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Posts Tagged ‘chiyoda ward’

What does Chiyoda mean?

In Japanese History on February 23, 2013 at 3:30 am

千代田
Chiyoda (Eternity Fields)

The area that comprised the grounds of Edo Castle is roughly that of modern 千代田区 Chiyoda Ward. The name of the area predates the Edo Period. In fact, the original name of Edo Castle was Chiyoda Castle since it was built in the Chiyoda area of the small fishing village, Edo.

The kanji 千代 (sendai or chiyo) means something like “1000 generations.” The kanji tanbo (rice paddy) can also refer to 田園 den’en (something like cultivated fields or fertile district). The name is very auspicious and conveys an idea of “Fields that can feed people for eternity.”

In 1547, Ōta Dōkan chose the Chiyoda area to fortify and build what would eventually become Edo Castle. The dude was killed in 1486 and the castle fell into disuse.

Ota Dokan, founder of Chiyoda Castle

Ota Dokan, the dude who made a crappy fishing village called Edo into a castle town. (And no, he’s not taking a crap.)

In 1590, the imperial regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi transferred Tokugawa Ieyasu and his clan to Edo. Ieyasu renovated the derelict castle and built it up. After Ieyasu was made shōgun in 1600, the castle soon became the largest and most important castle in Japan. By this time Edo wasn’t a backwater village, but a thriving city of which Chiyoda was just one small part. So the name Edo Castle superseded the original name.

Edo Castle, formely Chiyoda Caslte

The grounds of Edo Castle at its height.

Since the Edo Period, the area has typified the word 山手 Yamanote (uptown). This was the home of the shōgun, the feudal lords attending the shōgun, and nobles of all manner. Today it is the home of the Imperial Palace, power banks and trading companies, and glamorous shops and expensive restaurants. It is also home to the Diet, the national government of all Japan.

The End.

Chiyoda Ward

Present Day Chiyoda Ward.

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Why is Hanzomon called Hanzomon?

In Japanese History on February 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

半蔵門
Hanzōmon (Hanzō Gate)

Today’s place name is from a request from a reader who’s working near Hanzōmon Station. Thanks for your request, Nate! Anyone else who interested in making a request about Tokyo place names, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get to it!

This one is pretty much straight forward.

It’s named after a famous samurai named 服部半(Hattori Hanzō).

hattori hanzo

will the real hattori hanzo please stand up?

The dude is semi-mythical and even in the Edo Period he was a bit of a legend.  He was portrayed as a crucial figure in the seemingly destined rise to power of Tokugawa Ieyasu (the first Tokugawa shōgun and the man who establish Tokugawa hegemony).

Legend says
He was from Mikawa – the same area the Tokugawa came from.
 He saved Ieyasu’s life by giving him safe passage through Iga Provice.
 He was a ninja.

ok… without going into much about ninjas… let’s just say… always take the ninja thing with a grain of salt.
Like I said, “Legend says…”

Anyhoo, regardless of what really happened, what we know for sure is that Hanzō died in 1596 and never saw the Tokugawa shōgunate established. His family was given prime real estate next to Edo Castle and they and their retainers served as guards for certain areas of the castle. His family was supposedly the hereditary masters of some elite ninjas from the Iga province who served the shōgun loyally… and of whom we never hear doing anything… ever.

Again, that ninja thing…

hanzomon gate edo period

donkey people coming in and out of edo castle… or are they just donkey people walking by….. or… are they fucking NINJAS?????

But, I can believe the Edo Castle security detail thing…

And with the proximity of the gate to the residence of the Hattori clan and their retainers, one can imagine those security detachments coming and going from the castle through that particular gate – all the while boasting of their clan’s connection to saving the life of the man who established Tokugawa hegemony. As samurai in the Edo Period became increasingly bureaucratic and needed some martial claim to fame for their family, you can easily see the legend of Hattori Hanzō getting played up… big time.

The dude has mad fans today, though.

hazomon gate from above!

these days, hanzomon is a massive business district. if you are lucky enough to work on a high floor, you might enjoy this view of the hanzomon gate. it’s pretty fantastic, wouldn’t you say?

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