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What does Hamamatsu-cho mean?

In Japanese History on April 23, 2014 at 5:09 pm

浜松町
Hamamatsu-chō (seaside pine town, more at Hamamatsu town)

View towards Shiba-Daimon from Hamamatsu-cho.

View towards Shiba-Daimon from Hamamatsu-cho. The hills in the far background are Shiba and Zojo-ji.

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There’s not a lot to go on with this place name. A lot of it adds up, but a lot of it doesn’t. As such, we’ll probably have to do a little more filling in the gaps than I like to do. But anyways, let’s see where this takes us.

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On the record, here’s what we’ve got.

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At the beginning of the Edo Period, the 増上寺代官 Zōjō-ji daikan magistrate of Zōjō-ji[i] 奥住久右衛門 Ozumi Kyūemon[ii] lived here. Because of that, the area was called affectionately called 久右衛門町 Kyūemon-chō Kyūemon Town.

However, in 1696 there was an official name change attributed to the assignment of a certain 権兵衛 Gonbei as successor to the magistracy. The area was renamed 浜松町 Hamamatsu-chō Hamamatsu Town because Gonbei happened to be from 遠江国浜松藩 Tōtōmi no Kuni Hamamatsu-han Hamamatsu Domain, Tōtōmi Province.

If you walk up the street from the above photo, you'll end up at what is called Shiba Daimon today. This street led directly to the Tokugawa Funerary Temple, Zojo-ji. The gate is called Daimon "the Big Gate" and once you crossed it, you entered the outskirts of the temple precinct.

If you walk up the street from the above photo, you’ll end up at what is called Shiba Daimon today. This street led directly to the Tokugawa Funerary Temple, Zojo-ji. The gate is called Daimon “the Big Gate” and once you crossed it, you entered the outskirts of the temple precinct.

Or so they say…

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That is the “official story” endorsed by 東京都港区 Tōkyō-to Minato-ku Minato Ward, Tōkyō Metropolis.

There are a few red flags here. And there are some quick fixes for those. Let’s look at them, and I’ll let you decide on your own what you think is actually going on here.

The original village headman, Kyūemon, had a family name. This meant he would have been a descendant of the imperial court or a samurai. Judging by his given name and his location, one can easily assume he was a samurai. Only noble families were granted inheritable surnames (officially, at least).

At first glance, this Gonbei guy from Hamamatsu Domain had no family name… at least not on record. This is extremely suspicious on some levels. One would think the village headman should be a person of some distinction. So, where’s the family name?

On top of all that, because it was such a common name among commoners after the Meiji Coup, sometimes “Gonbei” can be used to refer to any idiot from the country. And to make matters even worse, “Gonbei” can also be used to refer to a person whose name we don’t know at all[iii]. All of these would normally be red flags for me. But poor Gonbei might have some circumstantial evidence (supported by some speculation) working in his favor.

 

I have no picture of Gonbei so instead I give you a woman washing her drying her pussy in an alcove.

I have no picture of Gonbei so instead I give you a woman drying her pussy in an alcove.

 

After the defeat of the Late Hōjō in 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu took a deal which Toyotomi Hideyoshi thought would resign Ieyasu to a backwater[iv]. But Ieyasu modernized the castle town that Ōta Dōkan, um, in his own day started on a path towards urbanization[v]. All of this risky modernization was justified when Ieyasu’s forces won the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. In 1603, he was granted the title of  征夷大将軍 sei’i tai-shōgun official-fucker-up-of-the-barbarians.

When Ieyasu moved his clan to Edo, one would think that only his chief retainers came with him. But merchants and artisans viewed as critical were encouraged to come and jump start the building of his new capital. Merchants from his former holdings came to Edo in droves after 1603. Japanese history books often talk about Mikawa samurai and the influence they had in Edo as they came from the same province Ieyasu was born in, 三河国岡崎藩 Mikawa no Kuni Okazaki-han Okazaki Domain, Mikawa Province. However, during his rise to power, Ieyasu was lord of 岡崎城 Okazaki-jō Okazaki Castle, then 駿府城 Sunpu-jō Sunpu Castle, and finally 浜松城 Hamamatsu-jō Hamamatsu Castle[vi].

Super digital Hamamatsu Castle with cherry blossoms.

Super creepy digital Hamamatsu Castle with cherry blossoms.

 

Given the amount of artist and merchant relocation from Ieyasu’s previous holdings to Edo, it’s not unreasonable to assume some guy named Gonbei from Hamamatsu ended up in this area. If he were clever and resourceful enough, could he become a 名主 nanushi village headman?

Well, it turns out there’s a possible explanation for this. It seems that the Tokugawa Shōgunate gave a fair degree of autonomy to each village and that the villages could actually elect their headmen. If we assume that Gonbei was elected, we might also be able to assume that Kyūemon had been appointed in the beginning to ensure the shōgunate’s master plan was being implemented correctly. After he died or retired, the village would be left to their own devices and the “democratic” system of self-governance would take effect.

Gonbei, clearly a commoner, may have borne the epithet 浜松権兵衛 Hamamatsu Gonbei to distinguish himself from other Gonbeis in the village (it was a high frequency name, after all).

Is this etymology a hard, historical fact? No, it isn’t. With a little background and a little guess work can we make it work? Clearly so. And as skeptical as I was when I first heard the theory, I have to say this one can be wrapped up fairly tidily. But even if it weren’t true, we still gain a little insight into the building up of Edo, and – I don’t know about you, but – I didn’t know the villages were given that kind of autonomy.

勉強になりました benkyō ni narimashita I learned some shit.

Hamamatsu-cho Station in 1909, 1941, and 1996.

Hamamatsu-cho Station in 1909, 1941, and 1996.

 

The area was (is) located on Edo (Tōkyō) Bay. The kanji 浜 hama means seaside[vii]. 松 matsu means pine trees. A literal reading of the kanji would lead one to believe there were pine trees by the sea. I thought for sure I’d come across this theory, but I haven’t found anything yet[viii].

Next to Hamamatsu-chō Station, you’ll find a stunning daimyō garden called 旧芝離宮庭園 Kyū-Shiba Rikyū Teien Former Shiba Detached Palace. This is an interesting spot because it was originally the site of a senior councilor of the shōgun, 大久保忠朝 Ōkubo Tadatomo. He brought some stone gateposts from the former fortress of a retainer of the 後北条 Go-Hōjō the Late Hōjō[ix], and used them as the foundation of a 茶室 chashitsu teahouse. The teahouse is gone, but the stone posts remain on a hill on the site. If you erase the skyscrapers and put yourself into the dawn of the Edo Period, you can totally imagine enjoying tea in a small house, then exiting the building to enjoy a view of the ocean.

 

The foundations of the teahouse built from the gateposts of Matsuda Norihide’s fortress. Edo Period recycling at it’s best… I suppose. Looks a little cramped.

 

The Edo Period buildings have not lasted — for a number of reasons, least of which is the legacy of its name 離宮 rikyū which is term applied to secondary homes of the imperial family. It was an imperial “detached palace” until the end of WWII. As luck would have it, the imperial family didn’t fuck with the garden too much and as such we have 1 of 2 preserved daimyō gardens in Tōkyō. (Keep in mind there were hundreds of gardens spread across Edo.)

 

Perfect place to end the article. A true blend of Edo-Tokyo.

Perfect place to end the article.
A true blend of Edo-Tokyo.

 

 

 

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[i] I didn’t know that temples had magistrates, which raises more questions about pre-Tokugawa and early Tokugawa organizations of civil administration. Grad students, there are a few theses in there.
Also, remember, Zōjō-ji became the first Tokugawa Funerary temple in Edo when the 2nd shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada asked that he and his wife be interred there. The connection between this area and the Tokugawa is profoundly felt, even today.
[ii] This family name can also be read Okuzumi or Okusumi. I don’t know which is correct for this dude.
[iii] By the way, both of these are modern uses of the name, not pre-modern.
[iv] Edo Bay is a ridiculously defensible bay. Ieyasu probably couldn’t have gotten luckier in this deal – albeit he had to refashion his castle in the grand new style ushered in by Oda Nobunaga.
[v] Long time readers will know well my position on the myth that Edo was just “an obscure fishing village.” If you don’t know, read my article on What does Edo mean?
[vi] Located in 三河国 Mikawa no Kuni Mikawa Province, 駿河国 Suruga no Kuni Suruga Province, and 遠江国 Tōtōmi no Kuni Tōtōmi Province, respectively.
[vii] This is the same hama in Yokohama, also on the sea.
[viii] In Tokugawa Ienobu’s time, many pine trees were planted in the Tokugawa Seaside Palace here, which adds further confusion. That palace, also very nearby was, coincidentally, called 浜御殿 Hama Goten the Seaside Palace and today is called 旧浜離宮 Kyū-Hama Rikyū the Former Hama Detached Palace. This “hama” is actually a reference to the seaside and supposedly has no connection to the name Hamamatsu-chō.
[ix] Based in Odawara, they were the rulers of much of Kantō prior to Ieyasu.

What does Shibuya mean?

In Japanese History on March 19, 2013 at 2:34 am

渋谷
Shibuya (Bitter Valley)

On the surface, this one is a total freaking mystery.

The 2 characters used today are 渋 shibu (this character has many nuances that range from “astringent” to “refined” to “distasteful” to “diarrhea”) and 谷 ya/tani (valley). Unlike Hibiya, which also uses the kanji 谷 ya (valley), Shibuya is an actual valley. It borders Daikanyama (Daikan Mountain). The name Shibuya is also a family name.

Shibuya Today

Shibuya Crossing at night. Shopping, eating, drinking and whoring. In that order.

The website for the Shibuya Ward Office lists 4 possible theories… of varying quality. I have to admit that when I read them I thought they were all hokey as hell. The first three seemed plausible, but the fourth sounded cheesy.

So, here are the prevailing theories (according to the Shibuya Ward Office):

In the past, there was a small hamlet here called 塩谷ノ里 Shioya no Sato (Salt Valley Hamlet) or 潮谷ノ里 Shioya no Sato (Salt Water Valley Hamlet). Over time, the pronunciation of 塩谷 Shioya became corrupted to Shibuya and the characters were changed to 渋谷 to reflect the change in pronunciation. The corroborating evidence for this theory is archaeological  It appears that at one time, there was an inlet from Tōkyō Bay that reached here. Evidence of salt water and a one-time presence of shellfish have been discovered.

In the past, there used to be a river that passed through the valley here. When the river dried up a rusty color(シブ色)remained and the river was called シブヤ川. (This sounded really far-fetched to me until I found the word 鉄渋 nakashibu “aquaeous rust.” In this context, a “Rusty Valley River” might sound plausible.)

In the past, there was a river called 渋谷川 Shibuya-gawa Shibuya River that passed through here. Now the river is dried up, but the name remains. (It sounds plausible, but hard to prove. What’s more, today there is a modern river here called the Shibuya River… so… what gives?).

In the Heian Period, a feudal lord stopped an attacker who broke into the Imperial Palace in Kyōto. In appreciation of his bravery, the surname Shibuya was bestowed up him and his family. The family had a residence in this area and the name stuck. (However, this area was literally East Bumfuck in the Heian Period, so why was there a noble family living in this crappy area?).

East Bumfuck

East Bumfuck

The final theory brings up an important point. Often place names in Japan are derived from important families in the area. There is a very common family name Shibuya. If any person with a name Shibuya lived here, the area could have been named after him. If that’s the case, the real question isn’t “Why is Shibuya called Shibuya?” but “Where does the family name Shibuya come from?

The name itself is strange, too. There are two readings, Shibutani and Shibuya. Apparently Shibutani is the older of the two and appears to have originated in the Kansai region (Kyōto, Ōsaka). However, the meaning and origin of the first character is still obscure (because it has a range of meanings).

Anyways, my personal pet theory was that Shibuya was named after a family, but the story about the some dude saving the emperor sounded really cheesy.

Shibuya Family Crest

Family crests for the 2 main branches of the Shibuya Clan.

But then I poked around a little more and discovered that in the 11th century, there was indeed a noble family by the name of Shibuya living here. The most famous dude in the family was a late Heian Period general named Kawasaki Motoie (whose name is actually connected with Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture). Kawasaki Shigeie, son of Motoie, did indeed repel intruders from the Imperial Palace in Kyōto. And the family was indeed granted the name 渋谷 Shibuya.

This is not Shibuya Shigeie

There are no pictures of Shibuya Shigeie, but this is a typical samurai from the late Heian Era. You get the idea.

The Shibuya Clan built a castle in this area called – wait for it – 渋谷城 Shibuya-jō Shibuya Castle. The castle is gone today. But a shrine to the Japanese god of war that existed on the castle grounds is still there. And there is apparently a rock from the original castle that you can see today (wow!).

Here is a website about the castle and shrine (it’s Japanese only, but you can see pictures). Here’s another website about the shrine (English translation).

And here is a Google map of the castle ruins/shrines: http://tinyurl.com/shibuya-castle

The shrine is called 金王八幡宮 Kon’nō Hachimangū.

Kon'nou Hachiman Shrine

Kon’nou Hachiman Shrine

Under the protection of the Shibuya Clan, the hamlet of Shibuya 渋谷郷 Shibuya-gō grew a little bit, but it’s doubtful the castle survived the Sengoku Period (15th-17th centuries). By the mid-Edo Period, the hamlet had no castle and had been divided 3 areas: 上渋谷村 Kamishibuya Upper Shibuya, 中渋谷村 Nakashibuya Middle Shibuya,下渋谷村 Shimoshibuya Lower Shibuya.

Shibuya River

Here’s a view of the Shibuya River from the platform of Shibuya Station in 1921.

As stated before, In the Edo Period, Shibuya was East Bumfuck. Nothing of note happened until the Yamanote Line was built in the late 1800’s. Around that time it became famous as an entertainment district (eating, drinking, whoring, etc…). Shibuya was apparently so unimportant, in fact, that the Japanese Wikipedia page of Shibuya doesn’t even start until the 1930’s.

There was a parade ground where Yoyogi Park now stands. In 1910, the grounds were used for the test flight of the first Japanese powered aircraft.

Tokugawa Yoshitoshi

Tokugawa Yoshitoshi, first Japanese dude to fly a plane.

Oh, and in the 1920’s there was that whole thing with the dog.

Hachiko

Hachi-kō – woof woof!

In the 1950’s there was a gondola that went over the station front area. A freaking gondola!!!

that street in the background is Center Street

a freaking gondola!!!!

In the 80’s Shibuya started to become a fashion center. By the 90’s, Shibuya boasted a vibrant club scene and nightlife and gave rise to the ギャル gal fashion phenomenon (including its current incarnation).  When I first visited Japan in 2003, there were beer vending machines all over Shibuya. Unfortunately now there aren’t.

mmmmmm... japanese beer!

I miss the beer vending machines in Shibuya and Daikanyama.

Alright… so let’s re-cap. There are 4 major explanations of where the place name Shibuya came from. Only one of them makes sense, even if on the surface it’s an unbelievable story. Shibuya is named after the Shibuya Clan and Shibuya Ward is still home to the Kon’nō Hachimangū Shrine built on the former site of Shibuya Castle to prove it.

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Why is Daikanyama called Daikanyama?

In Japanese History on February 21, 2013 at 7:32 am

代官山
Daikanyama (Daikan Mountain)

First a quick definition. A 代官 daikan was a kind of local magistrate or governor in the Edo Period.

There are 2 theories as to why this area is called Daikan Mountain:

1) A daikan‘s residence was located here at some time.

2) The forest mountain here fell under the direct supervision of a daikan.

There is insufficient documentation remaining to support one theory over the other.

a daikan on daikanyama

a stereotypical daikan

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