or Inokashira.

[iii] Not a pun, really, I swear.

[iv] But many locals will pronounce it Inogashira.

  1. I love this park. It’s a great place to pick up chicks.

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