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Archive for the ‘Travel in Japan’ Category

Ōedo Line Extravaganza (intro)

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on May 31, 2015 at 5:32 pm

大江戸線
Ōedo-sen (the Greater Edo Line)

Oedo Line Map

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.

elevator

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.

kasuga

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.

EDIT:
I’ve written the entire article. Every freaking station on the Ōedo Line. Not sure why I thought this was a good idea as a single article.

So I’ve decided that, as one article this is boring as fuck. Therefore, I’m going to chop this up into little pieces. Let’s enjoy the Ōedo Line station by station, day by day.

 

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[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.

What is the Tsukishima Area?

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Travel in Japan on December 9, 2014 at 2:19 am

月島地域
Tsukishima Chiiki
(Moon Island Area)

Tsukishima Matsuri

Tsukishima Matsuri

First of all, happy holidays to you! I hope you’re all able to stay warm during this winter season.
My last article on the Edo Period fishing island of Tsukudajima, raised the unavoidable problem of what to do about all the landfill that extended the island substantially southwest along the coast of the bay. I could have broken up each neighborhood into small articles, but that would have taken a long time. Separately, they might not be as interesting to read. So I decided to combine all of them as an early クリトリスプレゼント Kuritorisu purezento Christmas present to you all. It’s also a present to myself so I can relax during the coming 御正月 O-shōgatsu New Year Holiday. This year I’ve burnt the candle at both ends and it’s finally caught up with me. I can’t wait to relax.

Today we have a lot of ground to cover so let’s get right into it, shall we? Today we’re going on a whirlwind tour from Tsukiji to Tsukuda to Tsukishima to Kachidoki to Toyomi-chō ending in Harumi looking towards the future.

Today's course!

Today’s course!

 。


築地
Tsukiji (landfill, literally “fabricated land”)


tsuki

man-made, fabricated


chiji

land

The word “tsukiji” means fabricated land. Modern Japanese uses a different word for landfill today, 埋立地 umetatechi which means something like “built up land.”

The name means landfill because, that’s exactly what it was. After the 明暦大火 Meireki Taika Meireki Conflagration[i] in 1657, the first landfill efforts were conducted in this area. The shōgunate began extending the area from 鉄砲洲 Teppōzu Rifle Sandbar[ii] southward. At the time, Teppōzu was where the mainland was closest to 佃嶋 Tsukudajima Tsukuda Island. The new expansion was simply called 築地 Tsukiji “fabricated land.”

Teppozu in the Edo Period. They say the name of the landfill is because it looks like a matchlock rifle. I think it looks more like a katana cuz a curved rifle sounds dangerous.  Anyways, the gray areas are commoner towns, the large white areas are daimyo, the small white areas are samurai residences. That's Tsukuda Island to the right. The tiny red areas in Teppozu are land owned by the Teppozu Shrine.

Teppozu in the late Edo Period. They say the name of the landfill is because it looks like a matchlock rifle. I think it looks more like a katana cuz a curved rifle sounds dangerous.
Anyways, the gray areas are commoner towns, the large white areas are daimyo, the small white areas are samurai residences.
That’s Tsukuda Island to the right. The tiny red areas in Teppozu are land owned by the Teppozu Shrine.

An interesting side note about the name Teppōzu. It survives only in the name of a shrine. In 1624, 鉄砲洲稲荷神社 Teppōzu Inari Jinja Teppōzu Inari Shrine was built in the area. The shrine is famous for a wacky winter festival which culminates in 寒中水浴 kanchū suiyoku ritual purification by taking a group bath in freezing water (that link is video of this year’s event, btw). The shrine was moved to 八丁堀 Hatchōbori in 1868.

Look, ma! It's a bunch of people freezing in a pool of ice cold water in the middle of December!!

Look, ma! It’s a bunch of people freezing in a pool of ice cold water in the middle of December!!

Anyways, after the fire in 1657, the 浅草御坊 Asakusa Gobō (a residence for priests of 浅草本願寺 Asakusa Hongan-ji Asakusa Hongan Temple) was rebuilt on part of the reclaimed land. Later, a temple and cemetery were built next to gobō that served the needs of the inhabitants of the area. A local town and economy sprung  around the temple, called a 門前町 monzen-chō in Japanese[iii], and the area began to flourish. Eventually some 武家屋敷 buke yashiki samurai residences and 大名屋敷 daimyō yashiki daimyō residences were built in the area as well.

The temple that was built here was named 築地本願寺 Tsukiji Hongan-ji Tsukiji Hongan Temple (a branch temple of the and because of its unique architecture is a local landmark. It was a traditional Japanese temple until it was destroyed in the 関東大震災 Kantō Daishinsai Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. The present concrete structure is a weird mix of Western Neo-Classicism, Southeast Asian Buddhism, and fascist architecture that looks like a basilica/cathedral mated with a temple and shat out a concrete baby. That said, it’s a unique building and it’s pretty hard to miss.

Not sure if fascist government buildings. Or 1930's train station.

Not sure if fascist government building…or 1930’s train station.

Tsukiji Hongan-ji was built by 伊東忠太 Itō Chūta and was completed in 1934. I don’t know much about Chūta who designed this monstrosity, but he seems to have been the darling of the Japanese Empire. His designs, in my humble opinion, are just clownish. He took the soul out of traditional architecture in an attempt to westernize it. But that’s just my opinion and I can’t deny that his influence was huge. In the Post WWII era, you’ll find many buildings built by his students and architects influenced by him, including so-called traditional buildings. But just to give you an idea of some of his other work: he designed the 遊就館Yūshūkan the biased, pro-imperial museum at 靖国神社 Yasukuni Jinja Yasukuni Shrine. The building boasts a style that would look great on the dead Kim Jong-il or Joseph Stalin.

Oh, and he designed this:

He did this in Kyoto. Kyoto!! I rest my case.

He did this in Kyoto.
Kyoto!!I rest my case.

I’m sorry. My bitching is almost finished. I have one more thing to complain about this temple. You see, it has another claim to fame. The funerary ceremony[iv] of “rock[v]” musician, Hide[vi], was held at Tsukiji Hongan-ji[vii]. Many people with bad taste in music consider him the Curt Cobain of Japan. After he killed himself in 1998, his bad fashion sense and inability to do rock, metal, or industrial music properly launched an entire fashion and music movement in Japan[viii]. The movement came to be called ヴィジュアル系 vijuaru-kei visual style – usually called V系 V-kei today. As far as the bands go, they’re ridiculous looking post-gal style clown shows.

Spend a little more time rocking out and making music with integrity and a little less time doing your hair for a good purikura session.  I mean, if you want people to take you seriously... Clowns.

Spend a little more time rocking out and making music with integrity and a little less time doing your hair for a good purikura session.
I mean, if you want people to take you seriously…
Clowns.

Back to the History – Foreigner Zones

Sorry, got off track there but I had to get off my chest while researching this.

So, way back in 1869 (Meiji 2), foreigners still weren’t a common site in Japan and given the animosity towards and even violence against foreigners since the 1850’s that had been commonplace[ix], the major ports of Japan often had special “foreigner towns” set up where non-Japanese could live peacefully without having to deal with any BS from the locals[x]. And so in 1869 (Meiji 2), a 居留地 kyoryūchi foreign settlement[xi] was established in Teppōzu. The area had foreign schools, churches, and buildings associated with the newly born international spirit of trade. The American School in Japan was established in the foreign settlement in 1902 (Meiji 35).

tsukiji foreign settlement

The Tsukiji Settlement in 1894 (Meiji 27). You can clearly see the traditional 2 story buildings of the Edo Period in the surrounding areas. I imagine this sort of unique neighborhood with its unique architecture and strange inhabitants must have been a mind blowing experience for Meiji Era residents of Tokyo.

Also, I don’t want to paint the Japanese as being completely racist here. These settlements were born out of a necessity of the Bakumatsu. Radical samurai were indeed trying to assassinate any foreigners they deemed as a threat – they were straight up terrorists. The Japanese had a highly complex hierarchy that was unfamiliar to the newly come foreign embassies. The foreign nations had negotiated for exemption from things like kowtowing to daimyō processions and beheadings and such because… well, they couldn’t wrap their heads around it[xii]. The shōgunate assigned samurai bodyguards to protect the foreigners and established “foreigner zones” to keep them safe. In the new “Meiji Chill Out™[xiii]” foreign settlements, many established before the coup, were areas where commerce and official business could be conducted in a kind of creole and mash up of styles that was conducive to everyone. The Christian westerners could get their Jesus on in peace and educate their kids in their parents’ languages. They didn’t have to learn Japanese to survive. A foreigner could sit in a chair and not the floor. A Japanese person could wear foreign fashion and not take any shit for it. Fair enough [xiv].

Was Meiji Fashion the birth of cosplay?

Was Meiji Fashion the birth of cosplay? That’s not a rhetorical question.

With the establishment of an imperial navy, the area became an education center for naval officers. Beginning in 1888 (Meiji 21), present day 築地 Tsukiji was the home to the 海軍経理学校 Kaigun Keiri Gakkō the Naval Administration School of the Japanese Empire. The school operated on that property until the end of WWII. The founder of the Japanese Navy and one of the real visionaries of the late Edo Period, 勝海舟 Katsu Kaishū, even served as a professor in the area[xv].

Navy Training. No boat style. Awwwwww yeah!

Navy Training.
No boat style.
Awwwwww yeah!

The area began a kind of transformation after the 関東大震災 Kantō Daishinsai Great Kantō Earfquake in 1923. Most of the old Edo Period buildings were burnt to the ground, but the area didn’t modernize overnight. Of course, the Naval Academy was rebuilt as soon as possible. But Edo’s fish market, which had also been burnt to the ground, needed to be rebuilt. The Nihonbashi market was no longer as convenient as it had once been, so it was decided to relocate the fish market to Tsukiji. The construction of a “modern” market facility opened in 1935. The modern Tsukiji Market has been a work in progress ever since. There is a great debate about moving it now, much to the dismay of the locals. So far the market remains in its place and if you want some ridiculously delicious 江戸前寿司 Edomae-zushi Edo-style sushi, then get your ass there.

Edomae Sushi

Edomae Sushi

 。



Tsukuda (cultivated field)

A view of Tsukuda Island from the north. The wooded area is Ishikawa Island. The unwooded, developed area is the commoner town.

A view of Tsukuda Island from the north. The wooded area is Ishikawa Island. The unwooded, developed area is the commoner town.

So, the other day I wrote about this location. Directly across from Teppōzu was a fishing island called 佃島 Tsukudajima Tsukuda Island. Located on this island, was the official fishing concession of the Tokugawa Shōgunate. The original article is long and really is the background for this article. I highly suggest you read it.

The island was expanded southwards by landfill. Whether the shōgunate or whoever was in charge of the building project knew or cared where the name “Tsukudajima” came from isn’t really important. By this time, a folk etymology had come about where people thought that Tuskudajima’s “tsuku” was related to 築地 Tsukiji’s tsuki build, fabricate and the daily word 作る tsukuru make, build. So the new landfill’s name was bound to be affected by this collision of roots. Which brings us to our nest place name…

Tsukuda at night

Tsukuda at night

 。


月島
Tsukishima (moon island)

Tsukishima

Tsukishima


tsuki

moon


shima

island

In the Edo Period, there were no televisions or movies or love hotels with jacuzzis and 25 channels of porn. One possible option for date night was heading down to 月之岬[xvi] Tsuki no Misaki Cape Moon to watch the moon rise over the bay. Restaurants, tea houses, and other types of businesses lined the bay in 三田 Mita that offered rooms with a view of the bay for this very purpose[xvii]. 月見 tsukimi moon viewing is a famous past time of “Old Japan” and so I don’t feel much need to go into it any deeper. Even to us, the moon is a pretty spectacular thing to behold. Unfortunately, the coastline of Edo Bay was immediately built up by the new Imperial Government after the Meiji Coup. As a result, the area called Tsuki no Misaki was built over and faded into oblivion.

There are many places called Tsuki no Misaki around the coastlines of Japan. If I'm not mistaken, this is one from the outskirts of Edo in Shinagawa.  But this is what a party room would look like on Edo Bay.

There are many places called Tsuki no Misaki around the coastlines of Japan.
If I’m not mistaken, this is one from the outskirts of Edo in Shinagawa.
But this is what a party room would look like on Edo Bay.

A new landfill build up was begun in 1887 (Meiji 20) and completed in 1892 (Meiji 25). This extended Tsukuda Island southwards significantly. As I’ve shown, 築地 Tsukiji was a place name that existed on the mainland from the Edo Period. 佃 Tsukuda was also a place name. And there was ample reason to mix up the “tsuki” of Tsukiji and the “tsuku” of Tsukuda and the “tsuki” Tsuki no Misaki.

In 1892, the 東京市参事会 Tōkyō-shi Sanjikai Tōkyō City Council gave the new landfill the name 月島 Tuskishima “Moon Island” and although we don’t have the exact reason written down, it seems fair to say the name is a mash up of 月の岬 Tsuki no Misaki (Moon Cape) and 佃島 Tsukudajima (Tuskuda Island) and Tsukishima (Landfill Island→Moon Island), obviously opting for the kanji 月tsuki moon over the kanji 築 tsuki landfill for esthetic reasons.

For most of its history, Tsukishima has been decidedly 下町 shitamachi low city. But in the last 15-20 years the area has seen an influx of タワーマンション tawā manshon sky rise apartments. Some long time and some short term residents of Tsukishima and Tsukiji have been fighting hard to prevent over development of the area. Tsukishima is famous as the もんじゃの街 monja no machi monja town. Monja-yaki is a local Tōkyō delicacy… that was once described to me as “something that looks like barf on an iron grill, but taste really yummy.” That was not encouraging to hear, but since monja-yaki and okonomi-yaki are usually considered a kind of Wonder Twins of Japanese shitamachi cuisine, I have to say that to my palate, monja is way more flavorful. In Tsukishima, you can go to the もんじゃストリート monja storīto monja street and find monja-yaki of every type, from the most simple Shōwa style to the most cutting edge styles. If you ever come to Tōkyō, a visit to Tsukishima and a little dabbling in the world of monja-yaki is a must. I’ve heard there are about 70 monja shops in the area.

Monja Street.

Monja Street.

If we move a little farther south on the new land fill, things become a little complicated. We start seeing names like 晴海 Harumi and 勝ちどき Kachidoki.

 。


勝鬨

Kachdoki (a victory cry)

Hey, look, more crap theologico-fascist style from the 30's.

Hey, look, more crap theologico-fascist style from the 30’s. I wonder if Ito Chuta built this?


kachi

win, victory


toki

war cry

As soon as they had time to think about city planning, the Meiji Government had plans to connect present day 築地 Tsukiji with 佃島 Tsukudajima (Tsukuda), home of the area’s most powerful fishing concession in Edo Bay[xviii]. But government money was tight and fishermen have boats, so fuck it. The fishermen could just take a boat over and deliver fish the way they had for hundreds of years. Tuskuda’s location was ridiculously good and the rivers of Edo-Tōkyō were sufficient.

However, in 1905 (Meiji 38), a ferry crossing was established that connected Tsukiji with Tsukishima. Boats would taxi people and goods from the mainland to Tsukuda/Tsukishima. Who was using this particular crossing? Well, presumably the 海軍経理学校 Kaigun Keiri Gakkō Naval Administration School in Tsukiji and what were they doing at Tsukishima… let’s just say they were getting fresh seafood.

The sign commemorates the ferry crossing.

The sign commemorates the ferry crossing.

However, after the 日露戦争 Nichiro Sensō Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the Naval Administration School set up an 碑 ishibumi  memorial to commemorate the 旅順陥落 Ryojun Kanraku Fall of Port Arthur. The name was the 勝鬨ノ碑 Kachidoki no Ishibumi Victory Cry Monument. The location was the landing of the ferry crossing and as such the ferry crossing was called the 勝鬨渡し Kachidoki Watashi Kachidoki Crossing.

In 1915, the sail boats or oar-driven boats came to be replaced by steamships, which could carry much more cargo to and from Tsukiji and Tsukuda/Tsukishima. Tōkyō’s population was exploding and as such the traffic from Ishikawajima, Tsukuda, Harumi, etc., was so heavy both ways, a bridge was built.

In 1933 (Shōwa 8), Tōkyō finally got around to building that bridge they’d been putting off for so long. Construction was finished in 1940 (Shōwa 15)[xix]. This being the peak of Japanese nationalism, I’m sad to say, that the “Victory Cry Monument” seemed as good a namesake as any for the bridge. And voilà! We have a 勝鬨橋 Kachidoki-bashi Kachidoki Bridge. The bridge was built as a draw bridge to accommodate large military steam ships passage. To the best of my knowledge, the bridge doesn’t open these days.

C'mon, kiss!! Do it!! You know you want to!

C’mon, kiss!!
Do it!! You know you want to!

Incidentally, today the name isn’t written 勝鬨 kachidoki, but 勝どき kachidoki. The reason is that after WWII, major reforms in Japanese spelling were made and the kanji 鬨 toki was removed from the list of 当用漢字 tōyō kanji general use kanji so there was no choice but to write it in hiragana.

Let’s move down to the next section of landfill, shall we?

From the air, Kachidoki look a lot like Edo, except with skyscrapers.

From the air, Kachidoki look a lot like Edo, except with skyscrapers.

 。


豊海
Toyomi (abundant sea)

Where slipping into shipping companies happen territory...

We’re slipping into shipping companies happen territory…

Toyomi is the southernmost and smallest section of the original manmade island. It lay directly across from the former 浜御殿 Hama Goten Seaside Palace, a villa of the Tokugawa[xx]. The view from this villa would have been a magnificent view of Edo Bay – possibly good for viewing a moon or two. The park is absolutely beautiful, but the view of the bay is blocked by landfill and skyscrapers.

That said, in 1963 a new landfill expansion was completed and the name was decided by the residents via questionnaire. The name is a mix of the following kanji:


toyo

abundant, rich, bountiful, excellent


umi

sea, ocean, waters


chō

town

The meaning of 豊海町 Toyomi-chō is essentially “bountiful sea town” and looks quite charming on paper.

The first kanji is particularly auspicious. For one thing, the character appears in the name of 豊臣秀吉 Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the second of Japan’s so-called 3 Great Unifiers. It also appears in the Tōkyō place name 豊島 Toshima, which I wrote about in 2013. The area owes a lot to the bountiful waters of Tōkyō Bay. For all of its history it’s been a wharf for fishing boats and a home to a whole gaggle of refrigerated seafood warehouses.

tsukishimafuto10

 。


晴海
Harumi (clear seas)

Oh look! You can see Tokyo Tower from here!

Oh look! You can see Tokyo Tower from here!

The last area we’re going to look at is a second landfill island built to the east of the other places we talked about.

First, let’s look at the kanji.


hare

clear


umi

sea, ocean

晴海 Harumi is a perpendicular, man-made island that lies directly east of Tsukishima, Kachidoki, and Toyomi. Building out the land fill began from Tsukuda in the middle of the Meiji Period and was finally completed in 1929.

In 1939, the residents of the island voted to divide the area into six 丁目 six chōme blocks and named it 晴海町 Harumi-chō Harumi Town. The idea being that they lived on the bay and they always hoped for 晴れ海 hare umi tranquil waters. Recently built landfill was merged with the older area and the number of chōme was reduced to 5. The suffix 町 chō town was also eliminated. The future of Harumi should be interesting. The 選手村 Senshu Mura Olympic Village for the 2020 Tōkyō Olympics is planned to be built in Harumi 5-chōme.

tokyo-2020-olympic-games

 。

So In Conclusion…

Happy Holidays to all of you! As always, I would just be talking into an insane vacuum if it weren’t for you. Every like, re-tweet, share, and comment means a lot to me because I know there are some other people who really love Japanese history and really love Tokyo out there. Much love to each and every one of you! Stay warm and I’ll see you in 2015!

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[i] I wrote an article about fires waaaaaaay back in 2013. You can read it here.
[ii] This is a topic for another day, but my understanding is this area had nothing to do with rifles and was a reference to the long narrow alleyways. Could be wrong, but it’s not important for this article.
[iii] I have an article discussing monzen-chō here.
[iv] A kind of Buddhist wake.
[v] And I use the term “rock” loosely…
[vi] His name isn’t pronounced /haɪd/ like English “hide and seek,” but /çide/ following the Japanese pronunciation. His real given name was 秀人 Hideto. He was the guitarist or some shit for a crap band called X-Japan.
[vii] His actual grave is in Kanagawa. Apparently, it is routinely “vandalized” by fans.
[viii] Emphasis on fashion, not art.
[x] And I’m sure that most Japanese didn’t want to deal with them either. After all, their arrival had caused, like, almost 2 decade of chaos, the collapse of the government, and a cultural revolution. You know. That kind of thing.
[xi] This word is the same word used in Modern Japanese for “Indian reservation.” So this could be seen as a “foreigner reservation.” Sometimes another word was used 居留区 kyoryūku “foreigner zone.” In PC Japanese, the word is usually prefixed with 外国人居留地 gaikokujin kyoryūchi foreigner’s settlement using a polite word for foreigners.
[xii] This didn’t always work out as planned, though.
[xiii] My term for the new Japanese openness to foreign cultures. Feel free to use it, but be sure to write it as The Meiji Chill Out™. The ™ is crucial.
[xiv] Not unlike the modern scenario where rich foreigners staff embassies in free housing and live in nice neighborhoods and don’t learn the language, culture, or bother integrating at all. Ooops, did I say that outloud?
[xv] I wrote a book review about Katsu Kaishū! (ps: I’m starting to doubt this claim because he would have been 80 years old about this. Maybe he worked at a different location at an earlier time… I don’t care enough to look it up.
[xvi] Also written 月の見崎 Tsuki no Misaki.
[xvii] Alright, it wasn’t just for date night. Entertaining of officials and merchants and other types of social functions could be carried out here.
[xviii] OK, I guess we can call it Tōkyō Bay now…
[xix] Which seems like an awfully long time to build a bridge.
[xx] Today it’s generally referred to as 浜離宮庭園 Hama Rikkyū Teien Hama Detached Palace Garden, and was property of the Imperial Family until it was gifted to the city as a public park.

Shinagawa Station – Then and Now

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on October 11, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I haven’t updated in a while, so please accept my apologies. I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment but there is an article in the works. That said, an idea came to me while on the shitter thinking about Edo Bay vs. Tōkyō Bay (as one does). So I thought I’d share a bunch of cool pictures of Shinagawa.

Sorry for the poor quality, I took the picture from a book. Left side is Edo Period. Right side is today.

Sorry for the poor quality, I took the picture from a book.
Left side is Edo Period. Right side is today.

In the Edo Period, the Shinagawa/Takanawa area was a collection of bustling seaside villages, but compared to castle town of Edo, it was quite rural. It was the literal edge of Edo. The Tōkaidō, a highway connecting the shogun’s capital in Edo with emperor’s capital in Kyōto, began in Nihonbashi and the first post town (rest town) was Shinagawa. The men leaving the capital could a decent meal, take care of any drinking and whoring they needed to get out of their system, and hob nob with samurai from various domains (which was arguably illegal). The men coming into the capital could get a decent meal, get their garments cleaned or pick up something new, take care of any drinking and whoring they needed to get out of their system, and any other final arrangements before entering the shōgun’s capital[i]. Shinagawa’s growth was a byproduct of sankin-kōtai, the Edo Period system of “alternate attendance.”

Arguably the most famous image of Shinagawa ever. If you walk the old Tokaido today, you can walk this same road but there is no water anywhere in sight today.

Arguably the most famous image of Shinagawa ever. If you walk the old Tokaido today, you can walk this same road but there is no water anywhere in sight today.

In the Meiji Era, the Tōkaidō was the obvious route for a new railroad. Connecting Edo→Tōkyō with Ōsaka and Kyōto was necessary and preserved the life of many villages by pulling them into the fold of Meiji Japan’s “modernization” efforts. The modern bay area was built up bit by bit since the Meiji Era, but the bulk of construction took place in the post WWII years. By the time of the Tōkyō Olympics in 1964 shit was out of control. Today, Edo’s shoreline is long gone. A few place names preserve its memory— a river channel here and there survive along the old coastline. But for better or worse, Tōkyō Bay is completely different animal than the former Edo Bay.

The former shoreline roughly follows the modern day JR tracks, ie; the Yamanote Line.

Early Meiji ukiyo-e of Shinagawa Station. I think this picture isn't accurate, but it shows a man-made wave breaker that you can see on the Edo Period map.

Early Meiji ukiyo-e of Shinagawa Station. I think this picture isn’t accurate, but it shows a man-made wave breaker that you can see on the Edo Period map.

Fishing next to the tracks of Shinagawa Station.

Fishing next to the tracks of Shinagawa Station.

This was Tokyo's beach at one time.  All I think is... tsunami disaster waiting to happen. So glad that never happened.

This was Tokyo’s beach at one time.
All I think is… tsunami disaster waiting to happen. So glad that never happened. Also notice the stone walls. Love Edo Period stone wall work!

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Shinagawa Station. On the sea. Note the breakwater out there. I wish this photo was in color.

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Steam locomotive pulling into Shinagawa Station. The coastline is beautiful. But those boats on the water. I’m way more intrigued by them!

Shinagawa Station in the late 19th century, with the Tokyo Bay shore visible immediately next to the station

This is a different scan of one of the photos from above. It’s amazing how much of a normal beach Edo Bay was. Today, most of Tokyo Bay is deep.

Shinagawa_Station_circa_1897

Maybe your last view of Edo Bay before it REALLY becomes Tokyo Bay.

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Shinagawa today. The right side of the train tracks is the former bay

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[i] By the way, a walk from Nihonbashi to Shinagawa is not a day’s walk. Today you can make the walk in less than 2 hours – but that’s with paved roads. If you were moving in a large group, the pace of walking was formalized; you were a kind of regularly occurring parade, especially near the major villages and cities. My guess is the rate that the palanquin bearers could comfortable carry their passenger determined the pace. I’m guessing that at a leisurely pace from Nihonbashi to Shinagawa in old style shoes, on old style roads, it could easily take double that time… maybe triple. And surely, you’d be hungry.

The Kanda River

In Japanese History, Tokyo Rivers, Travel in Japan on July 15, 2014 at 5:30 pm

神田川
Kanda-gawa (literally, “divine fields river,” but actually “river in Kanda”)[i]

Hajiribashi, a concrete arched bridge crossing the Kanda River near Ochanomizu Station.  If you eliminate the train station and modern buildings, this a typical Edo Period river setting.  The bridge itself is not much to look at now, but it was built after the Great Kanto Earthquake which river travel was still common. Such bridges were designed to be viewed from below by boats passing underneath them.

Hajiribashi, a concrete arched bridge crossing the Kanda River near Ochanomizu Station.
If you eliminate the train station and modern buildings, this a typical Edo Period river setting.

 

The name 神田 Kanda is one of the oldest place names in Edo-Tōkyō and believe it or not, 神田川 Kanda-gawa the Kanda River is not that old at all. Well, most of the river isn’t. Well, part of it might be.

Well, it’s complicated.

In short, after doing this research, I’ve realized I have to make a separate article about the area called 神田 Kanda – and by that, I mean just etymology. So I will write about that in the future – and I promise not to put it off too long. But let’s just deal with the river for the time being, mkay?

 

Let’s Look at the Kanji


kan

deities


ta, -da

rice paddies


kawa, -gawa

river

 

This river is manmade. So the etymology seems to be clear. At the beginning of the Edo Period, in the 神保町 Jinbō-chō area there was a small waterway that cut through a hilly are called 神田山 Kandayama Mt. Kanda. It’s said that since this area in general was called 神田 Kanda[ii] the original waterway was then called 神田川 Kanda-gawa the Kanda River.

If you only wanted to know the etymology of the river, you can stop reading here. From this point on it’s going to turn into a crazy – possibly boring – river mess. If you’re a JapanThis! masochist, then by all means, read on. You may actually enjoy this.

 

 

hajiribashi

A view of Hajiribashi when it was new. The bridge itself is not much to look at now, but in the 1920’s it was new and river travel was still common. Such bridges were designed to be viewed from below by boats passing underneath them (or without tall buildings in the background).

 

Where to Start??

Up until now, every river we have looked at was at some point a naturally occurring river. The Kanda River is quite different from those rivers. There was a time within recorded history that the Kanda River never existed. Though, a portion of it was once a natural tributary of a long vanished inlet of Edo Bay, it is, in fact, a man-made river. All though it may not be on the lips of every Tōkyōite, today the river is a well-recognized part of the well-manicured urban landscape of the modern city.

I actually first mentioned the Kanda River back in June, 2011 in an article about Yodobashi[iii], a small bridge that crosses the Kanda River at the border of 中野区 Nakano-ku Nakano Ward and 新宿区 Shinjuku-ku Shinjuku Ward. So this is something of a little homecoming for me. I started this blog when I still lived in Nakano (lived there for about 6 years).

 

yodobashi

Yodobashi in the Taisho Era, before the Great Kanto Earfquake. The area is rustic and a in sharp contrast to the present area. Today it marks the border of Nakano and crazy-ass Shinjuku.

 

What is the Kanda River Today?

The modern river’s official designation is the channel of water that flows from 井之頭池 Inokashira Ike Inokashira Pond to 飯田橋 Iidabashi (literally, Iida Bridge) where it empties into the 外堀 sotobori outer moat of Edo Castle. But it’s at this junction where the river flows into a disparate network of waterways. So you could say, unofficially, that the Kanda River flows into the 日本橋川 Nihonbashi-gawa Nihonbashi River and the 隅田川 Sumida-gawa Sumida River at 両国橋 Ryōgokubashi Ryōgoku Bridge, essentially taking the water to the Tōkyō Bay.

 

Wellspring of the present-day Kanda River at Inokashira Park.

Wellspring of the present-day Kanda River at Inokashira Park.

 

Now Let’s Talk History

As mentioned in my article on the etymology of Edo, the original 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle or 千代田城 Chiyoda-jō Chiyoda Castle was not built by 太田道灌 Ōta Dōkan as is often cited[iv]. In reality, a minor branch of 平家 Hei-ke the Taira clan[v] moved to the area at the end of the 11th century and built a fortified residence[vi] on a hill overlooking the sea. As was common practice for new branch families with new fiefs, they took the name of the village 江戸郷 Edo-gō as their own and they became the 平江戸氏 Taira Edo-shi Edo branch of the Taira clan[vii]. In the 12th century, the area prospered due to its proximity to the capital of the Minamoto shōguns in Kamakura. However, it seems the Edo clan didn’t do much to develop the area’s rivers[viii].

In those days, the now long gone 日比谷入江 Hibiya Irie Hibiya Inlet was a saltwater inlet used for 海苔 nori seaweed farming[ix]. There was a certain freshwater river known as 平川 Hirakawa “the wide river” which emptied into the inlet. This fresh water river originally made up part of the natural boundary between 武蔵国豊島郡 Musashi no Kuni Toshima-gun Toshima District, Musashi Province and 武蔵国江原郡 Musashi no Kuni Ebara-gun Ebara Province, Musashi Province. This fresh water tributary seems to be where the story of the Kanda River begins.

 

Edo Hamlet

 

Fast Forward a Few Centuries

By the 15th century, Japan was balls deep in the bloody, sweaty mess that was the Sengoku Period[x] and Ōta Dōkan found himself re-fortifying the Edo family’s fort in Chiyoda using water from the coastline and other small rivers with the latest moat-building technology of his day. The new and improved “Edo Fort” he built for the 上杉氏 Uesugi-shi Uesugi clan brought new channels and waterways into the village. This manipulation of water provided tactical advantages to the new fort in that food and goods could come in and there were more escape routes. There were now logical, defensible waterways. Lucky side effect, certain areas of the village were less exposed than before and local merchants and fishermen had new distribution routes and… BOOM!  Ladies and gentleman, we have a budding 城下町 jōka machi castle town[xi].

Although all of Dōkan’s efforts were pioneering and crucial in the taming of the rivers and sea and urban planning of Edo-Tōkyō, one of the most important changes to Edo’s waterways was diverting the 平川 Hirakawa the ancient “wide river” eastward into what is today called the 日本橋川 Nihonbashi-gawa Nihonbashi River. This is critical to our story today. And the place where this new confluence occurred is actually marked by a bridge called the 神田橋 Kandabashi Kanda Bridge. The Hirakawa River doesn’t exist anymore, but a quick look at a map of Edo Castle will show you a 平川門 Hirakawa Mon Hirakawa Gate and 平川濠 Hirakawa-bori Harakawa Moat[xii]; the former, the gate that stood guard on the moat[xiii]; the latter, a vestige of the old river itself. Today, 平川見附 Hirakawa Mitsuke the bridge and fortified gate installation on the moat is a popular sightseeing spot.

 

Part of Edo Castle today. At the top, notice Hirakawa Gate and at the bottom right, notice the Ote Mon (main gate). They are on the same moat. That is the former Hirakawa.

Part of Edo Castle today. At the top, notice Hirakawa Gate and at the bottom right, notice the Ote Mon (main gate).
They are on the same moat. That is the former Hirakawa.
I used JCastle.info to generate this map. Click on the picture to find THE premiere website on Japanese Castles in English.

 

So, as I’ve said before – and will say again – Tokugawa Ieyasu moved into an Edo that was well fortified, strategically sound, and extremely defensible by sea and by land. Oh, and did I mention, there was a burgeoning village life, supported by fishermen, farmers, and artisans[xiv]. Between Ōta Dōkan’s time and the time Ieyasu entered Edo, a technological revolution had occurred in Japan. From Nobunaga’s rise to power on, Japanese castles began to take on the look of what we think of today when someone says “Japanese Castle.[xv]” The castles of the Tokugawa Period are based on these new advances in castle building technology and reflected the amount of luxury the ruling class could not just afford, but were expected to maintain to project their image of superiority.

 

hirakawa

 

 

OK, OK! Castles, Can We Please Get Back to the River?

Yes, of course. Sorry for getting distracted.

(But we’re probably coming back to castles)

The Tokugawa Shōgunate kept meticulous records of the changes they made to the area. The great waterworks projects were no exception. But I’m not going to get into every change they made. It’s so boring it’s unreal. So let’s just look at some of the major changes and what I think are the takeaways of what created the Kanda River.

Since I got distracted, let’s go back to the beginning.The beginning of the story is 1456-1457, when Ōta Dōkan began manipulating waterways to build moats for his pre-cursor to Edo Castle – though work on the moats most likely preceded construction of the fortress, so we might say 1455-1457. In 1486, Dōkan was assassinated and in 1524 the 江戸合戦 Edo Gassen Battle of Edo saw the rise of influence of the 後北条氏 Go-Hōjō-shi and the decline of the Ōta and Uesugi. This meant that the fortifications in 千代田 Chiyoda[xvi] (the area where the Sengoku forts where built and the fields around them) were abandoned and lay fallow for almost 70 years[xvii].

In 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu transferred his clan and top retainers to Edo and began modernizing the old Sengoku Period fortifications of the Edo and Ōta. He cautiously applied some of the latest castle building technology following the examples of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It’s said that the 大手御門 Ōte Go-mon Main Gate was one of the first construction project undertaken and this required crossing an existing moat – one affiliated with the later Kanda Aqueduct/Hirakawa.

The Ote-mon (main gate) at the time of the collapse of the shogunate.

The Ote-mon (main gate) after the Meiji Coup.

 

1603 is the watershed moment. Ieyasu is named 征夷大将軍 seii tai-shōgun shōgun and is the effective military ruler of Japan. From this point, the real history of the Kanda River begins. In 1604, Nihonbashi is built and the 5 Great Highways of Edo are defined. Strict entry & exit points by land and by river are laid out in order to preserve the new Tokugawa hegemony. Edo’s waterways are no longer “just Edo waterways;” they are tactical routes, trade routes, and a means of regulating nature for the protection of the commoners who lived along the rivers and were, essentially, part of the city’s infrastructure. In short, the rivers of Edo became a stabilizing mechanism for the shōgun’s capital.

 

Hirakawa Gate when Edo Castle still had a tenshukaku (that tower thingy).

The Ote-mon (main gate) when Edo Castle still had a tenshukaku (that tower thingy). Tokugawa Power! Activate! This is where the name Otemachi comes from.

 

From 1616 to 1620, during the reign of 2nd shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada, something really resembling a “Kanda River” in a modern sense came in to existence. This is when the 神田山 Kandayama “Kanda Mountain”[xviii] was cut through and the Kanda River and Nihonbashi River became 2 discrete waterways. Kanda and Ryōgoku began to take on unique personalities at this time.

Colorized photo of the Hirakawa Gate. Check out how bad ass the castle was. Truly something to behold.

Colorized photo of the Hirakawa Gate.
Check out how bad ass the castle was. Truly something to behold.

 

In 1657, disaster struck on a colossal scale. The 明暦大家 Meireki Fire[xix] ripped through the city destroying well over half of the metropolis[xx]. Although city planning was essential from the beginning, the shōgunate hadn’t anticipated the rapid growth that accompanied their sankin-kōtai policy and just the economic stability brought on by… um, stability in general.

 

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Edo Castle was a city within a city, When the main keep burned down, budgets and policies were reconsidered.

 

In part of the rebuilding efforts after the Meireki Fire, from 1659-1661 various waterways in Edo were widened and more open space along the rivers was added. Edo grew so rapidly after the arrival of the Tokugawa, that the city had become a firetrap[xxi].

 

sakurameguri22l

Ryogoku Bridge today

 

By some accounts, 60%-70% may have be burnt to the ground. Given the relative clean slate available to the shōgunate after this particular conflagration, certain rivers were designated as firebreaks and widened to keep fires localized[xxii]. It’s at this time that the Kanda River was dramatically widened – most notably, at the confluence of the Kanda River and Ryōgoku River, the 両国橋 Ryōgokubashi Ryōgoku Bridge was built. Even today, the expanse of the river here is something to see, but in the Edo Period, with no buildings over 2 stories, it was clearly a sight to behold. Soon the area became famous for a dazzling annual fireworks display in the summer[xxiii]. Some of the most iconic 浮世絵 ukiyo-e “scenes of the transient world” come from this area. The 江戸東京博物館 Edo-Tōkyō Hakubutsukan Edo-Tōkyō Museum is located in this area… for obvious reasons.

 

From its spring in Inokashira Park, the Kanda river begins its exit from the well.  Ganbare, Kanda-chan!

From its spring in Inokashira Park, the Kanda river begins its exit from the well.
Ganbare, Kanda-chan!

 

As I mentioned before, the official headwaters are 井之頭池 Inokashira Ike Inokashira Lake, but the river has no officially designated end point but it’s fairly certain that it ultimately empties into Tōkyō Bay. Traditionally it ends at 飯田橋 Iidabashi. The reason there’s no official ending point is because the Kanda River empties into a few rivers and drainage channels along the way before it ultimately fizzles out into the 隅田川 Sumida-gawa Sumida River at 両国橋 Ryōgokubashi Ryōgoku Bridge. If you’ve been following this series, you’ll probably be aware that the names and courses of these rivers have been changing over time and that some stretches of one river may have had multiple names depending on the area. So yeah… welcome back to the Confus-o-dome.

Thanks to the Showa Era, this is the Iidamachi Bridge (Iidabashi).  Gross.

Thanks to the Showa Era, this is the Iidamachi Bridge (Iidabashi).
Gross.

The Kanda River’s Legacy

The man-made Edo Era waterway that flowed from Inokashira Pond was called the 神田上水 Kanda Jōsui. Longtime readers should know what a 上水 jōsui is. But just a refresher, a jōsui is a conduit of “imported” water. This water flowed from 三鷹 Mitaka[xxiv] to Edo Castle; it also supplied drinking water to the daimyō mansions that lined its course.

 

The creation of the Kanda River. (by the way, this is the worst info-graphic ever)

The creation of the Kanda River in Chiyoda from the Hibiya Inlet.

The Kanda Jōsui is considered the first real aqueduct system in Japan. Before I mentioned the technological revolution in castle construction, right? Well, the Sengoku Period began stabilizing and yes, castle building was a status thing. But the distribution of water and water management showed one of the greatest advances in urban planning and administration that Japan had seen in centuries. This is why shōgunate’s founder, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was such a bad ass. The dude could lead an army here or there, but he had ideas about civil administration and surrounded himself with people who could advise him on these things. Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi were essentially one-trick-ponies who couldn’t really get out of the 戦国病気 Sengoku Byōki “Sengoku Rut.”[xxv] Ieyasu, also a product of that generation, realized that infrastructure reinforced military supremacy and brought economic stability[xxvi].

 

The Kanda Aqueduct

The Kanda Aqueduct

Admittedly, it’s not that exciting or cool, but the availability of clean drinking water and disposal of dirty water should never be underestimated in the study of any ancient or pre-modern city[xxvii].

The capital of the Tokugawa shōguns quickly became the biggest city in Japan and eventually the most populous city in the world. Clean water and sewerage undeniably played a part in this. But soon the Kanda Jōsui wasn’t enough. That said, it was the main source of drinking water for Edo Castle during the Edo Period.

Even if it was inadequate to supply the entire sprawling capital, Kanda Jōsui was such a successful project that it begot 6 more major waterworks in Edo, all of which benefited daimyō, samurai, and the commoner population. Of course, this technology spread throughout the realm, but for short while Edo boasted one of the most unique water infrastructures in Japan.

 

HSD10003

 

A Final Note

If you’re up for an interesting bike ride, a 2010 blog post at Metropolis suggests starting at the mouth of the river and riding upstream to Inokashira Pond. When the temperature starts to come down, I may give this a go myself. There are loads of spots, many covered in JapanThis!, along the course of the river, so it should be fascinating.

 

 

 

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[i] I know that’s not the kind of helpful explanation that will bring closure to any of the etymology fans out there.
[ii] As I said, I’m gonna revisit this topic again.
[iii] Any relation to ヨドバシカメラ Yodobashi Camera? Why, yes there is. Thank you for asking.
[iv] And calling Dōkan’s fortifications a “castle” is also a debatable point. I’ve come to prefer the term “well-moated fort.” I came up with that term all on my own… right now. Thank you very much.
[v] If you don’t know who the Taira clan is… wow. OK, here you go.
[vi] Also, as mentioned in my article on What does Edo mean?, the coastal area is littered with 古墳 kofun burial mounds and it’s clear from the archaeology that the area has been inhabited since Paleolithic times. It’s highly doubtful the Edo clan was the first strongmen to seize upon this highly defensible, coastal plateau – they are the noblest recorded family, though.
[vii] Even though other temples and villages in the area are mentioned as far back as the Heian Period, it’s seems like the name Edo itself doesn’t actually appear in any records until the Kamakura Period.
[viii] In fact the original Edo “Castle” was probably just a 出城 dejiro satellite fort, since the Edo clan seemed to have their main residence in 喜多見 Kitami in present 世田谷区 Setagaya-ku Setagaya Ward.
[ix] I have an article about Hibiya.
[x] And while this may sound like a gratuitous reference to sex on the rag, this is actually a legitimate, historical term. Ask any historian of Pre-Modern Japan. They’ll tell you. Just ask. Seriously.
[xi] Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I said “budding.” When we say “castle” and “castle town” today we are usually referring to a construct of the far more stable Azuchi-Momoyama Period (ie; essentially the end of the Sengoku Period).
[xii] On Edo Era maps these may be listed with honorifics as 平川御門 Hirakawa Go-Mon Hirakawa Gate and 平川御堀 Hirakawa O-Hori Hirakawa Moat, respectively.
[xiii] Interestingly, some people think the radius and extent of Ōta Dōkan’s moats was the result of him not having a fucking clue what he was doing. His initial “improvements” lead to more flooding and so he continually modified his plans, diverting rivers away from the castle and the villages by extending them further and further out. Thus part of the sprawling nature of Edo Castle may have been due to stop-gap measures employed by Dōkan.
[xiv] Yes, I did.
[xv] This is as different as when we use the Latin words castrum to describe a Roman military camp/walled town and a castellum a walled fortification of Late Antiquity. The transformation is truly dramatic.
[xvi] You can see my article on Chiyoda here.
[xvii] The castle itself was pretty minor and was most likely not affected by the Late Hōjō efforts to refortify the Edo area from 1583 on.
[xviii] Kandayama was located in present day 駿河台 Surugadai.
[xix] “What’s the Meireki Fire?” you ask. There’s an article for that.
[xx] By some accounts, 70% of the city may have been destroyed.
[xxi] This didn’t change until the reconstruction of the city after WWII (or, some may argue that it didn’t change until the 1960’s and that the city just got lucky with no major conflagrations in the interim).
[xxii] In theory…
[xxiii] People today love fireworks. Just imagine what people with no video, no cameras, and no Perfume must have thought of these theatrical celebrations of summer.
[xxiv] Essentially, present-day Kichijōji.
[xxv] Again, my word. I just made it up now. And yes, I’m just baiting Sengoku lovers. Actually, I like Nobunaga, too.
[xxvi] And far more importantly, put his family in a seemingly endless position as hereditary top of the food chain. Hmmmmmmmmmm…
[xxvii] And you probably never think about where your water comes from or how it gets to your house and where it all goes afterwards, but it works, right? That’s why you can live there.

A Visit to the Omori Kaizuka

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on May 17, 2014 at 6:24 am

大森貝塚
Ōmori Kaizuka Omori Shell Mound

The other day I wrote about Ōmori and I mentioned that there was a paleolithic trash dump there that was the first archaeological dig in Japan. I had a little free time so I decided to check it out and take some pictures for the site. Actually, it was a lot less interesting than I thought it would be, but I don’t want the pictures to go to waste. Hopefully, there’s some interesting stuff in here for you.

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Near Omori Station there is a monument commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the discovery and excavation of the shell mound.

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Plaque describing Edward Morse’s contribution to Japanese archaeology and anthropology.

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Today, the site of the shell mound is a quiet park.

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After passing through the gate you walk up a hill (it was a “mound” after all).

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For some reason there was an English sign. This is the only English at the site.

IMG_5847

A panoramic shot of the excavation site. (Click to enlarge).
The structure in the background seems to be a reinforcement of the side of the shell mound. If you walk around it, you can actually go up to the top and get a feel for how tall the mound actually is. I’ll explain the water in the middle later.

IMG_5849

A statue of Edward Morse looking at some Jomon pottery.

IMG_5851

An old plaque commemorating the site. Note the Japanese is written left to right as it was before the American Occupation.

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Morse first noticed the mound when he passed by it on his way to Yokohama. Today the Keihin-Tohoku Line tracks are right next to the mound – the train line name means “Tokyo-Yokohama.”

IMG_5853

Then a train passed by.

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Omori means “Great Forest” and the area is still wooded today.

IMG_5856

View from the top of the mound. Notice the train passing by below.

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The reinforcing wall serves as a rest area. There are chairs and the walls are decorated with shells.

IMG_5865

Every so often mist comes up from the ground in the center of the chill out area.

IMG_5866

Very interesting!

IMG_5868

Across from Omori Station I stumbled across a shrine called Sanno Hie Shrine. Check out my article on Tameike-Sanno for a little background on another shrine with the same name. This gave me a great idea for an article.

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A view of some stone lanterns and the washbasin for ritual purification and the main building.

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There were two smaller shrines to the left of the main hall.

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And there they are.

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Komainu

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My Ii Naosuke t-shirt always gets lots of strange looks.

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This is a massive ginkgo tree that 3rd shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu planted in 1641 at Shiba Toshogu.

What does Dokanyama mean?

In Japanese Castles, Japanese History, Travel in Japan on April 16, 2014 at 1:03 am

道灌山
Dōkan’yama (Dōkan’s mountain)

A scene as familiar as today Edoites on Dokanyama having a picnic while enjoying the sunset over Mt. Fuji.

A scene as familiar as today
Edoites on Dokanyama having a picnic while enjoying the sunset over Mt. Fuji.

Hello and welcome back.

Today, I’m just making a quick follow up to the last few articles because, well, I wanted to address an item of interest to Japanese language learners and another item concerning Edo-Tōkyō history.

First, we saw the 2 place names 千駄ヶ谷 Sendagaya and 千駄木 Sendagi[i]. I’ve already gone into the backstory of these words, but I want to just briefly touch on the kanji 駄 da.

I mentioned that this was a unit of measure & weight for a pack horse. At the end of the Edo Period it appears to have been somewhat standardized to roughly 135 kilograms[ii], depending on the horse’s condition.

Well, this kanji isn’t just some obscure vestige of old Japan lingering in place names, it’s a kanji used every day. I’d like to quickly take you through a short list of high frequency words that use this kanji.

Let’s Go!

駄目
ダメ
dame
no, useless, not good, no way
(usually not written in kanji)
無駄
muda
useless, pointless
下駄
geta
an old Japanese shoe used for walking through dirt streets
駄菓子
dagashi
Japanese sweets for the commoners, not for the rich; cheap Japanese snacks

So, I blew off this kanji in my last few posts as just a reference to pack horses. But we still have use for these kinds of kanji today, despite the lack of pack horses[iii].

 

 Now, Let’s Talk About Dōkan’yama

 

Enjoying the view from Dokanyama

Enjoying the view from Dokanyama

 

OK, so our main theme is the hill next to Nishi-Nippori Station. When I visited Japan the first time, I stayed in 鶯谷 Uguisudani, which is a few minutes’ walk from Dōkan’yama. I passed and even climbed this hill many times while exploring 谷中霊園 Yanaka Rei’en Yanaka Cemetery in search of the tombs of the Tokugawa family. Just exploring, without maps, without knowing shit about Japanese history or language, and not really understanding the layout of the area was exciting and mysterious and it’s in this area that my passion for Japanese history was forged. Every time I come back to this area I feel a sense of nostalgia. So, the other day when I discovered that the hill had a name and that it was possibly related to a major player in the story of Edo-Tōkyō I was just giddy with excitement. This whole area truly is the gift that just keeps giving.

Now, please keep in mind, we’re just talking about a freaking hill[iv].

nerd_alert

 

The other day, I wrote that there were 2 theories about this place name. The more I’ve researched it, the more I’m convinced there is only one theory, but they are united by the bizarre coincidence that 2 people with the same name lived here at different points in history.

The area seems to have been inhabited since the 縄文時代 Jōmon Jidai Jōmon Period[v]. Part of the hill is said to have been a 古墳 kofun a kind of burial mound associated with the early Yamato State. Other parts seem to be 貝塚 kaizuka an ancient trash dump for shells. I don’t know much about archaeology, but it seems the relation between these two eras is so far removed that we need more research to prove anything.

The earliest records show that this area was written as 新堀 “the new moat.” Though, we can’t be sure about the pronunciation[vi], the internet seems to think it has been called pronounced /’nip̚pori/ since time immemorial[vii]. The elevated area from Nishi-Nippori Station to Yanaka Ginza was the area formerly called 道灌山 Dōkan’yama. Today the term is usually only applied to the area next to Nishi-Nippori Station (if applied at all). In the Edo Period this area was well outside of the hustle and bustle of Edo and as such it was a popular spot for day trips[viii].

 

Castles before the Muromachi Period were more like forts. The elegant, impressive structure that we usually associate with Japanese castles didn't come until the Sengoku Period came to a close. Oda Nobunaga, I'm looking at you.

Castles before the Muromachi Period were more like forts.
The elegant, impressive structure that we usually associate with Japanese castles didn’t come until the Sengoku Period came to a close.
Oda Nobunaga, I’m looking at you.

The story goes that in the Kamakura Period, the hill was the site of the residence of a powerful noble named 関道閑 Seki Dōkan. Dōkan was a member of the 秩父平氏 Chichibu Taira-shi Chichibu branch of the Taira clan[ix]. Longtime readers will recall that the Edo clan was also from Chichibu. He was married to the daughter of 江戸重継 Edo Shigetsugu, the first person we know of to build a fortification on the site of 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle[x].

Fast forward a couple hundred years or so and in the late Muromachi Period, Sengoku Period fucker-up-of-shit and general-purveyor-of-Kantō-area-bad-assry, the inimitable 太田道灌 Ōta Dōkan chose the site for one of his 出城 dejiro branch castles to provide tactical support to his main residence in what is today the 本丸 honmaru of Edo Castle[xi].

Ota Dokan's Edo Castle was probably something like this. Given the similarity of the terrain and the era, it's safe to assume the branch castle was very much the same. #SengokuKanto

Ota Dokan’s Edo Castle was probably something like this.
Given the similarity of the terrain and the era, it’s safe to assume the branch castle was very much the same.

Same picture but in color. If this picture of Dokan's Edo Fortress is to be trusted, the shape of the plateau seems to have been built up with earthen walls. If this is the case, the archaeologists who have found trash dumps for shells and think there may have been a kofun here may be on to something.  Dokan may have ordered the hilltops merged and shaped into a form fitting of a secondary fortress.

Same picture but in color.
If this picture of Dokan’s Edo fortress is to be trusted, the shape of the plateau has been built up with earthen walls.
The flat surface on the top is reminiscent of the shape of Dokanyama.

 

Located on the hill is 諏訪神社 Suwan Jinja Suwan Shrine which is said to house the tutelary deity that protected Ōta Dōkan’s branch castle[xii]. The shrine is located at the highest point of the hill. In Ōta Dōkan’s time, this area is where the 見張台 miharidai lookout tower was located. It’s said that from this miharidai, you could see all the way to 下総国 Shimōsa no Kuni Shimōsa Province (present day Chiba Prefecture). And while the castle was in ruins by time the Tokugawa arrived on the scene, the area was still called Miharidai in the Edo Period and was famous for getting a relaxing view of Mt. Fuji. We actually have quite a few pictures depicting Edoites relaxing in the area.

 

That tower looking look out thingy. Yeah, that's a miharidai.

That tower looking look out thingy.
Yeah, that’s a miharidai.

Today nobody comes to Dokanyama for the view. But you can get an appreciation of the sharp elevation.

Today nobody comes to Dokanyama for the view.
But you can get an appreciation of the sharp elevation. (this photo is from the shrine precincts of Suwan Shrine)

 

Viewing Mt. Fuji from Dokanyama in the Edo Period.

Viewing Mt. Fuji from Dokanyama while the cherry blossoms are blooming in the Edo Period. Notice the village of thatched huts below the hill. This is a clear Yamanote/Shitamachi distinction.

 

Suwan Shrine is located on the former Miharidai area. The shrine is now in an Edo Period style. In the time of Ota Dokan, it would have been a small afterthought.

Suwan Shrine is located on the former Miharidai area.
The shrine is now in an Edo Period style.
In the time of Ota Dokan, it would have been a small afterthought.

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[i] Just go back to the last 2 articles. You might also want to search the site of “yanaka” if you’re interested in this area. There are quite a few independent articles, so if you want to get the big picture, I recommend reading everything.
[ii] About 298 lbs.
[iii] Except for your mom, who is a real trooper, btw.
[iv] One soon learns that nothing in Tōkyō is “just something.” Just like Rome, you can’t a few meters without tripping over some crazy piece of history you’ve never heard of.
[v] Admittedly, an era that I rarely talk about, but I’m thinking about digging deeper into. It’s a loooong time ago. Here’s more info if you’re interested.
[vi] See my article on Nippori.
[vii] I reserve the right to withhold my opinion on this one. It’s pretty complicated.
[viii] Edo people walked everywhere, so this would have been a reasonable day trip. Today, you can access this area by train and from within the 32 Special Wards, it’s pretty much a 20 minute train ride from anywhere.
[ix] Chichibu is the same area in Saitama Prefecture that the Edo Clan (also members of the Taira clan) originated. For more about the Edo clan, please see my article on Edo.
[x] Recent readers, spoiler alert. Edo Castle wasn’t built first by Ōta Dōkan, even that’s what your Tōkyō guidebook says.
[xi] Commonly known by idiots as 皇居 kōkyo the Imperial Palace. There, I said it.
[xii] It should be noted that Suwan Shrines are common throughout the country.

What does Sendagi mean?

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on April 14, 2014 at 8:28 am

千駄木
Sendagi (a lot of trees)

sendagi_station

Sendagi is a mixed residential and shopping area between Nezu and Yanaka[i]. Today the area is distinctly shitamachi[ii]. However, if you go there you’ll notice slopes which are clear indicators that in the Edo Period the area was mixed with the elites living on the yamanote (high city) and the merchants and other people living on in the shitamachi (low city) while low ranking samurai naturally lived on the hillsides according to rank.

The area of Tōkyō extending from Ueno Station[iii] out to Nippori Station[iv] is one of the most popular destinations for lovers of Edo-Tōkyō to take walks. There are many different routes one could take through this area, but one common route is walking the 谷根千 Yanesen, an abbreviation based on the collective areas of  谷中 Yanaka, 根津 Nezu, and 千駄木 Sendagi. The area is dotted with temples, shrines, shops dating as far back as the Edo Period, and is literally so steeped in history that it would probably take a book to do it justice[v]. Also, there are a lot of references to past articles, so be sure to check the footnotes (remember, they’re clickable).

Given the cultural richness of the area, I will just point you here, and move on to the timeline of Sendagi and then get into the place name itself. If that’s alright with you…

Edo Period gate to the residence of the Komagome Village headman.

Edo Period gate to the residence of the Komagome Village headman.

The area was formerly part of 駒込村 Komagome Mura Komagome Village and in fact today is still officially part of Komagome[vi]. The name Komagome isn’t attested until the Sengoku Period. One the other hand, 千駄木 Sendagi isn’t attested until the early Edo Period when it appears as a label in a map. The label reads 上野東漸院持ち駒込千駄木御林 Ueno Tōzen’in mochi Komagome Sendagi o-hayashi the Komagome Sendagi o-hayashi which is controlled by Ueno Tōzen Temple. Another early Edo Period map includes the label 上野寒松院持ち駒込千駄木御林 Ueno Kanshō’in mochi Komagome Sendagi o-hayashi the Komagome Sendagi o-hayashi which is controlled by Ueno Kanshō Temple. An 御林 o-hayashi was a hilltop wooded area owned by the shōgunate, but control of the area was granted to a lord or temple[vii]. Which temple was actually in control of Komagome Sendagi O-hayashi at what time isn’t clear to me, but it’s not really important for us today[viii].

O-hayashi Inari Shrine in Sendagi is one of the legacies of the old forest.

O-hayashi Inari Shrine in Sendagi is one of the legacies of the old forest.

About 1656, the former hilltop forest came to be the site of a daimyō residence of the lords of 豊後国府内藩 Bungo no Kuni Funai Han Funai Domain, Bungo Province (present day Oita Prefecture in Kyūshū). The family was the 大給松平家 Ōgyū Matsudaira, a samurai family from 三河国 Mikawa no Kuni Mikawa Province, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s homeland. As Edo depended on the shōgunate and the shōgun himself was from Mikawa, having a Mikawa family bearing the name Matsudaira bolstered the area’s prestige[ix]. The hill became a yamanote town comprised of high ranking samurai residences. It seems that because the Ōgyū residence was first the prestigious palace built on the hilltop, the area came to be to be known as 大給坂 Ōgyūzaka Ōgyū Hill. If you go to the top of Ōgyūzaka there is a crappy little park with a huge gingko tree called the 大銀杏 Ōichō[x]. They say this tree stood inside the original Ōgyū property.

Yup. That's a big tree, alright.  OK, let's move on.

Yup. That’s a big tree, alright.
OK, let’s move on.

Nearby is another hill called 道灌山 Dōkanyama. It’s said that at the end of the Muromachi Period, 太田道灌 Ōta Dōkan had a branch castle here which he built for tactical support of 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle[xi]. I only jumped way back in time to mention this because… well, you’ll see.

Dokanyama is the large slope next to Nishi-Nippori Station. I've seen this hill hundreds of times, but I never knew it was called Dokanyama until today. Cool!

Dokanyama is the large slope next to Nishi-Nippori Station.
I’ve seen this hill hundreds of times, but I never knew it was called Dokanyama until today.
Cool!

 

OK, so now let’s look at the kanji.

 


sen
1000

da
a pack horse;
a load carried by a pack horse

gi
tree

 

WTF?! This fucking kanji again?

WTF?!
This fucking kanji again?

The other day, we looked at 千駄ヶ谷 Sendagaya and we learned that 千駄 senda was another word for 沢山 takusan a lot. If we want to take the kanji as they are written today, which is by all means the easiest way to do things, we can deduce that the name 千駄木 Sendagi means “a lot of trees.” From what we know, the place name is first written down[xii] in the early Edo Period. From what we know, the area was a hilltop forest at that time. One could make a very strong case that this is the origin of the name Sendagi.

 

But it’s Never That Easy, Is It?

So there are some other theories of varying quality – or a few variations with some anecdotal stories added to lend credence to the general narrative[xiii]. OK, so where to begin?

 

Sexxxy firewood. Awwwwww yeah!

Sexxxy firewood.
Awwwwww yeah!

 

The 1000 Da Theory

In the late Muromachi Period and opening years of the Edo Period, the forest here was used for lumber or for firewood. You could easily get 千駄 sen da 1000 da each day. (If you don’t know what 1000 da are, you should read the last article). This is basically adding information to the above theory.

 

Chinaberry is a flowering tree. There are many planted around Edo Castle. In the background you can see (I think) Shimizu Mon.

Chinaberry is a flowering tree. There are many planted around Edo Castle.
In the background you can see (I think) Shimizu Mon.

The Ōta Dōkan Did It Theory

During the construction of Edo Castle (or perhaps his aforementioned branch castle), Ōta Dōkan used the area for lumber. After cutting down so many trees, he re-forested the area by planting 栴檀 sendan Chinaberry trees here. In the old Edo accent, sendan ki became sendagi. The Ōta Dōkan thing could be true or not. Who knows? The Chinaberry tree thing? It’s possible. Still, we’re looking at a bunch of trees any way you look at it.

 

20121218160224a11

 

It’s a Reference to a Traditional Japanese Prayer For Rain

The last theory is interesting. The godfather of Japanese folklore and linguistics, 柳田國男 Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), actually spoke about this place name. The reason his story bears repeating is because he insisted that prior to the Meiji Restoration, the common narrative of Japanese history was the story of the elite classes only. The day to day toils and reality of the commoners was just omitted. He was also fascinated by the variety of Japanese dialects and began laying the groundwork for modern Japanese dialectology.

Anyhoo, his theory says that in the Edo Period, and indeed, in his youth, at the beginning of summer as the rains got scarcer, the farmers would bring 1000 da of reeds or wood to the nearest body of water and burn them as an 雨乞い amagoi prayer for rain. In the common parlance, this activity was called 千駄焚き senda-taki burning 1000 da. While he was making some of the first modern dialect maps of Japan, he noticed that in many parts of the country the phrase senda-taki was contracted to sendaki. He speculated that this might be the origin of both Sendagi (sendaki – burning 1000 da of wood) and Sendagaya (senda kaya – buring 1000 da of reeds).

His speculation is interesting because he’s a guy who was born with the first 10 years of the Meiji Era, watched Japan modernize, go all crazy theocratic and fascistic, be occupied by a foreign power for the first time ever, modernize again, and host the Olympics. He also lived through the greatest and fastest advances in linguistics and the scientific method.

Kunio himself. Or as I like to call him, "kun'ni."

Kunio himself.
Or as I like to call him, “kun’ni.”

 

So Which Theory Is Correct?

With all this talk of Yanagita Kunio, it’s gotten me thinking about my choice in terminology up to this point on JapanThis!. Linguistics is a science and as such when talking within the framework of science, terminology is important. I’ve been using the word “theory” for some time in the vernacular sense. But “theory” actually means a kind of testable model – something that is so predictable that we can say it’s a fact – for example; the Theory of Gravity or the Theory of Evolution. These things we know are true. The correct term for dealing with much of what I write about on this blog is “speculation.” Unless we have an actual historical document saying “so-and-so named this place such-and-such because of this-and-that” were are dealing with speculation[xiv].

but_i_digress

 

As usual, we saw some interesting speculations today. Without extraordinary evidence, I tend to err on the side of simplicity. For me, I like the literal reading of the kanji. There were a lot of trees in the area. I think the rest of the stories are embellishments, folk etymologies, or downright wishful thinking and coincidence.

Then again, what do I know? I’m just some dude with an internet connection.

 

 

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[i] See my article on Yanaka.
D’oh! I’ve never written about Yanaka before. Weird. Well, anyways, if you scroll down a little bit, on the right hand side there is a list of the 50 most recent articles. Above the list is a search field. If you type “yanaka,” a ton of articles will come up. (If you click word “yanaka” above, it will bring up the same list of articles. Can everyone say, “let me google that for you?”)

[ii] In the modern sense of the word.

[iii] See my super old article on Ueno. Or not, because I just looked at it and it sucks. It’s from when I started covering place names. Night and day difference.

[iv] See my super old article on Nippori. One of the early ones that got researched well.

[v] Here’s an English article I came across about the Yanesen.

[vi] See my article on Komagome here.

[vii] The emphasis on hilltop is most likely because the low city was developed for commerce and commoners and wouldn’t have had many trees, whereas the hilltops were kept lush and green.

[viii] More interesting is that both temples still exist. Tōzen’in was established in 1649 and is affiliated with Kan’ei-ji, the Tokugawa Funerary Temple. You can find Tōzen’in in Uguisudani. Kanshō’in, established in 1627, is also in Uguisudani and is also affiliated with Kan’ei-ji. In fact, later they became of a sub-temple of 上野東照宮 Ueno Tōshō-gū. See my article on Uguisudani here. Don’t worry that the temples are located in Uguisudani and not Komagome – although it’s walking distance, both temples have actually been relocated a few times.

[ix] Keep in mind, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s real family name was Matsudaira.

[x] Literally, big ass gingko tree.

[xi] However, there is an alternate theory which claims the name Dōkanyama is actually derived from a powerful noble who had a fortified residence here in the Kamakura Period. His name was 関道閑 Seki Dōkan.

[xii] A first attestation doesn’t necessarily mean the name was created at that time. It only means it was the first time anyone bothered writing it down. So, in theory, a name in Kantō could be hundreds of years old before anyone made a record of it that we still have.

[xiii] It’s not always the case, but when you get anecdotal stories, your BS Detector should start blinking; often times these stories reek of folk etymology.

[xiv] Even in that case, the document would have to be proven authentic and written by the person who named the place.

Why is Roppongi called Roppongi

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on February 12, 2014 at 1:42 am

六本木
Roppongi (the 6 trees)

Mori Tower and the spider sculpture at Roppongi Hills

Mori Tower and the spider sculpture at Roppongi Hills

Just a quick heads up, this was written in Open Office, which is one of the shittiest pieces of software ever. It’s free, so I don’t expect much, but every time I use this program, the text formatting is all funky. So please forgive all the weird font changes and font size changes. It wasn’t written that way.
Word Press and Open Office don’t play well together.

ropponig croossing

I actually wrote about this topic once beforei.

On February 10th of last year, I was still trying to figure out how to breathe life back into a stagnant blog. I was determined to commit to it and was keeping up with my idea of “if I don’t have a big topic to write about, I’ll cover one Tōkyō place name a week.” In the beginning there was minimal research put in because I just covered a few topics that I was familiar with. Now one year later, JapanThis has transformed into something beautiful – something I’m fiercely proud of.

So Roppongi wasn’t the first place name I covered, but it was one of the really early ones. The reason I chose it was because it was relatively easy. Looking back at this 2 paragraph monstrosity, I feel a deep and dark shame. It’s nowhere near the level of quality I demand of myself now. It’s embarrassing and makes me want to vomit out of my ass and/or commit seppuku.

But today I’m going to set the record straight.

Today, Roppongi is a party town. For years it’s been popular with foreigners due to its proximity to so many foreign embassies. Because of this proximity, the area is relatively English-friendly which makes it a destination for foreigners visiting Japan and the seedy businesses that often cater to (or try to take advantage of) foreigners.

Roppongi has a bad reputation among Tōkyōites and among foreigners who try learn the so-called “Japanese Way.” I’m not really into Roppongi. But I’ve learned to not hate on it so much over the years and as it turns out, the area has a very interesting history if you leave the so-called Roppongi Crossing area, which is pretty much one of the most irritating places in the world.

Alright, so let’s get into this…

b0061717_0321615

So, Roppongi. What does it mean?


If we look at the kanji:

六本
roppon

6 tall, cylindrical things


ki

trees
(generally, tall and cylindrical)

There are a few opinions about this etymology. As any seasoned reader of JapanThis knows, the kanji can’t always be trusted to accurately reflect ancient place names. I mentioned as an aside in my article on Why was Edo called Edo? That this area, now called Minato-ku had been inhabited by humans for a very long time. From the get go, I want to say that there is a chance that this is name that may or may not be Japanese. It may or may not have anything to do with the kanji we have have today. To be blunt, there is no way of knowing.

The one thing we do know for sure is that the first recorded reference to “Roppongi” came in 1828 (late Edo Period) in a correspondence with the shōgunate. However, we don’t know exactly what area was being referred to. In fact, Roppongi didn’t appear on a map until 1878 with the creation of 麻布区 Azabu-ku Azabu Wardii.

the top 2 photos are of Edo Period Azabu Juban (the area that is now considered the "shoten-gai." The botom two pitctures are of Roppongi Crossing.

the top 2 photos are of Edo Period Azabu Juban (the area that is now considered the “shoten-gai.” The bottom two pictures are of Roppongi Crossing.

 

THEORY 1
Literal: There were 6 tall trees used as landmarks

Roppongi is one of the highest plateaux in Tōkyō. This theory says that waaaaaaaay back – most likely some time between the Kamakura Period and Sengoku Period – there was a place here called 六方庵 Roppō-an Hermitage of the 6 Directions. In the garden of this residence, there were 6 tall trees.

The kanji iori/an is puzzling. It usually refers to a rustic home or tea house. However, in the Heian Period it could refer to a military encampment, headquarters, barracks, or even a fortress. More about this later.

Anyhoo, because of it’s elevation and high visibility, the 6 tall trees were landmarks. People disagree about whether these were matsu pine trees or keyaki zelkova trees. This theory refers to a time so long ago that we can’t know whether it’s true or not. The presence of keyaki trees is intriguing, though, because today there is a street called 欅坂 Keyakizaka between Azabu and Roppongi.

If you dropped the word iori/an hermitage, and added the kanji ki trees, in the local dialect it became Roppon-gi. A variation of this etymology is that it comes from 六方の木 Roppō no ki which got reduced to Roppo’ n’ gi. More about this later.

Obviously, we don’t know if this place actually existed, but linguistically speaking, it’s plausible. These kind of sound changes are observable in Modern Japanese. Anyone with exposure to day-to-day Japanese of our era will certainly have seen and heard this kind of vernaculariii.

6 trees

THEORY 2
Literal: It’s derived from a family name

This is actually two theories, but they’re based on the premise that that there was a noble family called 六方 Roppō that lived here before the Edo Periodiv.
1) In the local dialect,
六方家 Roppō-ke the Roppō Family was pronounced Roppo-ngi.
2) The area was considered
六方気 Roppō-ki Roppō-ish or Roppō style, which in the local dialect was pronounced Roppo-ngi.

The interesting thing about this theory is that it also refers to Roppō and reinforces the Roppō-an theoryv. Whether it was a rustic hermitage or noble’s fortress, the high ground would be very suitable.

Linguistically, the sound changes are absolutely plausible.

There just isn’t any other evidence besides these etymology stories. No deeds of the Edo Roppō family. No tales of legendary tea ceremonies at Roppō Hermitage. No references to this place at all. And to top it all off, Roppō isn’t a family name today (as far as I can tell)vi.

when i hear the word "庵,”  I imagine this kind of building.

when i hear the word “庵,” I imagine this kind of building.



THEORY 3
Figurative: A legendary 6 man sep
puku party went down here

During the 源平合戦 Genpei Gassen Genpei Warvii, the Genji forces pursued 6 Taira samurai and fought until 5 died here. A single Taira samurai managed to escape and rather than being cut down, slit his own belly to resist capture or execution. He died under a solitary pine tree. They group was remembered by the local people as “the 6 pines trees.” A variation of this story says that they all committed seppuku.

This isn’t a very likely etymology because, of course, there are no suriving shrines, graves, or much of anything to back up this theory. What’s more, there is another twist on this story that says these samurai were actually deserters, and traditionally Japanese people don’t take kindly to stories of deserters.

Either way you look at it, deserters or heros, this is a cool story because any story that ends in seppuku is – by definition – cool. But there’s not a single piece of evidence to back up.

There is such a thing as "seppuku fetish." And yes, is sexualized.

There is such a thing as “seppuku fetish.”And yes, it goes something like this… 

Theory 4
Creative: It’s a reference to 6 daimyō who lived here during the Edo Period

In English, this theory is usually stated as: “In the Edo Period, there were 6 major daimyō residences located here and so the area was named Roppongi.” But this is a great over-simplification, as you will soon see. There were MANY daimyō living in this area. Many city blocks of present Minato Ward still conform to the shape of the vast estates that once stood here. The crux of this theory is not that there were just 6 daimyō here, but that there were 6 daimyō who had family names that referenced trees in their family namesviii.

Let’s take a look at the daimyō who are generally cited:

 

上杉
Uesugi
米沢藩
Yonezawa Han

above the cedar trees The Minsitry of Foreign Affairs and Azabu Post Office sit on the former upper and middle residences of Yonezawa Domain.

朽木
Kutsuki
朽木藩
Kustuki Han

decaying trees I can’t find the location of their Edo residences (one source says the upper residence was in Akasaka), but the family used Sengaku-ji as their funerary temple.

青木
Aoki
新見藩
Niimi Han

green trees I can’t find their Edo residences, but the funerary temple of the Aoki clan of Niimi Domain is located at Zuishō-ji in Shirokane-dai.

片桐
Katagiri
竜田藩
Tatsuta Han

off-kilter pauwlonia tree Allegedly, this family’s lower residence was located on Toriizaka. This is hard for me to confirm because, well, I’ll get into it later.

高木
Takagi
丹南藩

Tan’nan Han

tall tree(s) The middle residence for a Tan’nan Domain was located in Azabu Kōgaibashi.

一柳
Hitotsuyanagi
(Ichiyanagi)
小野藩
Ono Han
小松藩

Komatsu Han

a single weeping willow The family funerary temple was Zōjō-ji! If I’m not mistaken, their cemetary is now located across from Tōkyō tower where Kondō Isami’s father is buried. The upper residence was once located in west Shinbashi. (There were two daimyō families located in this area with same name; I don’t know anything else about them).

This is the most popular theory by a long shot. Even Wikipedia likes it.

But it has a few problems. No Edo Period maps listed anything as Roppongi. This isn’t unusual, as time and time again we say common nicknames get applied to areas in the administrative re-shuffling that happened in the Meiji Era. But it also means, we don’t really know where the area originally referred to was nor do we know its size. Besides, if I had a penny for every Japanese family name with a reference to a tree in it, I’d be able to buy your mom – several times over.

But looking at the table above, you can see these daimyō mansions were in Shinbashi, Akasaka, Azabu, and Shirokane. This is all in present day Minato Ward – which doesn’t mean anything when trying to pinpoint a specific place. But it does mean something when you are walking somewhere, as people did before cars and trains. There is a certain centrality about the location of these daimyō.

But today Roppongi is a specific area and postal address. None of these daimyō had mansions in the area we would consider Roppongi today. In all fairness, the Takagi and Katagiri were literally right on the border, though. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the exact locations of some residences isn’t completely known – and in some cases, the daimyō family moved (or were re-shuffled).

That said, the location of funerary temples of some of the lesser daimyō in the vicinity does lend a bit of credence to the story. The other interesting thing is that some of the “mystery residences” are those of the Aoki, the Kutsuki, the Takagi, and the Katagiri. The first three just barely met the minimum kokudaka for daimyō status. If their domains’ value slipped below 10,000 koku, they could have had their domains confiscated. In 1650, Katagiri Tametsugu was demoted to hatamoto status for 無嗣断絶 mushi danzetsu the crime of dying without an appointed heirix. Tatsuta Domain was confiscated, subsequently abolished, and the family was reshuffled. Dying without an heir was considered an act of such abject stupidity by the shōgunate, that it always required immediate action. I would tend to agree. In a “feudal” society, if you don’t have a designated successor, you probably shouldn’t be governing anything. But then again, the boy was only 15.

Anyhoo, this seems to be the strongest theory simply because it’s the only with any evidence. It’s not air tight by any stretch of the imagination; much of its appeal coming from the fact that most people don’t know (or care) exactly where daimyō Edo residences were. True or not, in my opinion, this is the most interesting theory.

The residence at the top is the Uesugi mansion. This picture is great because it gives you an idea of how massive these estates were. They really were the Edo Period equivalents of embassies.

The residence at the top is the Uesugi mansion.
This picture is great because it gives you an idea of how massive these estates were.
They really were the Edo Period equivalents of embassies.
And yes, this is their upper residence. and as such it’s located at Edo Castle.

THEORY 5
Figurative: 6 hitching poles…


There’s another theory about 6 poles (by extension, places) where you could tie up your horse. This is mostly a reference to (by Edo Period standards) nearby
Nihonbashi and not this area. Perhaps the idea being, samurai traveling long distances, could swap out a horse there, and then proceed to their 藩邸 hantei domain residence (essentially an embassay) on a horse that didn’t look worn out.

So, yup! Someone thought hitching poles near Nihonbashi would make a great place name over in Roppongi. The one thing I can say in defense of this theory is that, as I said before, until the name Roppongi was made official in the early Meiji Era under a western administrative system we have no idea where the name Roppongi referred to.

In conclusion, we have no idea where the name comes from. If you love historical linguistics or dialects, you might favor theories 1 & 2. If you’re a big fan of the Edo-Tōkyō, you probably like theory 4. Admittedly, they are appealing. The others have some charm, but ostensibly lack credibility.

But if you know them all, you can really see the hidden beauty of Edo-Tōkyō. Hopefully you can see why I’m so passionate about this city’s history. This is something I would never have said about Roppongi a few years ago. Foreigners who become “lifers” in Tōkyō generally shun Roppongi because Roppongi is for the newbies. Roppongi is for the idiots, Roppongi is for rich foreigners who can’t speak Japanese, Roppongi is where every sort of shadiness goes down. But for those of us who love Japanese History, especially Edo-Tōkyō, there is sooooooooooo much good shit in the surrounding area. Unfortunately for us, most of the best parts of Tōkyō are hidden. You really have to know where to look.

Check out Tokyo Bay in the distance!

Check out Tokyo Bay in the distance!

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___________________________
i OMG, OMG, OMG, don’t get me started on how bad this blog started out.
ii Pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but Azabu Ward no longer exists.
iii Some well known examples are 本当 hontō true reduced to honto and no is regularly reduced to /n/. And /g/ is often pronounced with a /n/ sound before it; すごい sugoiすんごい sungoi.
iv Allegedly.
v I haven’t come across this etymology, but one wonders if a mix of the Roppōan and Roppō family is possible. If there were 6 trees located on the property of the Roppō family, you could get a pun based on 六方の木 Roppō no ki (Roppo’ n’ gi) the Roppō’s trees and 六本木 Roppongi 6 trees. Call me crazy, but that makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
vi A Google search just pulls up restaurants and geometry references (roppō literally means hexagon).
vii What exactly was the Genpei War? In short, it was a war between the Minamoto and Taira. More details here!
viii If you’re wondering what the hell a daimyō is and why there residences are CRUCIAL to understanding the history of Tōkyō, please read my short summary of sankin-kōtai here.
ix The family continued and committed mushi danzetsu a couple more times. After been so heavily punished by the shōgunate, you’d think the family would have set up some policy. I guess they weren’t the brightest bunch.

What does Haneda mean?

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on January 24, 2014 at 3:23 am

羽田町
Haneda Machi (Wing Field Town)

Haneda Anamori Inari Shrine in the late Meiji or Taisho Period.

Haneda Anamori Inari Shrine in the late Meiji or Taisho Period.

It may sound familiar. It may look familiar. But you will never find this city on a map of Japan.

That’s because this city doesn’t exist anymore. It was abolished in 1947 when 大森区 Ōmori-ku Ōmori Ward and 蒲田区 Kamata-ku Kamata Ward were merged into present day 大田区 Ōta-ku Ōta Ward. 3 humble postal codes are all that remain of this obscure Edo Period fishing village: 羽田 Haneda, 羽田旭町 Haneda Asahi-chō, and 羽田空港 Haneda Kūkō.

In 1818, a major shrine called 穴守稲荷神社 Anamori Inari Jinja Anamori Inari Shrine was built here. There were some other Inari shrines scattered throughout the area and since they came to a grand total of seven, someone got the idea of making a 七福稲荷巡りShichi Fukuinari Meguri Pilgrimage of the 7 Lucky Inari Shrines. At the beginning of the year, I spoke about how common courses for the 七福神 Shichi Fukujin 7 Gods of Good Luck are. Well, I know Inari became an extremely popular kami with the common people during the Edo Period, but this is the only 7 Lucky Inari course that I’ve ever heard of. (Of course, if there are more of these, I’d love to hear about it!)

Anyhoo, the area was just an obscure backwater until…

drumroll

They built an airport here.

Haneda Airport.

Above, I mentioned 3 postal codes; the last one is the airport. And that area takes up the bulk of what was once 羽田町 Haneda Machi Haneda Town. That is to say, the town was more or less bulldozed over and everyone was relocated elsewhere[i].

If you want to read about the history of Haneda Airport – which is actually a pretty interesting story in and of itself[ii]I’ll direct you to the English Wikipedia page which seems pretty thorough in my humble estimation.

.

Map of the Haneda Shichi Fuku Inari

Map of the Haneda Shichi Fuku Inari.
Notice the river drawn vertically. That’s the Ebitori River.
Note the river drawn horizontally. That’s the Tama River.
Gonna talk about those again in a minute, mkay?

Ready! Set! Etymologize!

Now let’s talk about where this name came from, which, after all, is pretty much the only reason anyone comes here.

First, I’d like to give a little background. Today, Haneda is part of 東京都 Tōkyō-to the Tōkyō Metropolis. It was never part of Edo. Under the classical administrative system, this was 武蔵国荏原郡 Musashi no Kuni Ebara-gun Ebara District, Musashi Province. The area was not a han domain, rather it fell under the direct control of the shōgunate[iii]. Until the 1950’s and 1960’s, the area had been, since time immemorial, a fishing village of little consequence.

Kantō place names start coming into the historical record in a sort of haphazard “abundance” for the first time in the Heian Period – but this particular area was in a dark age of sorts. There doesn’t seem to have been much activity here during the Kamakura Period – which is when we usually start getting solid information on place names in the Kantō area. The next big burst of information usually comes with the ascendancy of the Late Hōjō, but alas, this area gets skipped over (except for a passing reference which I’ll get to in a minute).

It’s not until the Tokugawa Period when we get any sort of reliable information on the area. Up to this point the area is more or less recognized as 羽田村 Haneda Mura Haneda Village. With the creation of 東京府 Tōkyō-fu Tōkyō Prefecture in the late 1860’s came the arrival of modern census-taking, modern map making, and – thankfully – modern record keeping.

But before that time in this area, we’re probably looking at a place name that went through a number of changes. The phonemes themselves could have changed, the kanji representing the phonemes could have changed, and such willy-nilly kanji-use could have been replaced by other kanji later – also willy-nilly. So, yes, once again, take everything, and I mean, everything, with a grain of salt.


hane
feather

da
field
Japanese Flight Attendants at Haneda Airport in the 60's.

JAL Flight Attendants at Haneda Airport in the 60’s.

So, here we go!

Theory 1
“Haneda” is a reference to where the inlets of the Pacific Ocean met the Tamagawa River.
The idea was that はね met :

跳ね
hane
muddy splash
撥ね
hane
(water) brushing up against (against the shore)

ta/da
Fields (ie; the land being splashed upon or brushed upon)

This actually seems to be one of the most popular theories. The first kanji is rarely used in Modern Japanese place names[iv]. The second kanji is plain rarely used. Let’s file this under “not so crazy, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

This torii marks the original location of Haneda Anamori Shrine (the shrine was removed to make room for the airport). You can see the Tama River in the background.

This torii marks the original location of Haneda Anamori Shrine (the shrine was removed to make room for the airport). You can see the Tama River in the background.

Theory 2

The area was famous for 半田 handa solder (heating up metals to melting point and fusing them). I couldn’t find many references to this business in the area, so who knows.

The story goes that in the old Kantō dialects, はんだ handa solder/pewter was pronounced はねだ haneda. Interestingly, I’m pretty sure the kanji 半田 are ateji[v]. So, if this etymology is true, it’s referencing a very ancient Japanese word and any kanji attached to it were added post hoc. Let’s file this under “adventures in ateji.”

I've got no pictures for this theory. But, hey, here's a picture of a cloud that looks like a dick.

I’ve got no pictures for this theory.
But, hey, here’s a picture of a cloud that looks like a dick.

Theory 3

OK, this is a kind of a stretch, because I probably can’t provide you with a visual for this, but, when viewed from the sea, the 海老取川 Ebigtori-gawa Ebitori River[vi] was split in two by the fields (). The fishermen said it had a shape that looked like a bird with its hane wings spread as if about to take flight. Let’s file this under “unlikely.”

Aerial shot of Haneda Airport. The bulk of the current airport is built on landfill that didn't exist during the Edo Period so there's no way to confirm this theory now.  I'm too lazy to pull out an old map because this theory sounds like BS. But from the air, you can see how various inlets split off into new rivers. I guess that could look like a bird's wings. Just not sure how you'd see it from a boat.

Aerial shot of Haneda Airport.
The bulk of the current airport is built on landfill that didn’t exist during the Edo Period so there’s no way to confirm this theory now.
I’m too lazy to pull out an old map because this theory sounds like BS.
But from the air, you can see how various inlets split off into new rivers.
I guess that could look like a bird’s wings. Just not sure how you’d see it from a boat.

Theory 4

This one is a total déjà vu, but it’s Totally Tōkyō®. First, let’s compare Akabane and Akabanebashi to this one. It’s said that the area was famous for its hani clay (for pottery, etc). In the local dialect, はに hani was pronounced はね hane. Completely plausible and consistent with other place name origins in the region. Let’s file this under “my preferred theory.”

"Haniwa" (the "hani" means "read clay") are ancient pottery or modern pottery done in the ancient style made of, yup, red clay.

“Haniwa” (the “hani” means “clay”) are ancient pottery or modern pottery done in the ancient style made of, yup, red clay.

Theory 5

The final one isn’t really a theory at all. It’s more of a half-assed observation.

This “theory” states that because fields () were so common in this part of Ebara-gun, many place names in the area included the kanji which means field.

OK, sure. But you can find place names and family names[vii] all over Japan with the kanji in them. And if we wanted to see if there was a particular trend for using that kanji here, we’d need to do some heavy statistical research that just sounds waaaaaaay too boring to me. Not to mention, this theory doesn’t say anything about the first part of the name. Let’s file this under, “not thought out very well.”

At ease, soldier.

The Mac Daddy himself.
“At ease, soldier.”
Haneda airport’s first real expansion effort was begun by the Supreme Allied Command during the American Occupation of Japan.

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[i] Of course, this didn’t all happen at once. The original airfield was a modest fraction of what it is today. The bulk of eviction and development was initiated by the Supreme Allied Command under General MacArthur. The Americans didn’t just evict a bunch of people, though. The area had been thoroughly devastated by firebombing and so most of the people were probably happy to get the hell out of the rubble and move to the new Haneda area which was fresh for development.

[ii] Although, its official story begins in 1931, it had become Japan’s major airport by 1938. But even just a quick look at the planes flying in and out and the size of the airfield bares testament to just how technologically unprepared for WWII Japan actually was. Wow.

[iii] If I’m not mistaken – and please correct me if I’m wrong – this was called 天領 ten’ryō and referred to lands that didn’t fall under the control of daimyō, but were nevertheless obviously part of the 天下 tenka the realm. So these lands traditionally fell under direct imperial control, but in the Edo Period they fell under control of the shōgun and his direct retainers. Basically they were worthless fiefs in the boonies. It seems like there were many ways to categorize these types of fiefs, so today a general term 幕府領 bakufu-ryō “shōgunal territory” is used.

[iv] A quick Google search only turned up 6 place names across Japan that use .

[v] The literal meaning is “half a field” which doesn’t mean shit when talking about blacksmithing.

[vi] Interestingly enough, this river’s name means the “the river where we pull up some delicious-ass shrimp.”

[vii] And apparently words (I’m looking at you, 半田 handa solder).

Tokyo Train Line Names

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on December 12, 2013 at 5:00 am

Tokyo Train Line Names

The Tokyo train system is probably the best in the world. This may not even be a complete map (or at least the JR Lines don't seem to be labeled indivdually....)

The Tokyo train system is probably the best in the world.
This may not even be a complete map (or at least the JR Lines don’t seem to be labeled indivdually….)

2012 is nearing its end and my work and private life are getting busier and busier. I apologize for the drop in the frequency of posts, but a brother’s gotta pay the bills. Also, it’s getting colder and Mrs. JapanThis! needs some warming up in bed. Heaters in Tōkyō don’t really cut it at night, if you know what I mean. But the fact of the matter is that I have no time for anything right now. So today I picked a topic that was kind of easy[i].

Most of the train lines in Tōkyō have names based on whatever major area they originated/terminated – or at least stopped at. For example, the Marunouchi Line’s most important stations were in the former Marunouchi (Daimyō Alley) and the Yamanote Line connected centers of the “new Yamanote.[ii]”  Some of the more ambitious, longer train lines have names that describe their start/stop points in general terms. This type of name usually reflects the tendency of the Japanese language to make new matches out of existing kanji.

Most of these names are self-evident to the Japanese, especially people who live and/or work in and around Tōkyō. But many of these names may be slightly mysterious to foreigners.

Let’s take a look at these train line names, shall we?

Oh sorry, you must be this tall to get on this ride:

sen line

That kanji is generally tacked on to every train line, so I’ll leave it out of the explanations below. No sense in beating a dead horse.

OK, let’s dig in!!!!

nanboku


Nanboku Sen (North-South Line)

nan south
hoku north


This is one of the easiest names that I’m going to present today.
This train literally runs from the south to the north – it runs from
品川区 Shinagawa-ku Shinagawa Ward to 北区 Kita-ku Kita Ward (literally the “north ward”).

Shinagawa is so south it borders on Edo Bay. Kita is so north that it borders on Saitama Prefecture.

If you’re ever lost looking at a map of the vast train system in Tōkyō, you can use this line as an anchor.

 

 

 

 Keihin

京浜東北線
Keihin-Tōhoku Sen (Tōkyō-Yokohama & East-North Line)


In central Tōkyō, this combined JR East line is best known by this name but it is, in fact, 2 separate train routes, with a main route running through T
ōkyō.

The name is interesting because it’s made of two abbreviations:

east
hoku north


This name has a dual purpose: it could refer to a train that goes from the East to the North; it could refer to a train that goes from the Eastern (Capital) to the North; and it could refer to Tōhoku region in general. In this case, it’s a combination of the first two.

kei the capital
hin the coast


So
京浜 Keihin “Tōkyō and Yokohama” is a thing. This is a word that all Japanese people will understand. There is a long standing tradition of creating these kinds of words. Here are a few similar examples that all Japanese would instantly recognize:

日米 Nichibei Japan and America
日朝 Nicchō Japan and North Korea
日韓 Nikkan Japan and South Korea
日中 Nicchū Japan and China
薩長 Sacchō Satsuma and Chōshū
阪神 Hanshin Ōsaka and Kobe

The combined name represents the combined distance of the whole route. Basically this is a train that goes from Yokohama → Tōkyō then from Tōkyō (east) → Saitama (north). It doesn’t get much more descriptive than that. Thank you very much, JR East. We love you.

This one is heading to Sengaku-ji. Probably in honor of Keanu Reeves new abomination.

This one is heading to Sengaku-ji.
Probably in honor of Keanu Reeves new abomination.

京急電鉄
Keikyū Dentetsu (Tōkyō to Narita Electrified Line)

First I want to say that the general word for train in Japanese is 電車 densha. This word literally means “electric vehicle.” But the actual dictionary word for train is 列車 ressha, literally “line/parade” + “vehicle.”  There are two words I think Meiji Era people would have recognized[iii]:  the first is 機関車 kikansha steam locomotive – this would have been a luxury train linking cities that already had or were developing intense trade routes. The second is 馬車鉄道 basha tetsudō horse powered street cars/trolleys, these linked local urban centers and served the function of the modern subways/trains. Most of Meiji Era Japan would have been familiar with the steam locomotives that brought goods in and out of their small towns, but in a massive urban center like Tōkyō (bolstered by the bustling international port of Yokohama[iv]) people became more and more dependent on horse drawn lines. As steam locomotives fell out of use and more and more train lines became electrified, the term densha became more common. Even today an エスエル SL steam locomotive would probably be referred to as a 電車 densha electric train by the average person, though technically 列車 ressha generic train or 汽車 kisha steam train would be more appropriate as there is no electrification.

Anyways…

We’ve established that 京浜 keihin is a quick way to say “Tōkyō and Yokohama.”

京浜急行電鉄株式会社 Keihin Kyūkō Dentetsu Kabushiki-gaisha Tōkyō-Yokohama Express Railroad (official company name) got shortened to 京浜急行 Keihin Kyūkō Tōkyō-Yokohama Express which in turn got shortened to 京急 Keikyū Tōkyō Express (literal meaning “Tōkyō Fast”). Not a fan of the train line, but I’m a big fan of the name!

For those who are interested, this line runs from Shinagawa to Miura Kaigan. The Black Ships have a connection to Shinagawa and Miura Anjin is inextricably linked to the Miura Coast near Yokohama.

keisei

京成線
Keisei Sen (T
ōkyō-Narita Line)

kei the capital
sei Narita (city made famous by its airport)


I hate the Keisei Line. Let it be known.

It’s mediocre at best when compared to other train lines. That said, it’s convenient and it’s not so crowded. It always runs on time… ok… I shouldn’t hate on this train. I just hate sitting on local trains when I have to go to the airport or come home from a long 14 hour trip…. Also the Keisei Line has this horribly creepy pedo-panda that stares at you. Begone pedo-panda!

Keisei pedo-panda

Keisei pedo-panda

But the name means “the line that links the Capital with Narita.” That’s an easily understood name.

I’d still rather take the Skyliner (which is also a Keisei line, by the way). It’s one of my favorite trains in Japan. Going to the airport on the cheap is one thing, but coming home should be done in luxury.


tozai

東西線
Tōzai Sen (East-West Line)

east
西 sai west


So obviously this train line connects the East and West.

But you may have noticed that the directions are placed in orders unnatural in native English. In English, we have a set pattern, North-South, East-West. I’m not sure if that’s true in all countries, but in America that’s how I memorized it. This train connects Funabashi in Chiba (East) with Nakano (West).

The Tobu-Tojo Line is pretty complicated. I don't use it.

The Tobu-Tojo Line is pretty complicated.
I don’t use it.

東武東上線
T
ōbu-Tōjō
Sen (Eastern Musashi – Going to the Capital Line)

This name is pretty interesting, I think. It’s a combined train line so I’m going to discuss the merged areas that bear a merged name.

The first portion of the name is 東武 Tōbu. This would combines two kanji we see time and time again here at JapanThis!.

east (also implies Tōkyō)
bu, mu Musashi Province

The area originally served by this train line was in Eastern Musashi[v]. The original plan was to connect eastern Gunma Prefecture with Tōkyō. The traditional name of that area was 上野国 Kōzuke no Kuni Kōzuke Province. The province had an abbreviated name 上州Jōshū.

east
Kōzuke (Gunma Prefecture)

As the names of the old provinces faded into oblivion in common memory and plans to connect Gunma Prefecture with Tōkyō by this train line were abandoned, the word Tōjō took on a new meaning.

east (implies Tōkyō)
up (ie; going to the capital)

The idea being that this train line brought rural and suburban areas into the capital.

This word 東上 tōjō is generally understood as “proceeding to the capital.” And by capital, I mean Tōkyō. Remember, for much of the pre-modern Era “the capital” was a somewhat ambiguous term. “Going to the capital” was generally described by a particular verb: 上京する jōkyō suru:

up (ie; going to the capital)
kyō the capital

Since the emperor moved to Edo-Tōkyō in 1868 the term 上京 jōkyō going to the capital has been generally understood as “going to Tōkyō.” Before Meiji Era, this term generally referred to wherever the emperor lived (Nara and then Kyōto). In the late Edo Period this term seems to have been applied to both Kyōto and Tōkyō, much to the chagrin of the foreign powers hoping to establish trade relations with Japan. The foreign embassies had a lot of problems figuring out what Japanese people meant when they referred to “the capital.” The real power was in Edo with the shōgun, but there was this pesky problem with the emperor back in Kyōto…

At any rate, while jōkyō ambiguously refers to going to a capital, tōjō ambiguously refers to going to the east (with an implicit understanding of Tōkyō). This has ensured that feelings aren’t hurt and that traditional east-west rivalries can be maintained. This makes for good baseball – trust me.

fukutoshin

副都心線
Fukutoshin Sen (Second City Line)

This one confused me for a while because I wasn’t sure how to render the name into English. There’s a famous comedy club in Chicago called Second City. I think that it’s good way to render this name.

都心 toshin heart of the city
fuku second, vice-, sub-,

都心 toshin means the heart of the city. 副 fuku is a prefix that’s added to words to mean second. Some other fuku words are 副社長 fuku-shachō vice-president, 副局長 fuku-kyokuchō vice-commander (this was Hijikata Toshizō’s title in the Shinsengumi), and 副将軍 fuku-shōgun vice-shōgun (this was Mito Kōmon’s title).

Well, if this name refers to some mysterious “second city,” that begs the question, “where the hell is the first city?” This is a great question because it brings up another Japanese word that has roughly the same meaning as fuku-toshin: 新都心 shin-toshin new city center. By the way, part of my difficulty with rendering these words into English is the fact that most dictionaries render them both as “sub-center.” Most of this confusion is based in the rampant urban sprawl from the area that was once Edo areas out into other portions of the Tōkyō Metropolitan Area and even into the boarding prefectures.

Here’s the real deal:

都心
toshin
大手町丸ノ内
Ōtemachi & Marun
ōchi
heart of the city
(located in the heart of Edo)
副都心
fuku-toshin
新宿渋谷池袋上野浅草錦糸町亀戸大崎
Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Ueno/Asakusa, Kinshich
ō, Kameido, Ōsaki
sub-centers (second cities)
(located in the outskirts of Edo)
新都心
shin-toshin
さいたま市[vi]千葉幕張
Saitama City, Chiba Makuhari
sub-centers (new cities)
(located waaaaay out there)

Why does it have this name? Because it connects Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Wakō (Saitama) – all of which are sub-centers of Tōkyō. Tōkyō is a crowded-ass place. It needs sub-centers to alleviate the commuter traffic and overcrowding. This line was developed with these sub-centers in mind.

saikyo

埼京線
Saikyō Sen (Saitama-Tōkyō Line)

sai Saitama
kyō the capital (Tōkyō)

Easy enough to understand from the kanji alone. This train line connects Tōkyō and Saitama. It originates in Ōsaki (the outskirts of Edo) and terminates in Ōmiya (modern Saitama).

sobu


総武線
Sōbu Sen (Sōbu Line)

This is my favorite train line name because it’s the most historical… at least in terms of its historical linguistic charm. It’s made of two kanji that I hope long time readers of JapanThis! are all familiar with.

Chiba[vii]
mu Musashi (ie; Edo-Tōkyō)

Wait a second? Why does 下総 Shimōsa mean 千葉 Chiba?

Well, Chiba Prefecture is a modern construct. The traditional name of the province was Shimōsa[viii].  While Chiba Prefecture maintains its traditional lameness with a vengeance, it actually carries on a lot of Edo Period legacies. The National Museum of Japanese History is there. The city of 佐原 Sawara is there. I’ve said before that Edo was like a Venice of the East and Sawara is said to be like a Little Edo.

And with that, I have a real THANK YOU that I have to say to everyone who reads my silly, nerdy blog.

You all freaking rule!

Seriously.

You rule.

(I won’t be able to write a new article until after New Year’s. Will you forgive me for that?)

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[i] Don’t worry! I’m stockpiling a massive list for 2014. Next year’s going to be so much better than this year.
[ii] I need to talk more about the fluid nature of the term “Yamanote” later. But for now, that’s enough.
[iii] And I could be wrong about this…
[iv] Remember, while Edo kept itself closed off to international traffic they relegated business to the nearby Yokohama. Yokohama might still just be a minor Japanese port city had the shōgunate not maintained its prohibition on maritime traffic in and out of Edo Bay.
[v] What was Musashi, you ask? There’s an app for that!
[vi] I took the liberty of investigating why  さいたま市  Saitama-shi Saitama City is written in hiragana, while 埼玉県 Saitama-ken Saitama Prefecture is written in kanji. Saitama City is actually a collection of cities that were united to create a new urban center (a new sub-center, if you will). At that time they wanted to distinguish the city from the prefecture visually. Also they thought it gave a softer, more inviting image. So it’s basically just a random decision.
[vii] This kanji doesn’t mean “Chiba.” The reality is in medieval Japan this area was known as 下総国 Shimōsa no Kuni Shimōsa Province and there was also a 上総国 Kazusa no Kuni Kazusa Province. The latter being the upper territory and the former being the lower.
[viii] See my article on Ryōgoku for a little more insight into this issue.

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