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Posts Tagged ‘japanthis’

300th Article Anniversary!

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan, Uncategorized on May 2, 2016 at 4:07 am


300 articles?!!


2007 BTB in Nakano. By the way, BTB means “before the blog.” ie; years ago…

To all my long time readers, all my new readers, and anyone who just happened to stumble across my geeky corner of the internet, I have 4 strong words to say to each and every one of you: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

How Did We Even Get to 300 Articles?

I started this blog in 2008 and didn’t really do much with it. But around 2012/2013, I decided to commit myself heart and soul into JapanThis! despite having a readership of 0. Mrs. JapanThis thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy, too. And my vast readership of 0 didn’t give a shit.

But the Word Started Getting Out

But slowly, a person here and a person there accidentally ended up here every once in a while. Those of you who remember the early days might even recall that I was originally trying to publish a new article every day Monday through Friday or something stupid like that. I eventually gave that up so I could focus on more research intensive articles. From there, the blog slowly just sorta took on a life of its own.


or don’t

A lot of people start blogs and get really into them, only to abandon them to the search engines because, well, let’s face it, they’re time consuming. Other people just run out of things to say[i]. Lots of people come to Japan for a few years, get into it, and blog or make videos about pop culture and food and “my life as a gaijin[ii].” Some of them have tens of thousands of subscribers, which is pretty amazing, honestly. And all of that is good and well. The internet is truly vast and infinite. And everyone’s 100% entitled to their slice of it.

If You’re Gonna Go, Go Deep. Go Hardcore.


If you recognize this picture, you’re probably hardcore too.

But I like to go deep. I like to go hardcore. This is something I learned from the music world. It’s just how I roll. And that’s not attractive to a lot of people. Hell, I meet a lot of people who fucking can’t stand history of any kind the way I fucking can’t stand math. Soooooo, writing a blog about Japanese history is a hard enough sell as it is. But that’s just it. I don’t just write about Japanese history, I use the etymology of place names of one city as an excuse to explore individual neighborhoods of that one city. Talk about obscure! In Japanese, this site wouldn’t be anything special. But in English, this is some hardcore niche subject matter we’re dealing with. It’s a tough sell any way you look at it.

And that’s why I had to make this post in the first place. That’s also why I had to open with a “thank you” that was truly from the bottom of my heart.

100% - Labor of Love


Then there was that time Metropolis Magazine featured JapanThis!. That gave a big boost to the blog.

I used to say – I think I also said it when I hit my 200th article – that this blog is a labor of love; this is my passion for the subject matter, and I would continue writing it even if I only had 5 readers or even 0 readers. Upon reaching this 300th post (and let’s be honest, there are actually more than that if we include pages), I think I feel differently now.

Yes, this is 100% still a labor of love.

Yes, I think I would continue anyways.

But without you, dear reader, JapanThis! would be a hollow shell of what it is now. I mean that. Every time I get a new subscriber or follower or a new comment, it reminds me that I have to not just maintain the status quō of this blog. I have to constantly strive to go deeper, go harder, and push myself to do more rigorous research, write more creatively, and think of more ways to express my passion for the deeper side of Japanese culture and attract more people - more people like you - who share that passion.

i'm rick james bitch - it's a celebration.jpg

“It’s a celebration, bitches.”

Earlier, I used the term “my corner of the internet.” But the internet isn’t private. You don’t have to knock on the door to come into JapanThis!. You can just come in. It’s a party up in here. It’s a nerdy/geeky party, but it’s a party nonetheless. After 300 articles fueled by your enthusiasm, I think it’s safe to say that for us Japanese History Nerds, JapanThis! isn’t “my corner of the internet,” it’s “our corner of the internet.”


Before I close out this post. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that there have been a few people out there on social media who have consistently done a lot to share what I do here with the rest of the world. I owe them a lot of gratitude and am humbled by their constant willingness to help promote JapanThis!. If you don’t already follow them, I think you should[iii]. They’re not just good people, but they all share the same common interests that have brought you and me together.

In descending order of how long their names are (cuz it look perdy):


This photo was snapped at Kiyomizu Kannon-dō in Ueno Park by longtime reader John on a tour of the northeastern Edo. One of the best things about doing tours is meeting my readers who are all awesome!

To everyone who’s ever given me a retweet or share, thanks you to you too. You’ve helped get me here. And I love you too. If you’ve shared me a lot and I haven’t noticed, but you think you belong on this list, hit me up privately, OK?

And lastly, I finish every article asking for support. I know this is annoying. And I believe that just reading JapanThis! is support and I thank you for that. Please don’t forget sharing on Facebook or Twitter because that really gets the message out there.

Here’s to the next goal: 400 articles!!


Wanna Support JapanThis?

Here’s a video explaining the best ways!



[i] But if there’s one thing I did right when deciding to focus on this blog, I said that it would be focused on the etymology of Tōkyō place names, a topic I considered more or less endless, but could focus on any other aspect of Japanese culture and history – more on the history side, of course.
[ii] Not only one of the most tedious topics for those of us who’ve been here for a long time, but one that perpetuates the use of the outdated term 外人 gaijin outsiders (a term considered discriminatory or rude and usually banned by the media) for foreigners because, surprise! Foreigners use this term about themselves when not speaking Japanese and those who can’t speak Japanese don’t know any better. But this is a debate that would be better in an izakaya over a coupla beers.
[iii] They all have various social media accounts; I’m providing the links to what I consider their most active public accounts. Obviously, I’m not going to send you to their personal Facefook pages lol.

What does Iidabashi mean?

In Japanese History on July 2, 2013 at 2:00 am

Iidabashi (Iida Bridge)

Iidabashi Station

Iidabashi Station

When you first start learning kanji, you start noticing characters everywhere. In writing, they always have a context, so it’s possible to figure out what’s going on. In place names, often the characters seem totally random. And even when something should be painfully obvious, it often isn’t. The name Iidabashi stumped me for a long time. The average Japanese could probably make a decent guess at this one and would be pretty much correct.

Iidabashi Station

Iidabashi Station

Let’s look at the kanji:

The first kanji, , is an important character. It has multiple readings. The most notable are meshi (meal, food), manma (food) and han (cooked rice). The second kanji, ta rice field, also has multiple readings, but ta is the most common. The third kanji, 橋 hashi bridge, is well known to readers of JapanThis because Edo was a city of waterways and bridges and there’s a place name with hashi in it every 100 meters, it seems.

The last two characters are pretty standard. But “WTF does Cooked Rice Rice Field Bridge mean?” I kept asking myself. I imagined there were a lot of restaurants in this area in the Edo Period. And a lot of rice fields. And, of course, a bridge. But it didn’t make any sense.

Well, understanding how to read the first kanji is the key to the puzzle. If it’s in a personal or family name, it can be read as ii. For the longest time, I wasn’t putting two and two together. The combination of 飯 and was actually a family name, Iida.

Having met countless people with the family named Iida, I feel like an idiot for not picking up on the obvious.


The outer moat of Edo Castle

The outer moat of Edo Castle

OK, so here’s the story.

As mentioned repeatedly throughout JapanThis, in 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu entered the city of Edo under the orders of the imperial regent, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Upon entering the city, he wanted to inspect the surrounding areas of his new domain. He recruited an elite local resident to show him around each of the areas he was inspecting. The person who served as his guide for the present day Iidabashi area was a certain samurai named 飯田喜兵衛 Iida Kihei. Ieyasu apparently to a liking to the little bugger and appointed him as village headman and then said that the area should be called 飯田町 Iidamachi Iida Town. For most of the Edo Period, town names were in a state of flux as “official names” don’t seem to have been a priority of the shōgunate[i]. But it seems like this name stuck for a while. Sometime before 1711, an official name was given to a big-ass hill in the area, 九段坂 Kudanzaka Kudan Hill (more about this name in the next blog). But the name of the town persisted until it was officially registered as a town under the new administrative structure of the Meiji Government in 1872.

In 1881, a bridge was built across the 外堀 sotobori outer moat of Tōkyō Castle[ii] to the north side of Iidamachi. The bridge was named 飯田橋 Iidabashi Iida Bridge.

A steam locomotive at Iidamachi Station circa 1900.

A steam locomotive at Iidamachi Station circa 1900.

In 1895, 飯田町駅 Iidamachi Eki Iidamachi Station was built. In the 1930’s, traffic to west Tōkyō was redirected to Shinjuku Station and eventually Iidamachi Station closed to commuter traffic. But prior to that, in 1928, there was another station built near the bridge and the major intersection there. Due to its proximity to the bridge, the station was called 飯田橋駅 Iidabashi Station. Iidamachi Station continued to be use, but more and more as a freight station. Since commuter traffic shifted to Iidabashi Station, the area came to be more and more referred to as Iidabashi instead of Iidamachi.

People coming and going at Iidamachi Station in the Meiji Period.

People coming and going at Iidamachi Station in the Meiji Period.

In 1966, when the Japanese postal address system was revamped, the area’s place name was officially changed to Iidabashi. Today there is no place called Iidamachi, but there is a marker for the site of the former Iidamachi Station.

Good for it.

Kobu Railroad Iidamachi Station Marker

Kobu Railroad Iidamachi Station Marker

[i] In an era when people changed their names regularly, this isn’t very surprising. But place names tended to stick longer.

[ii] After the city’s name was changed from Edo to Tōkyō, the castle’s name naturally changed too.

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