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What does Bakuro-Yokoyama-cho mean?

In Japanese History on January 23, 2014 at 6:32 am

馬喰横山
Bakuroyokoyama (horse dealers – side of the mountain)

The sign that started it all.

The sign that started it all.

When I saw this place name on a subway sign, I thought I’d unearthed the holy grail of bizarre Tōkyō place names. Just look how long it is!! A cursory glance at the kanji had me guessing that it was probably two words combined, but without the research I really had no idea.

Well, it turns out that Tōkyō Metro Tōkyō Metropolitan Bureau of Transport (Toei) has fucked up their rōmaji big-time on this one. The name should be hyphenated. The correct rōmaji transliteration is: Bakuro-Yokoyama.

C'mon, Toei, you can do better than that!

C’mon, Toei, you can do better than that!

Why the hyphen? Well, this area is a merger of two established communities: 馬喰町 Bakuro-chō Bakuro Town and 横山町Yokoyama-chō Yokoyama Town.  So today’s article is a two-for.

The area falls within the administrative district formerly known as 日本橋区 Nihonbashi-ku Nihonbashi Ward, although today it’s in the special ward called 中央区 Chūō-ku Chūō Ward. Even though Nihonbashi Ward doesn’t exist anymore, the postal addresses 日本橋馬喰町 Nihonbashi Bakurō-chō and 日本橋横山町 Nihonbashi Yokoyama-chō still exist. 

Former Nihonbashi Ward and Kyōbashi Ward were combined to make the modern Chūō Ward. Shinbashi Station, btw, is located in modern Minato Ward.

Nihonbashi Ward in 1935

Nihonbashi Ward in 1935

Nihonbashi, that sounds familiar…

As we all know from my article on the Go-Kaidōin the Edo Period Nihonbashi marked the beginning of 5 highways connecting the shōgunal capital with the rest of Japan[i]These two Edo shitamachi towns were located close to Nihonbashi, so they are forever tied to the merchant town of Nihonbashi.

The place names actually seem to pre-date the Edo Period, though it’s hard to say exactly how long. The prefix 日本橋 Nihonbashi came to be added later, as the Nihonbashi area became more well-known, and I dare say, iconic. With their inclusion in the 日本橋区 Nihonbashi-ku administrative district, the area became officially linked with the name Nihonbashi.

Bakuro-chō

There seem to be two theories, both related to horses.

馬喰 bakuro or bakurō referred to the business of and the people who engaged in the buying and selling of horses. Many horse related businesses, including what we might call equestrian veterinarians today, lived in the area. (I can’t imagine Edo Period veterinary medicine was much different from western veterinary medicine of the time, which means they were probably just putting down sick horses most of the time). Anyhoo, the idea here is that the area catered to shōgunate officials carrying time-sensitive information. All of their horse-related needs could be met here[ii].

The second theory states two merchants who dealt in 博労 bakurō horse/cattle trading held lands here in the late 1500’s. Two names are actually cited in this etymology; 高木源兵衛 Takagi Genbei and 富田半七 Tomita Hanshichi[iii]. This theory links the two words 博労 bakurō with 馬喰 bakurō. My dictionaries say these are kanji variants of the same name. But the kanji are quite different, the latter being a uniquely Japanese word (ie; not imported from China). But who knows.

In short, both theories are tied to horse-related business and the proximity to the roads in and out of pre-Tokugawa and Tokugawa Era Edo seem to match. Neither theory can be confirmed 100%, but I don’t see much reason to dismiss them. The Great Meireki Fire of 1657 saw much of this area destroyed[iv]. Some areas near Nihonbashi, including Yoshiwara were transplanted to the outskirts of the shōgun’s capital. I can easily see keeping horses or cattle so close to Edo Castle and the heart of the city as not just unsightly, but also unhealthy and a waste of prime real estate as the sankin-kōtai system became more entrenched in the development of Edo and the culture that was flourishing.

Check out that hyphenless, spaceless run on place name! This is postal area designated at Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho.

Check out that hyphenless, spaceless run on place name!
This is postal area designated at Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho.

Yokoyama-chō

横山Yokoyama means “side of the mountain” or “mountainside.” Whenever I see a place name with the kanji for mountain (), I immediately wonder “where’s the mountain?” But this area is pretty shitamachi (low city) and so there aren’t so many big hills. There is definitely nothing worthy of being called a mountain. So I had to dig a little deeper.

The 小田原衆所領役帳 Odawara Shūshoryō Yakuchō, a description of territorial holdings of the Late Hōjō clan, mentions fief held by a branch of the 江戸氏 Edo-shi Edo clan called 横山 Yokoyama[v]. Apparently that passing reference is all we have. It doesn’t mention the location of the fief so we can’t be 100% sure, but given the lack of mountains in the area, I’d say a pretty strong case could be made that this area derives its name from the Yokoyama branch of the Edo clan[vi].

I’m happy to say that despite not having all of the details, these are pretty plausible etymologies.

Phew!!!

Map of the Nihonbashi Yokoyama-cho area.  Notice it's right next to Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho.  You can also see the area is surrounded by Asakusa-bashi, Akihabara and Kodenma-cho.

Map of the Nihonbashi Yokoyama-cho area.
Notice it’s right next to Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho.
You can also see the area is surrounded by Asakusa-bashi, Akihabara and Kodenma-cho.

How about today???

Today Bakuro-Yokoyama is known as a shitamachi wholesale district[vii]. In the early Edo Period, the area had about 20 shops. By the end of the Edo Period, there were nearly 150 shops being passed down by successive families[viii]. That number must have been bigger considering unlicensed shops and whatnot. The Great Kantō Earthquake and World War II saw the area knocked down and built up again.

It’s kind of weird but if you’re interested, check out this video.

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[i] There it is again! I resurrected the word “shōgunal!” Still wondering if this is an actual word, though…
[ii] The name is attested pretty early in the Edo Period, which stands to reason since the so-called “first mile marker” at Nihonbashi wasn’t really a Tokugawa invention. Routes in and out of Edo had existed for some time. One can easily imagine an area to take care of incoming and outgoing horses popping up here organically.
[iii] I can’t find a good reading for this name. I’ve seen Hanshichi, Hanbichi, Hashichi, Hahichi, Habichi. Some of those look Edo dialect style, but I’m going with Hanshichi because it is a fairly standard, modern reading of that name. (The 3 I thought looked like the might be the Edo Dialect are in bold – but this is purely conjecture on my part.  I’m not a scholar.)
[iv] Conservative estimates say that 50-60% of the city was burnt to the ground. Others have suggested much more was destroyed. Either way, since the Edo Period this particular area hasn’t been known for horses.
[v] Oh, did you just say “Edo clan?” Yes, I did. Read more about the Edo Clan in my article on Why was Edo called Edo?
[vi] Just to give you a little perspective. You can walk from the oldest portion of Edo Castle to Nihonbashi Yokoyama-chō in under 30 minutes. The distance from the Edo clan’s residence in Kitami to Nihonbashi Yokoyama-chō can be walked in under 20.
[vii] Not sure why I said “is known as” because it “actually is.” lol
[viii] I’ve been tossing around this term “successive _____” for some time now on the blog, and I may have to come back to it later in detail. But basically this refers to the 家元 iemoto system. Someone establishes a business or dynasty and it will be passed down through successive generations of the family.

What does Anjin-cho mean?

In Japanese History on June 20, 2013 at 9:36 pm

安針町
Anjin-chō (Anjin Town)

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One of the last remnants of one of Tokyo’s most special places.
The kanji leaves something to be desired, tho…….

In Tōkyō’s Chūō Ward, there is a small alley called 安針通り Anjin Dōri. Until 1932, this neighborhood was called 安針町 Anjin-chō Anjin Town. Some of you probably know exactly where this is going, for those of you who don’t, let’s get started.

Capture

In Early Modern Japanese there was a word 按針 anjin, literally “searching needle,” which referred to the process of using a compass. At the time, this was the main way in which ships were navigated and so, by extension, the word was applied not just to ship navigation, but also to ship navigators[i].

If anyone has ever seen the 1980’s American mini-series, Shogun, then they already know this Japanese word. The main character is referred to as Anjin-san and he is an English navigator stranded in Japan who has been pressed into service of the first shōgun, Lord Toranaga. This mini-series was a dramatization of James Clavell’s novel, Shogun, which is based on the life of one William Adams. He was an Englishman, stranded in Japan who was pressed into the service of the first shōgun, Lord Tokugawa.

Am I repeating myself?

John Blackthorne. The English guy who only knows 4-5 Japanese words and only uses them through the whole series.

John Blackthorne.
The English guy who only knows 4-5 Japanese words.

Anyways, he’s so famous in the English speaking world and there are excellent sources available online about him (see the bottom of the page for links).

Sometime after 1610, the first shōgun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, granted William Adam’s samurai status and made him a 旗本 hatamoto direct retainer of the shōgun family. He granted him a fief in an area called 逸見 Hemi which is located in present day 横須賀 Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture. The area is located in the 三浦半島 Miura Hantō Miura Peninsula. Ieyasu, being a pretty clever guy, thought of a Japanese name for William. 三浦安針 Miura Anjin Anjin of Miura.

But wait, didn’t you say, anjin meant navigator? Yes. But “navigator” isn’t a fucking name in English, is it? Well, it isn’t in Japanese either. Ieyasu changed the kanji from 按針 to 安針. The first kanji changed from “search” (which is never used in names) to “safe/safety” (which is used in names). The official place name changed in the 1930’s, which was before a major reformation of spelling happened. The word 按針 is a title and the word  安針 is a name. As you can see from the street sign at the beginning of this article, the title is used for the street. But any Google search shows that the kanji Ieyasu bestowed upon him was and is still preferred.

OK, so Miura Anjin (aka William Adams) is a white dude samurai receiving a 250 koku a year stipend (an income equivalent to a local magistrate; he supported a village with some 70 or so servants, his Japanese wife and 2 kids, and still managed to send money back to his former family in England). His main residence was at the fief in Kanagawa.

John Blackthorne's, errrrr, Wlliam Adams', errrrr, Miura Anjin's grave.....

John Blackthorne’s, errrrr, Wlliam Adams’, errrrr, Miura Anjin’s grave…..

So why is there a place in Tōkyō named after him?

Well, in those days, there were no cars. So walking from Yokosuka to Edo Castle took a long time[ii]. Before he became a samurai and all, Ieyasu had granted him some property near Nihonbashi. It’s near the castle so he could visit easily (and so the shōgunate could keep an eye on him, no doubt). Also it wasn’t in the daimyō neighborhoods, but the merchant neighborhood as he was originally seen as a sort of tradesperson[iii]. So Anjin kept the house in Edo for when he visited the city.

Because he was a unique dude, and according to the stories we have, he was not only gracious to his Japanese neighbors and servants, but he made every effort to Japanize himself and get along with the Japanese on Japanese terms. This won him great respect from the shōgun and the people around him, while it apparently irritated some of the other foreigners he dealt with who, like the foreigner trash in Roppongi today, refuse to learn about Japan.

So, after he died the area where his estate in Edo came to be known as 安針町 Anjin-chō Anjin Town. In his own lifetime, Anjin (William) saw the slow but steady restriction of maritime travel and trade into and out of Japan. He himself may have been a major factor in the expulsion of the Portuguese and Spanish and the later suspicion of Christianity in general[iv].

Anjin died in Kyūshū, but in Japanese style, he is enshrined in various places. The main grave is considered the one in Yokosuka near the 安針塚駅 Anjinzuka Eki Anjin Burial Mound Station. The story goes he wanted to be buried with a view of Edo as he helped to protect the city with the deified Tokugawa Ieyasu[v]. 浄土寺 Jōdo-ji temple in Yokosuka administers the grave and claims to hold items associated with his family and the grave. They also claim that in the early Edo Era, residents of Anjin-chō donated money and materials for the grave and its upkeep.

This is Anjin Dori

This is Anjin Dori

The site of his Edo residence is commemorated in the place formerly known as Anjin-chō. If you’d like to see it, there is a stone tablet which was set up in 1951. Take the A1 exit of Mitsukoshi-mae Station. It claims this was the site of his home.

Anjin-cho... possibly Anjin Street....

Anjin-cho… possibly Anjin Street….

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Almost the same shot, but with some samurai dude haning out next to the pothole..

Almost the same shot,
but with some samurai dude haning out next to the pothole..

William Adam’s (Miura Anjin)’s commemorative plaque today:

click it to read the details. It's in Japanese and English.

Click it to read the details. It’s in Japanese and English.
Note the title is used instead of the name.

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Learn About William Adams Here….

Miura Anjin on Samurai Archives:
http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=William_Adams

A Quick Write Up on William Adams:
http://www.oldphotosjapan.com/en/photos/760/anjincho-in-nihonbashi#.UcBnj-emieY

William Adam’s Grave in Yokosuka:
http://www.mustlovejapan.com/subject/miura_anjin_grave/

William Adams on Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Adams_(sailor)

John Blackthorne and the Shogun Mini-Series:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sh%C5%8Dgun_(TV_miniseries)

 

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[i] This word is often translated as pilot in its older meaning of a ship’s navigator, which I just find confusing since pilots fly planes these days. Navigation, literally “driving a ship” in Latin, is a much more apt term.

[ii] Hell, taking the local train from Edo Castle to Yokosuka can take up to 2 hours in bad conditions.

[iii] If you don’t know his story, please read the links provided. I’m not going to rehash his entire story.

[iv] All good things, if you ask me.

[v] I don’t buy this story for a minute, but it does play into Japanese sensibilities and myths of the time, so it’s pretty interesting.

What does Toshima mean?

In Japanese History on May 20, 2013 at 1:24 am

豊島
Toshima (Islands Abound)

Toshima Ward's logo

Toshima Ward’s logo

“However, the name survived. Even on Edo Era maps you can see references to the Toshima District. And these days, it’s one of the 23 Special Ward of Tōkyō. Good for it.”

marky star
(from an earlier, shittier draft of this article)

________________________________

I totally just quoted myself.

For no good reason.

Right then, let’s get started.

Recently I’ve shifted direction towards the northern part of Tōkyō. We’ve touched on the holdings of the Toshima clan quite a bit recently, haven’t we? Shakujii, Nerima, and Itabashi – I covered Ikebukuro a while ago. Up until this point, I’ve been referring to a certain administrative area called 豊島郡 or 豊嶋郡 Toshima-gun Toshima District.

As a real political entity, it seems that the Toshima district is quite ancient. From times immemorial (take that with a grain of salt) the etymology has been consistent. The bay* had a number of undeveloped, natural inlets that meandered well into the interior of what became Edo. Left unchecked, natural channels of water may merge with other natural channels of water and result in island-like formations. This is exactly what happened in this area. In fact, numerous “islands” were formed; one might say there was a proverbial “abundance of islands.”

豊 to richness, abundance
, shima islands

The kanji 豊 to/toyo is a really auspicious character. It’s “nobility ranking” is off the meters**. Given our previouos encounters with ateji in old place names, take that with a grain of salt.

Anyways… the Toshima area is first attested in the 700’s. At the turn of the century (1000’s), the 秩父氏 Chichibu clan (a branch of the Taira) was granted influence over the area by the Imperial court. The branch of Chichibu in Toshima took the name of their fief and became an independent clan***. They maintained dominion over the area until the 1400’s when Ōta Dōkan stepped up and slapped their dicks out of their hands and face-fucked them full-force with the giant phallus that was the Sengoku Era.

Ota Dokan. Don't let the silly hat fool you. He was a beast in the Sengoku Period.

Ota Dokan. Don’t let the silly hat fool you. He was a beast in the boring part of the Sengoku Period.

There were four major clans operating in the area:
豊島氏  the Toshima
渋谷氏  the Shibuya (vassal)
葛西氏  the Kasai (vassal)
江戸氏  the Edo (vassal)
There are place names derived from all of these clans still extant in Tōkyō today

Ōta Dōkan’s actions disrupted the old status quō and throughout the Muromachi Period the area was unstable. However, the district did not collapse or disappear.

The 23 Special Wards of Tokyo. Toshima Ward is circled. Originally Toshima District included the whole of modern day Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Taito, Bunkyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Toshima, Arakawa, Kita, Itabashi and a few other areas outside of the borders of those wards.

The 23 Special Wards of Tokyo. Toshima Ward is circled. Originally Toshima District included the whole of modern day Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Taito, Bunkyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Toshima, Arakawa, Kita, Itabashi and a few other areas outside of the borders of those wards.

The city of Edo was just one of many small cities in the district. Before the arrival of the Tokugawa, the district had been divided into two distinct areas, 北豊島郡 Kita Toshima-gun North Toshima and 南豊島郡 Minami Toshima-gun South Toshima. More about Kita Toshima later this week.

After the arrival of the Tokugawa, much of South Toshima fell under direct rule of the shougun as part of the city of Edo. The remaining areas of district continued to exist as an administrative unit separate from the city of Edo – part of 武蔵国 Musashi no Kuni Musashi Province. In 1868, the Emperor entered Edo Castle and Edo’s name was changed to Tōkyō. The boundary of the new city was different from the shōgun’s capital. The Edo Era Toshima District was incorporated into the new city limits. In 1878, the district was abolished when the new system of 区 ku wards was implemented in Tōkyō. But a district called 北豊島郡 Kita Toshima-gun North Toshima District continued to exist until 1932. An official ward called 豊島区 Toshima-ku Toshima Ward was created that year when all of the districts of Tōkyō were abolished. The kita (north) part of 北豊島 Kita Toshima wasn’t thrown out altogether… and we’ll talk about that missing tomorrow.

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* At this point we can’t even say Edo Bay, let alone Tōkyō Bay. It was just “the bay.”
** The so-called second great unifier of Japan, 豊臣秀吉 Toyotomi Hideyoshi, received his -name from the imperial court in 1586. It brought potential lasting prestige to him and his newly founded clan, BUT…. use of the kanji in names and place names declined after the rise of the Tokugawa. And take THAT with a grain of salt, too!
*** I mentioned the Toshima clan in the recent articles about Shakujii and Nerima.

Why is Ginza called Ginza?

In Japanese History on May 3, 2013 at 1:09 am

銀座
Ginza (Silver Guild, more at Silver Mint)

After a fire destroyed the area in 1872, the Meiji government used the opportunity to make Ginza the epitome of modernization. It feels like a western city, not a castle town.

After a fire destroyed the area in 1872, the Meiji government used the opportunity to make Ginza the epitome of modernization. It feels like a western city, not a castle town.

I’m happy to take requests, if you have a Tōkyō place name that you’re curious about. Recently I was asked about Ginza.

I’m going to give a brief explanation of the etymology and then refer you to Ginza’s official English website which has a fantastic page on the history of area.

Ginza is made of two characters:
gin silver
za literally “seat,” or in this case it refers to something like a guild or association

In Nihonbashi, there was another guild, 金座 kinza gold guild.

Basically this was the area where the shōgunate minted silver coins.

If you want to know more about the history of the area, please check out Ginza’s official website. They have a fantastic article about the history of the area here.

Ginza - were east met west in a typically Meiji way. I love this print. Just amazing!

Ginza – were east met west in a typically Meiji way. I love this print. Just amazing!

 

 

 

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