(the Greater Edo Line)
The 大江戸線 Ōedo-sen Ōedo Line’s full name is the 都営大江戸線 Toei Ōedo-sen Toei Ōedo Line. 都営 Toei means “operated by the Tōkyō Metropolitan Government.” Most official signage includes the full name. It’s one of the deepest subways in the world.
Tōkyō’s famous loop train, the 山手線 Yamanote-sen Yamanote Line circles the city limits of 江戸 Edo – more or less[i]. Likewise, the Ōedo Line forms an incomplete loop around the old city but also includes areas that were well outside the city limits of Edo, including Shinjuku[ii], Nakano[iii], and Nerima[iv]. One of the original names proposed for this train line was the 都庁線 Tochō-sen which roughly translates to Tokyo Metropolitan Government Line. The reason was because the train line starts at the 東京都庁舎 Tōkyō-to Chōsha Tōkyō Metropolitan Government Building in 西新宿 Nishi-Shinjuku West Shinjuku. But because the line was mostly within the confines of historical Edo but also hit some peripheral areas closely connected to the old city, the word 大江戸 Ōedo was thrown out as a suggestion. Ōedo means “the greater Edo area.” This term includes the proximity, cultural ties, and economic ties of the villages that sat on the outskirts of the city on the major highways[v]. 内藤新宿 Naitō-Shinjuku (the old name of Shinjuku) was located outside of the city limits but was home to a major highway, the 甲州街道 Kōshū Kaidō Kōshū Highway, and a less famous highway, the 青梅街道 Ōme Kaidō Ōme Highway. In the end, the name 大江戸線 Ōedo-sen “Great Edo Line” was chosen[vi]. The train opened for service in 平成１２年１２月１２日 Heisei jūninen jūnigatsu jūninichi 12/12 of the 12th year of Heisei. To the Japanese, this date could be read as 12/12/12. The rest of the world reads it as 12/12/2000.
Before this writing, I was under the impression that the Ōedo Line was just a normal subway train. After all, it looks like, sounds like, and feels like all the other subways I’ve ridden in Tōkyō. But it turns out that that the Ōedo Line was Tōkyō’s first linear motor car. Previously, I’d thought “linear motor car” and “maglev train” were synonymous – in Japanese I always hear maglev trains described as linear motor cars. But apparently, they are not synonymous. While both use linear motor propulsion, the new SCMaglev being tested in 山梨県 Yamanashi-ken Yamanashi Prefecture has no wheels, but the Ōedo Line has wheels like a normal train. I’m not an engineer, so that’s about as far as I can talk about the whole “linear motor car” thing.
So, assuming that the Ōedo Line covers the Greater Edo Area, I thought it might be fun to hit every station on the line and see if we can take a tour of Edo-Tōkyō. I’ll try to give a really quick etymology of each station name or area name. After that, I’ll give a quick description of the area’s historical significance and sightseeing (if any). I haven’t done any research, as each station comes up, it should be a bit of an adventure for me too.
[i] It doesn’t follow the exact borders, but it does hit many 山手 yamanote high city areas characterized by samurai residences and daimyō residences.
[ii] Here’s my article on Shinjuku.
[iii] Here’s my article on Nakano.
[iv] Here’s my article on Nerima.
[v] Read my article about the 5 Great Highways of Edo.
[vi] Some other names were bantered about, including the unwieldy都営地下鉄１２号線 Toei Chikatetsu Jūnigō-sen Toei Subway Line #12 and東京環状線 Tōkyō Kanjō-sen Tōkyō Loop Line.