What does Jūjō mean?


(10 paths)

Jujo Station

Recently, we’ve spent a lot of time on the banks of the 隅田川 Sumida-gawa. With the exception of one article[i], we’ve been wandering around the Sumida River area for a month. Today I want to go to 北区 Kita-ku – literally the “North Ward” – which lies on the border of Tōkyō Metropolis and Saitama Prefecture.

Today we’re going to talk about a place called 十条 Jūjō. Jūjō doesn’t exist today, but is used as a general term[ii] for an area in Tōkyō’s Kita Ward[iii]. The name is preserved in the official postal addresses as 上十条 Kami-Jūjō, 中十条 Naka-Jūjō, 東十条 Higashi-Jūjō, 十条台 Jūjōdai, and 十条仲原 Jūjō Nakahara.

What is that you say? You’ve never heard of this place?

That’s OK. Neither have I.


The village first got mentioned in 1448 in a document called 熊野寮豊嶋年貢目録 Kumano-ryō Toshima Nengu Mokuroku. This was basically the annual tax reports of the 豊嶋氏 Toshima-shi Toshima Clan[iv]. The area was rural until quite recently and for most of its life was part of 豊嶋郡 Toshima-gun Toshima District.

In the Edo Period, 豊嶋郡岩淵領十条村 Toshima-gun Iwabuchi-ryō Jūjō Mura Jūjō Village, Iwabuchi Fief, Toshima District was one of many villages on the 日光御成道 Nikkō O-nari Kaidō and the 鎌倉街道 Kamakura Kaidō. The former being the private road of the shōgun’s entourage[v] to the funerary temples at Nikkō, the latter being the route to the ancient capital of the first shōgunate at Kamakura.


The first stab at an etymology came at the end of the Edo Period. 1804-1829 – 新編武蔵風土記稿 Shinpen Musashi Fudoki-kō New Description of the People and Lands of Musashi Province features the first extant recorded etymology. According to that book, 豊嶋清元 Toshima Kiyomoto[vi] oversaw the 勧請 kanjō ceremonial transfer of 熊野権現 Kumano Gongen[vii] from 熊野本宮大社 Kumano Hongū Taisha Kumano Grand Shrine to 王子 Ōji[viii]. In transit, the kami came to be associated with 紀州の十条峠 Kishū no Jūjō-tōge a mountain pass in Kishū called Jūjō.


Etymology Reflects Early Kantō Agriculture Traditions

In modern times, a more realistic etymology has emerged. This one points at the 条理制 Jōri-sei Jōri System as the root of this place name. Jōri was a system of land management (or for our purposes, a measurement convention) that was common in the Heian Period.

Which brings us to the kanji. 条 jō meant “stripe, road” and 里 ri was a kind of measurement. So the jōri system described farmlands in terms of the size of certain swathes of land.


If you’ve ever seen a rice paddy, it’s essentially a shallow swamp dug into an enclosure that keeps the water from escaping. In the jōri system, 10 parallel 畦道 azemichi footpaths divided the paddies into discrete units. These footpaths used the counter for long roads, 条 jō. Therefore, 十条 jūjō means a “field that consisted of 10 parallel footpaths.” In short, this was a huge rice growing area divided into 10 sections.

Fans of Kyōto may be dying to know if there is some connection between this system and some of the names of streets in central Kyōto. And the answer is “yes.” 条 jō generally ran east to west. The former imperial capital boasts 9 major thoroughfares that run east to west all of which are designated by ~条 –jō. The famous Tokugawa administrative center 二条城 Nijō-jō Nijō Castle literally means Castle on 2nd Street. Kyōto has 9 streets that use the ~条 –jō designation. Interestingly, there is no 十条 Jūjō 10th street in Kyōto.

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[i] That article was part of the impetus for me to explore this area because all of this is leading up to a few areas I’ve been dying to cover. It’s gonna take some time, best to go slow. So much to cover.
[ii] 汎称地名 hansho chimei general place name.
[iii] 十条駅 Jūjō Eki Jūjō Station services the Saikyō Line which runs between Ōsaki and Ōmiya.
[iv] Here’s my article on Toshima.
[v] 御成 o-nari means “the presence of the shōgun.”
[vi] Kiyomoto was a retainer of 源義朝 Minamoto no Yoshitomo, father of 源頼朝 Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first Kamakura shōgun.
[vii] Kumano Gongen is a 神 kami that originated in 和歌山 Wakayama. There are roughly 3000 shrines dedicated to this deity.
[viii] In present day 北区 Kita-ku Kita Ward.

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