We all love hanami and sakura, but where did it all start? Let’s take a look at the history of hanami. Continue reading The History of Hanami
This beautiful book let’s the art speak for itself but provides print-by-print commentary. It’s a coffee table book that I find irresistible. Of course, I’m biased. Hiroshige is my favorite Japanese artist. Continue reading Book Review – Hiroshige: 100 Famous Views of Edo
Wanna read a book about how Edo became Tokyo? This one might be for you! Continue reading Book Review – Tokyo: From Edo to Showa
Hillsborough’s books have been “gateway drugs” into the Bakumatsu for many people, including myself. Here he takes a long form scholarly approach and nails it. Continue reading Book Review – Samurai Revolution
The story of the Kanda River is a story as old as Edo itself. It is part and parcel of the evolution of the city. Continue reading The Kanda River
Thanks to all of you, let’s keep this YOU KNOW YOU’VE BEEN IN EDO TOO LONG thing going!!! Continue reading You Know You’ve Been in Edo Too Long…
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If not, that’s OK, I made you a video today. Continue reading Questions from Readers
I’m not even joking when I say I think this name was chosen just because it sounded cool. Continue reading What does Toranomon mean?
Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward and Saitama’s Kita-Katsushika and Minami Katsushika Districts derive their names from the pre-modern Katsushika District of Shimōsa Province, but where did the ancient name come from? Continue reading What does Katsushika mean?
Formerly part of the outer enclosure of Edo Castle and now a shopping district next to Ginza, Yurakucho is strange name with an elusive past. Continue reading What does Yurakucho mean?
牛込 Ushigome (Crowd of Cows) 。 。 牛 ushi cow 込 komi[i] swarming, huddling, amassed, crowded, “in bulk” 。 According to Japanese Wikipedia[ii], in 701, in accordance to the Taihō Code, a livestock ranch was established in this area. In fact, two were established which were sometimes referred to as 牛牧 gyūmaki a cow ranch and 馬牧 umamaki a horse ranch. These two locations came to be referred to as 牛込 Ushigome and 駒込 Komagome. The fact that there was a cattle/dairy ranch here in the Asuka Period is a known fact (it’s documented). The horse ranch is a different … Continue reading What does Ushigome mean?
A rich guy, a castle and a nature preserve walk into a bar… Continue reading What does Shirokane mean?
Went a little long on this on… sorry about that. But I love Tokyo. I wanted to explore the forgotten side… Continue reading What does Edo mean?
Before the Scientific Method arrived, scholars and common folk grouped animals in according to a traditional Sino-Japanese methodology. Today’s place name bears evidence to that grouping methodology.
Continue reading What does Mamiana-cho mean?
10 Quick Questions From Readers!
(Still took 2 days to write… lol) Continue reading 10 Random Quickies – Japan This Lite
Summer in Japan means matsuri (festivals), hanabi (fireworks), and fuzoku (prostitution). Today we’ll look at the first two! Continue reading Edo River Fireworks
In the Edo Period, Senju was a hub to some of the most prestigious destinations of the Era. It was a launch pad for many travelers in the realm, but it was a particularly special hub for the Shogun Family. Continue reading What does Senju mean?
Musashi was an old Japanese province, however the name is still with us today. Continue reading What does Musashi mean?
Yesterday we learned about Iidabashi (and its precursor, Iidamachi). Today we’ll look at Kudanshita, a location whose recent controversial history has somewhat obscured its samurai origins. Continue reading What does Kudanshita mean?
Today we’ll learn about a shitamachi place name that has disappeared. We’ll also learn how it’s important to pay attention to what reading of kanji is being used. Continue reading What does Iidabashi mean?
Inokashira Park is Kichijoji’s famous park. But did you know that big lake was the source of drinking water for a million people in Edo? Continue reading What does Inokashira mean?
I love the shitamachi style of Tokyo. It really helps me connect with history.
If you want to travel to Japan, Ryogoku should be high on your list of places to go. Sumo, samurai, 37 ronin, Japanese food, and Japanese girls in glasses (OK, I made up the last one…) Continue reading What does Ryogoku mean?
The history of today’s place name is going to take us on a long journey across the country to Kyoto and back in time to the Ashikaga Shogunate (and in reality back to the Kamakura and Heian Periods). Plot twists abound. Strap yourselves in and get ready to feel the G’s, baby. Continue reading What does Muromachi mean?
赤羽Akabane (Red Wings; but more at Red Clay) Today’s place name etymology is a pretty interesting one because we will get a sneak peak at the extinct pre-Edo Period dialect of the area. Akabane sits in the northern part of Kita Ward. It’s basically next to Kawakuchi, Saitama. So it’s on the literal outskirts of Tōkyō. Mind you, you won’t see any difference leaving Tōkyō and entering Saitama due to the thorough urban sprawl. Historically speaking, 赤羽村 Akabane Mura Akabane Village wasn’t a particularly important place, but in the Kamakura Period a highway called 岩槻街道 Iwatsuki Kaidō was built. The … Continue reading What does Akabane mean?
Between Ueno and Akihabara there is Okachimachi. Awwwwwww yeah. Continue reading What does Okachimachi mean?
The shogunate is finished… that’s not sad to me. The sad thing is closing out this chapter on a subject that is so personal to me. I also love Yoshinobu because after a hundred years of 微妙 shoguns, we got a guy who represented his era and his pedigree exceptionally. Until the bitter end, Yoshinobu was an aristocrat, but in a time of crisis he took the challenge and helped to save the shogun family line persist until the present day. Continue reading The Grave of Tokugawa Yoshinobu
We’re at the twilight of Tokugawa power in Japan – the 14th shogun, Tokugawa Iemochi. Continue reading Shomyo-in・the Grave of Tokugawa Iemochi
Tokugawa Ieyoshi was a pretty much a brown paper bag shogun. There is nothing notable about his rule… until the last year. In the last year, Commodore Perry arrived in Japan with his “Black Ships” and demanded that Japan end its isolationist policy. That’s when the shit hit the proverbial fan. Continue reading Shintoku-in・the Grave of Tokugawa Ieyoshi
Not much to say on the topic of Toshogu (and to some degree, Taiyuin) because so much has already been said. The real meat of this series will be in the shrines that we can’t see today. Continue reading Tosho-gu・the Grave of Tokugawa Ieyasu
Ota Dokan again?
Yes. Since I talked about Shakujii and Nerima last week, this week I’ve decided to hit the next most closely related topics; Toshima, Kita, and Itabashi. By Wednesday… and with the help of a simple map, you’ll probably see what’s going on here clearly. Continue reading What does Toshima mean?