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Posts Tagged ‘gaijin’

Ōedo Line: Roppongi

In Japanese History on July 6, 2015 at 6:03 am

六本木
Roppongi (6 Trees)

the pong

In the Edo Period, this plateau was the home of many daimyō residences. Today it’s has a reputation as the place where foreigners who can’t speak Japanese and are in Japan for a minute hang out. That reputation especially applies to the area near 六本木交差点 Roppongi Kōsaten Roppongi Crossing. It’s a kind of shitty area, in my opinion. There are a lot of people on the streets trying to lure people into restaurants of varying repute. Some are fine, but the good ones don’t need to pull in people off the street. Remember that if you visit this area.

Mōri Garden, a step back into the Yamanote of the Edo Period.

Mōri Garden, a step back into the Yamanote of the Edo Period.

That said, Roppongi Hills and Roppongi Mid-Town are actually quite upscale shopping and relaxing areas. They have movie theaters, art museums, restaurants, gardens, and high end shopping. At Roppongi Hills, the Mōri Garden is said to be the vestigial garden of the Mōri clan who had a palace on this land in the Edo Period. If you venture off the main thoroughfare from Roppongi Crossing, you’re bound to discover a plethora of tiny izakayas and restaurants that only the locals know.

But to be honest, if you’re a tourist or short term resident of Tōkyō, I’d rather not send you to Roppongi. It’s our Mos Eisley Space Port. But I can’t deny that it is very foreigner-friendly. There’s a Hard Cock Café and shop staff at stores and restaurants can usually speak English. Just be careful of people trying to lure you into shady establishments. I don’t disapprove of drinking and whoring at all. I just think there’s a risk of getting ripped off or straight shaken down in Roppongi – especially if you’re not fluent in the language and aware of the usual MO’s as compared to this area. Additionally, if you’re a tourist, go do something interesting that you can only do in Japan. Roppongi is the least Japanese place you can visit in Japan.

Roppongi,,,  lol

Roppongi,,,
lol

Oh, I almost forgot the name. There are quite a few theories about the origin of the word Roppongi[i]. As I mentioned, the name means “the 6 trees.” The most accept etymology is that “the 6 trees” is a reference to 6 daimyō (feudal lords) who maintained palaces in the area. These 6 feudal lords had kanji relating to trees in their family names. If you’re interested in the whole story, you should visit my main article about Roppongi below.

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This article is part of an ongoing series that starts here

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[i] And in fact, there is actually another place name in Tōkyō, 五本木 Gohongi the 5 trees. You can see my article here.

Why is Toriizaka called Toriizaka?

In Japanese History, Japanese Sex on May 14, 2013 at 11:20 pm

鳥居坂
Torīzaka (Torī Hill)

Looking up Toriizaka from Toriizakashita.

Looking up Toriizaka from Toriizakashita.

Between the Azabu-Jūban main street* and Roppongi 5-chōme there is a monster hill. I’ve been told it’s one of the steepest hills in central Tōkyō – I believe it. I’ve walked it many times (it’s not that bad), but you definitely get a work out. FujiTV (?) used to run a short segment at night of hot girls running up famous hills. It’s flat at the top of the hill, but the street continues to Roppongi.

(the following video is not Torīzaka, but you get the idea…)*****

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The name has always be curious to me because it’s made of two very common Japanese words:

鳥居 torī the “gate” to a Shintō shrine and 坂 saka hill. It would seem obvious except for the fact that there is neither a torī nor a shrine. The closest shrine I know is 麻布十番稲荷神社 Azabu-Jūban Inari Jinja Azabu-Jūban Inari Shrine, but it’s located a fair enough distance from the hill that I doubt there is a connection.

Just now as I’m thinking about it, I suddenly remembered that when the Torīzaka street** crosses the main street (which is a valley), it goes back uphill on the other side of the street. I seem to remember seeing some floats for a small neighborhood Shintō festival one time last year. Now I’m wondering if there is a connection.

What does Toriizaka Mean?

If you know this family crest, you can probably figure out the etymology of Toriizaka by yourself….

Let the investigating begin!

The old maps say that is that a residence of the Torī clan existed here. Retainers of Tokugawa since the Sengoku Era, the family is famous for a certain 鳥居強右衛門 Torī Sunēmon, a loyal samurai who preferred crucifixion to double crossing his bros like a little bitch***. He took it like a man. It wasn’t a daimyō residence, but a relative named 鳥居彦右衛門 Torīzaka Hikoemon who a large samurai residence on the hill. The family was prestigious for their loyalty to the founder of the shōgunate and so the area took pride and referred to the area as 鳥居坂町 Torīzakachō the Torī Hill Neighborhood.

CRUCIFIXION - IT'S NOT JUST FOR JESUS ANYMORE!!!!

The crucifixion of Torii Suneemon, the famous ancestor of whomever lived on Toriizaka. He was crucified by Takeda Katsuyori, one of the greatest douchebags of the Sengoku Period.

The area is still upper class and the buildings – be they schools, embassies or cultural institutions are surrounded by trees and greenery that really reflect the high city of the Edo Period elite. It’s a cool area despite being located right next to Roppongi which has a reputation as the dirty-ass gaijin slime pit of Japan.

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Roppongi is shithole

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There is another theory that 氷川神社 Hikawa Jinja Hikawa Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in the area, was originally the bottom of the hill near Azabu-Jūban**** and the street name is a reference to the shrine’s torī. The shrine is located in 元麻布 Moto-Azabu Old Azabu. But according to the information at the shrine, they were originally established in 942 on the same street and hill in Moto-Azabu, just a little bit lower down the hill. They were relocated further up the hill in 1659. While Torīzakachō is a neighboring area, the street intersections are too far to have made any confusion. Plus, the Torī family mansion would have already been on the other hill (Torīzaka) by this time. So I don’t think this theory is valid.

So, as it turns out, there isn’t a connection to the festival I saw. It’s mostly like a case of the area taking pride in the prestige of having a relative of a Sengoku Era hero, loyal to the founder of the Edo Bakufu, in their hood. Good for them.

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* The street, as most streets in former castle towns like Edo, do not have names – and this is by design. The city is not laid out on a grid, streets twist and turn and often dead end suddenly, and they rarely have names. This is to confuse invading armies and hinder an easy advance into the heart of the city, the castle. The Romans built walls around the cities and government, the Japanese built cities around the government lol. Anyways, the street is referred to as the 麻布十番商店街 Azabu-Jūban Shōtengai Azabu-Jūban Shopping Street (in the Edo Period think of it as the merchant district).
** This street also doesn’t have a name, only the hill has a name. Another normal feature of life in a castle town.
*** The Battle of Nagashino is a pretty major event in Japanese History, read more about it here.
**** This area still appears on maps as 鳥居坂下 Torīzakashita (bottom of Torīzaka), but it’s not an official postal code name.
***** I embedded this as hyperlink above, but in case you missed it, here is the direct link to pictures of model, Kawai Asuna, running up Torīzaka (sorry, no video): http://ameblo.jp/asuna-kawai/entry-10483570688.html

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