Ichigaya Has Three Spellings
|市谷||ichi ga ya|
|市ヶ谷||ichi ga ya|
|市ケ谷||ichi ga ya|
More Than One Ichigaya?
Most Tōkyōites probably associated Ichigaya with train stations that bear the name “Ichigaya,” but in reality there are many places named Ichigaya. I think this is a pretty complete list:
Don’t be surprised if we come back to those place names in future articles[i]. There’s gold in them hills.
OK, so I’ve wanted to write about this place for a long time, but it is connected to a few other place names which have made it difficult to cover until now. In my non-professional opinion, this seems like a very ancient place name. I’m just gonna through this out there now and say my gut instinct tells me none of the etymologies we’ll see today are correct and we’ll never know the true etymology.
Let’s Look at the Kanji
In my opinion, all of these kanji are suspect. You’ll see why soon.
Let’s Look at the Circulating Theories
- There was a dude named 市谷孫四郎 Ichigaya Magojirō attested in a Kamakura Period document who controlled an area near Edo. Other than this name, nothing else is known about the guy. A cursory glance of his name isn’t very impressive. He doesn’t seem to be descended from any imperial branch families and he doesn’t have a samurai-sounding clan name. If such a guy really existed, he may have been an elite lord who adopted the local place name as a family name, but… that just raises more questions. The jury is out on this one.
- Two theories exist which say the first character is deceptive. I’ve said again and again that kanji are not reliable for ancient Tōkyō place names. Here’s a good demonstration of why. This theory states that the original name was 一ヶ谷 ichi ga ya the first valley. Nearby we can find 四ッ谷 yotsu ya the fourth valley. The problem with this theory is where are the ニヶ谷 2nd valley and 三ヶ谷 3rd valley???
- It’s almost the same theory, but…. because of the prominence of daimyō residences here, the area had a reputation as an elite residential area well into the Meiji Era. According to this theory, 一ヶ谷 “first valley” was the preeminent (ie; first) 山手 yamanote valley[ii]. This one is also weird because why this area is the first, but Marunouchi isn’t? Also valleys tend to be 下町 shitamachi low city. So this one is just weird…
- This place name is another story unto itself, but as for the general story of Ichigaya, Kameoka Hachiman-gū is important. As mentioned many times before, Hachiman is the Shintō god who protects warriors (ie; samurai). This shrine located in Ichigaya claims that after its establishment in the late 1470’s a market (or many markets) sprung up around the shrine. They say that in the old Edo Dialect 市買 ichi kai “market buying” became ichi gai and in turn as a place name 屋 shop or 谷 valley got attached to the area.
On a side note, for the train freaks out there, JR and Tokyo Metro use the writing 市ケ谷, while Tōei uses 市ヶ谷 (ie; JR and Tokyo Metro use a large ケand Tōei used a small ヶ). The official place names as used in postal codes and regular correspondence by Tōkyōtes drop the ケ/ヶall together and just write the name as 市谷.
[i] Long time readers will know that I will come back.
[ii] Of course Yamanote means “the high city” and refers to the Edo Period distribution of land in Edo. The elite lived on the hills and the commoners lived in the lowlands. Here’s my ongoing series about my impressions of Yamanote and Shitamachi (although I haven’t updated it in ages).