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The Year in Review

In Japanese History, Japanese Holidays on December 31, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Medetē! Medetē! (“Happy happy! Joy joy!” In the Edo Dialect[i])


メリークリトリス! Merry Christmas, ハッピーヌードイヤー! Happy New Year, and ホッピーホリデーズ! Happy Holidays to all of you! I’m enjoying a long needed break. Hopefully all of you are, too. Safe and warm is where it’s at![ii]

If you’re reading this, it means 2015 has just begun as I’m publishing this article as soon the New Year begins. I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the passing year. But before I do that, I want to thank each and every one of you for your support. I’ve always said that I’m running this blog just for fun. But I’ve also always said that it’s good to know I’m not shouting into a vacuum. Each article takes about 1-2 weeks of research, writing, editing, formatting, and finding pictures[iii]. It would be a shame if no one ever saw it. For taking the time to read, all I can say is 忝い katajikenai thank you[iv].

I’d also like to thank everyone who has commented, liked, shared, tweeted, and re-tweeted. That helps a lot! I have a very special 忝い katajikenai thank you with a profoundly deep 御辞儀 o-jigi bow to anyone who has supported the blog financially by donating to my Patreon page. I can count you on one hand, so it really means a lot to me that you appreciate my efforts that much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart[v].


The Year in Review

Where to start? 2014 was a pretty epic year for the blog in some ways. We started off the year with a tour of the 深川七福神 Fukagawa Shichi Fukujin 7 Gods of Good Luck of Fukagawa, a traditional New Year’s activity in Japan[vi]. If we’re in Tōkyō, Mrs. JapanThis and I always do this auspicious pilgrimage as there are many courses scattered throughout the city.

Last year's Shichi Fukujin stamp card.

Last year’s Shichi Fukujin stamp card.

For me, the best part of 2014 was the articles started out decent, but then got really deep. Maybe things got too long. And I’d really like your opinion on that. Sometimes I can just run with a subject because it’s interesting to me, but not other people. But for me, the research and the interconnectivity of places became more apparent to me. I also bit off more than I could chew a few times (Rivers of Edo-Tōkyō Series, I’m looking at you), but I think for anyone who’s a fan of JapanThis expects a little bit of obsessive focusing on a niche from time to time. Hopefully.

So where did we go in 2015? My god, we went all over the place! So many places are within walking distances. So many places are spread all across town. But that said, we hit the 23 Special Wards hard. So, let’s take a lot at the Edo-Tōkyō we explored in the last 365 days, shall we?




In 2014 We Covered Some Really Interesting Parts of Edo-Tōkyō

Here we go, let’s go Edo-crazy!
All of the place names in this article are clickable. So please consider this a table of contents for 2015. If you missed an article, everything is here for the taking. Feel free to share with a friend. For better or for worse, I’ve tried to break things up by area.


The Sumida River Area

We spent a lot of time in the areas near or along the Sumida River looking merchant and artisan districts. Some areas used to be for the samurai elite, but today they are considered part of the shitamachi (the low city). This area of Tōkyō was the 2nd most written about on JapanThis this year.


Kiyosumi Garden

Kiyosumi Garden


The Ueno Area

We also got into to some shitamachi areas near Ueno looking at some castle ruins that no one even knows about today. But this also took us into old samurai districts and modern Japan’s anime-fueled answer to Silicon Valley, so…



I love this shitamachi style


Katsushika-Kasai Area

After that, we ventured out further east to Katsushika, an area I rarely go to so that was cool for me. I loved the folklore and folk culture in these neighborhoods. In this area I was really challenged by the rivers… something which would catch up with me sooner or later (wink wink).


I really fell in love with rivers while doing these places and found a special place in my heart for the area.

I really fell in love with rivers while doing these places and found a special place in my heart for the area.


Tokyo Dome Area

Also, it was fun to spend some time in the former elite areas near Tōkyō Dome. What I love about these places is the contrast between flat low lands, hills, plateaus, and windy roads. More samurai than you can shake a stick at[vii].


The Kanda Aqueduct in Koishikawa

The Kanda Aqueduct in Koishikawa


The Roppongi Area

At some points, we edged a little towards some yamanote areas near the bay area to look at where a few daimyō kept their most lavish estates. We also learned about a Meiji era goon[viii].


View from top of Keyakizaka towards Tokyo Bay with winter illuminations.

View from top of Keyakizaka towards Tokyo Bay with winter illuminations.


Tokyo Bay Area

We also went right up to the bay… and, yeah, we straight up went into the bay itself! To be honest, it looks like the bay area got the most attention in terms of the number of articles, and yet the lowest feedback. He we saw everything from lowly fishermen to daimyō and a seaside villa of the Tokugawa Shōguns themselves. We even saw the transformation of Shinagawa Station from seaside train station to inland station.

Ōmori (also, Ōmori Kaizuka)

One of the man-made islands built to defend Edo against foreigners.

One of the man-made islands built to defend Edo against foreigners. I’ll admit it, I’m a big of Edo Bay. It really is the heart and soul of the metropolis.


And Then This Happened…

Cuz everybody’s got a random…[ix]




Other Highlights of the Year

At one point, a bunch of us had some fun on Twitter making jokes based on gags about “You know you’ve been in Japan too long when (insert Japanese habit you’ve picked up).” Of course, our version was cooler cuz it featured the hashtag #Edo. Everyone was so creative and knowledgeable that I had to compile them into a single post, lest they be lost to posterity.

You Know You’ve Been in Edo Too Long

We’ve gotta do that again!

Click the picture to find my Twitter account

Click the picture to find my Twitter account


Rivers of Edo-Tōkyō

Finally, I have to acknowledge the series that almost killed me. I spent a lot of the beginning of the year lurking around rivers and canals. So I set about talking about the etymology and history of rivers in Edo-Tōkyō. Seemed liked a good idea at the time. But no sooner had I announced to the world that I would write 7 articles on the topic, I found myself bogged down in a quagmire of shifting goal posts that were literally shifting… or more often than not being shifted by the shōgunate. By the 2nd or 3rd article I had come to hate rivers.

Map of Edo-Tokyo in the paleolithic era. No wonder rivers are so crucial to the development of the city.

Map of Edo-Tokyo in the paleolithic era. No wonder rivers are so crucial to the development of the city.

When I was backing up 2014 files, I came across a folder called (in all caps) ”QUIT RIVER SERIES.” Inside the folder was a document I was planning to publish in which I admitted I was over my head and it wasn’t any fun anymore. I totally forgot about that. There was a point where I was going to tell everyone the river series was over. I just wanted to kill the river subject.

Wisely, I stepped away and took a month off and was able to regain my sanity and enthusiasm for the series. In the end, I completed my 7 part series with maps and pictures and… whatever. I finished it. I know way more about rivers than I ever wanted to know before. But the way I look at rivers, streams, and creeks has changed forever and so there wasn’t a moment of time wasted. It was an amazing insight into the nature of rivers and how traditional Japan (and the Tokugawa Shōgunate in particular) dealt with them.

I had to get this ground work out of the way...

I had to get this ground work out of the way…

So yeah, we looked at some rivers of Edo-Tōkyō.

The Tone River
The Arakawa River
The Sumida River
The Kanda River
The Tama River
The Edo River
The Meguro River

I’m so happy I stuck with the river topic. I can’t find anyone else providing this information in English for free on the internet, so it’s a source of pride. It’s also made the exploration of the city more fun!

For those of you who liked the river articles, thank you.  For those of you who hated them, I'm sorry.

For those of you who liked the river articles, thank you.
For those of you who hated them, I’m sorry.


But This Year Wasn’t Perfect…

The blog underperformed as compared to last year. On the other hand, my Twitter account blew up (I thought 500 followers was impossible, but now I have 1000).  The Facebook Group has stayed in the same range for about 2 years. Also, I made a Flickr account this year so I could try my hand at photography. We’ll see what happens with that. lol.

History of JapanThis! (Does this downward step mean soon I'll be JapanThat?

History of JapanThis!
(Does this downward turn mean soon I’ll be JapanThat?)

2013 vs. 2014.  Views down.  Visitors down.  Likes and Comments waaaaaaaaay down.

2013 vs. 2014.
Views down.
Visitors down.
Likes and Comments waaaaaaaaay down.


And so I really want your feedback.

First of all, as always, I’m taking requests for Tōkyō place names. If there’s a name or an area that you’d like me to cover, let me know. Also, if you have a minute, please fill out this 3 question survey about the blog. One of my goals for 2015 is to make the blog and Facebook group more interactive. Hopefully, your input will help me do that!

Thanks for reading the blog. Thanks for reading this article. Thanks for taking the survey. And just thanks in general. Y'all rock!

Thanks for reading the blog. Thanks for reading this article. Thanks for taking the survey.
And just thanks in general. Y’all rock!


Oh! One Last Thing!

I have 2 articles cued up and ready to go. I’ll be looking at 2 bridges in Tōkyō that are named after shrines. I’m planning on releasing them in rapid succession so watch this space! Have a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Oh, also, please share and retweet so I can get a lot of feedback on my survey!!



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[i] めでてぇ medetē is the 下町言葉 shitamachi kotoba low city variant of めでたい medetai auspicious. Hopefully you recognize this as the root of the polite word おめでとう o-medetō in 明けましておめでとうございます akemashite o-medetō gozaimasu happy new year!
[ii] Unless you’re in Australia, in which case, fire up those BBQ’s or hie thee hence to a beach!
[iii] And apparently not a minute of proofreading. lol
[iv] Some of you will recognize this as so-called 武士語 bushigo samurai language. The word expresses humility, embarrassment, gratitude, and a sense of debt (also, I don’t know to what extent this word was really used, but it shows up in samurai movies a lot).
[v] And I’m thinking of ways to repay the favor, i.e.; special content for Patrons only. Contact me if you have an idea of what you’d like to see.
[vi] You may be getting another tour of a different course this year, too. TBD.
[vii] And believe me. I can shake a stick at a metric fuck ton of samurai without even breaking a sweat.
[viii] As if there were only one!
[ix] And this was one of the cutest randoms for sure!

  1. Awesome write up man. Even your year end review is well done. You put me to shame all the time. I am constantly amazed at the quality of research, articles and the incredible amount of time you put into this. The fact that this is all free totally blows my mind. You really need to put together a proposal for a publisher and start banging on some doors. I’d buy your book in a second. “Edo Tokyo: A 1000 Years of History Hidden In Train Station Names.”

    p.s. you will need an editor though, unless you’re seeing into the future “So where did we go in 2015?”

    • Thanks, man! But much respect to you too. Your site is a literal treasure trove of information on castles and I refer to it all the time.

      Now I need to change that 2015 to 2014, dammit! lol

  2. Happy New Year Marky, and thanks for the blog. I’ve really enjoyed it this year. Just got back from Edo, with my son. This time we visited Denmacho, thanks to you. We have stayed around the corner before but didn’t know it existed. I get the feeling that the apartments adjoining and overlooking it may be a bargain buy but who knows.
    At the moment I’m reading Edward Seidensticker, “Tokyo, from Edo to Showa”. I think you’d really like it, if you haven’t already come across it. Very informative with a shitamachi focus and he is quite amusing in that subtle, old fashioned way.
    Would you mind forwarding your email address to my email? I’d appreciate that.
    I’m hoping to be in Japan at least once a year from now on. I’d laarve to go to Kabuki with you if our timings can cross. (my son is not into such things, ha ha),
    All the best,

  3. Thanks for your kind words!

    Interesting you mention that book! I’m actually reading it right now for a review so I’ll abstain from commenting on it just yet. But I’m definitely enjoying it.

    I’ll try to shoot you an e-mail later – quite busy with New Year’s festivities at the moment, but I will do it.

  4. […] The Year in Review: 2015 The Year in Review: 2014 […]

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