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Posts Tagged ‘jomon’

Irugi Shrine

In Japanese History on January 23, 2016 at 4:34 am

居木神社
Irugi Jinja (Irugi Shrine)

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So the other day, I wrote about 大崎 Ōsaki and I mentioned a shrine called Irugi Shrine. It’s not too far from my home, so I decided to check it out and take some pictures. Before I went, I looked into the history of the shrine a little. Visually, it’s a little unimpressive when nothing’s going on and it’s 5°C with strong winds, but it’s a pretty interesting place historically-speaking.

Just some quick notes about the spelling. Some of the English signs on the shrine precinct use the spelling Iruki. While this pronunciation is technically possible, all of my Japanese sources say Irugi. In the Edo Period, the village was famous for a kind of pumpkin called 居留木橋南瓜 Irugibashi kabocha Irugibashi Pumpkin[i]. This is 当て字 ateji kanji used for phonetic qualities, not meaning. The extra character was inserted for legibility. The local people knew how to read the name of their village, but other people might have been confused as to the pronunciation. Also, before the post WWII spelling reforms, the first kanji 居 iru was not thought of as いる iru but as ゐるwiru/yiru – all 3 pronounced the same, as /iɺɯ̥/.

 

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Most nondescript bridge EVER.

Details about the foundation of this shrine are unclear, but it most likely predates the Edo Period. That said, in the early Edo Period, there seems to have been a bridge crossing the 目黒川 Meguro-gawa Meguro River at the location of current 居木橋 Irugibashi Irugi Bridge. Apparently, the shrine was vulnerable to storms and floods damage due to its proximity to the river and so the villagers of 居木橋村 Irugibashi Mura Irugibashi Village re-located the shrine and its associated temple, 観音寺 Kannon-ji to the top of a hill, where it now stands. The entire village was actually moved to the high ground, which is why the bridge that was the namesake of the village and shrine is actually located quite far from this spot.

The area was famous for 雉子 kiji green pheasants so originally, the shrine was called 雉子ノ宮 Kiji no Miya Green Pheasant Shrine but in 1872 (Meiji 5), the shrine was renamed Irugi Shrine[ii]. The current structure dates from 1978. In 1889 (Meiji 22), the 5 villages in the area were combined to make 大崎村 Ōsaki Mura Ōsaki Village. This is when the place name 居木 Irugi disappeared[iii].

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This kind of long approach to a shrine is called an 表弾道 Omote Sandō. Pretty sure I have an article about that. Yeah.

As I said, the shrine was built on a plateau. The shrine has 3 approaches that I could find. These are called 参道 sandō which means “road to visit a shrine.” The main approach is a long street that runs directly up the hill to main entrance. The left side of the steep stairway is flanked by a man made stone mountain made of lava called 富士塚 Fujizuka Fuji Hill. Fujizuka are artificial “Mini Mt. Fujis” and can be found all throughout Tōkyō (you can see here). Climbing Mt. Fuji has long been considered a kind of spiritual pilgrimage. Those who can’t make the journey to the volcano itself can climb a Fujizuka and earn the same spiritual points. Irugi Shrine’s Fujizuka was built in 1933. At the time of construction, a startling discovery was made. This section of the hill was actually a 貝塚 kaizuka shell mound that dated back to the 縄文時代 Jōmon Jidai Jōmon Period. No proper excavation was carried out, however, until 1968[iv]. Archaeologists determined that the site actually dated all the way back to the early Jōmon Period (4,000–2500 BCE)[v].

jomon housing edit.jpg

Jōmon peeps keepin’ it real all thatch hut stylee

What’s a Shell Mound?

In 1877 (Meiji 10), Edward S. Morse famously spotted a shell mound – also called a midden – while riding a train from 東京 Tōkyō to 横浜 Yokohama[vi]. His work was so groundbreaking in Japan that he is considered the Father of Japanese Archaeology. A shell mound is essentially an ancient trash dump that consists of mostly shells, but also bones, pottery, and other human refuse. Morse called the pottery he discovered “cord marked pottery” because of the way it was decorated. The Japanese word 縄文 Jōmon is a literal translation of his description of his term. Today, the top of the Fujizuka features a traditional 灯篭 tōrō Japanese stone lamp made out of excavated earth and shells.

The site is designated as one of the 100 Scenic Spots of Shinagawa, a sort of Japanese History Nerd Pilgrimage that may take you more than a day or two to visit every spot (it’s easy to get distracted along the way because the area is so rich in history). I’ve explored the area extensively and I still haven’t seen all 100 spots. In fact, this was my first time to visit this spot.

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A stone lantern made from shells

Despite being a local shrine, it’s quite active. I visited it on a Friday afternoon around 1 PM and while the shrine itself wasn’t doing anything, there were quite a few people coming and going. The shrine office, which sells お守り o-mamori talismans and other paraphernalia, was open for business[vii]. The shrine performs the usual set of Shintō purification rituals, but its main business is doing traditional, Shintō weddings. The local people and local businesses regularly visit the shrine on special holidays. It’s particularly busy during the first 2 weeks of January when local the employees of local companies come for 初詣 hatsumōde the first shrine visit of the new year.

Further Reading

 

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[i] An interesting note about the Japanese word for pumpkin: The word カボチャ kabocha derives from the Portuguese word for Cambodia which the Japanese of the 1500’s heard as カンボジャ Kanboja. With the ban on Christianity and expulsion of the Portuguese the word was corrupted to its present form.
[ii] If you walk 10-15 minutes to 五反田 Gotanda, you can find a shrine called 雉子神社 Kiji Jinja Kiji Shrine which preserves the reference to green pheasants. By the way, I have an article about Gotanda.
[iii] 居留木橋カボチャ Irugibashi Kabocha Irugibashi Pumpkin was still a 名物 meibutsu famous food until the end of the Meiji Period. The kanji 南瓜 is actually Chinese, not Japanese.
[iv] The shrine was destroyed in the Firebombing of Tōkyō in March, 1945. It wasn’t fully rebuilt until 1978, after the excavation was completed and enough funds were raised to properly resurrected the shrine to its former glory.
[v] Read more about the Jōmon Period here.
[vi] See my article on the 大森貝塚 Ōmori Kaizuka where he made his important discovery.
[vii] I had some questions about the history of the shrine and the area, but sadly, the staff couldn’t tell me anything that I couldn’t find online.

What does Ōsaki mean?

In Japanese History on January 21, 2016 at 7:11 am

大崎
Ōsaki (the great cape)

osaki station sign

Let’s Look at the Kanji


ō, dai/tai

big


saki, misaki[i]

a cape, a land mass that juts out into the ocean

I picked this place name because it looked easy. I mean, it seems straightforward enough. It’s located in modern 品川区 Shinagawa-ku Shinagawa Ward which everyone knows is near the bay. A big cape seems like a totally plausible thing to find in the area.

On top of that, the name first appeared on maps in the early Edo Period. It’s not a super ancient name. Dude, what more could you want? Easiest. Etymology. Ever.

gang

In a nutshell… Daphne.

If it weren’t for those Meddling Edoites

It seems to make sense until you look at Edo Period maps. Ōsaki is near Shinagawa, but it’s quite inland and, well, no. It didn’t jut out into the sea. Turns out this might be a super ancient place name after all.

Also, it seems that local tradition in the Edo Period combined with incomplete records show that the people of the area believed something totally different. By the way, in those days the area was called 武蔵国江原郡居木橋村 Musashi no Kuni Ebara-gun Irugibashi Mura Irugibashi Village, Ebara District, Musashi Province. They seem to have claimed the name 大崎 Ōsaki “Big Cape” was a corruption of 尾崎 Osaki[ii]– a place in 武蔵国秩父郡 Musashi no Kuni Chichibu-gun Chichibu District, Musashi Province. The idea being that at one time this area was indeed jutting out into the sea and was an extension of the 秩父山 Chichibu Yama Chichibu Mountains.

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Osaki Shrine – namesake of the area formerly known as Osaki. Something’s not right here.

But wait, you say! Chichibu is in northwest Saitama or some shit[iii]. How could there be a connection so far away? I’m not 100% sure, but even though Tōkyō is a hilly city it’s located in what is called the 関東平野 Kantō Heiya Kantō Plain, ie; it’s relatively flat compared to the surrounding areas. There is a stretch of mountains that forms a natural boundary that spans Chichibu all the way to Tōkyō Bay. Ōsaki doesn’t seem a likely place to include in that path today, given its distance from the sea. However, it may have been at one point. So, more about that later.

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The Kantō Plain. The Chichibu Mountains lay to the west. The star marks Ōsaki. The lone peak in the southwest is Mt. Fuji (no relation to this article).

Another Chichibu Connection

At the end of the 12th century, samurai of the 秩父氏 Chichibu-shi Chichibu clan began to move into this area. The 鎌倉幕府 Kamakura Bakufu Kamakura Shōgunate granted them 7 fiefs in the area, including 江戸郷 Edo-gō Edo Hamlet. As long time readers know, they established a fortified residence in an area called 千代田 Chiyoda and donned the name of the area thus becoming the 江戸氏 Edo-shi. Famously, their residence in Chiyoda came to be called 江戸城 Edo-jō.

I’m not sure how much control they exerted in this area – if any – but there is a particularly ancient shine in their ancestral lands in Chichibu called 尾崎神社 Osaki Jinja Osaki Shrine. Also located in their ancestral lands is an area called 千代田 Chiyoda[iv]. With the arrival of the Chichibu clan (locally renamed the Edo clan), coincidence or not, there may have been a reason for the average person on the street to associate the two areas. Or so the story goes.

Further Reading:

So, Now for the Mysterious (but tenuous) Shrine Connection

The main shrine in Ōsaki is 居木神社 Irugi Jinja Irugi Shrine. The shrine I mentioned before is 尾崎神社 Osaki Jinja Osaki Shrine. I cross checked all of this against a 3rd shrine called 秩父神社 Chichibu Jinja Chichibu Shrine.

wedding irugi shrine

Irugi Shrine[v]

It’s located in Ōsaki. Basically, there’s no founding date for the shrine. By its own accounts, it’s just sorta been there forever. Fair enough. It appears to have been established to honor a local tutelary deity and over the course of a thousand years, 2 other 神 kami Shintō spirits have been co-enshrined there. The shrine lies on a plateau that has been inhabited without interruption since Neolithic times.

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Osaki Shrine in Saitama. FFS these people can’t even hold a camera straight. Ugh!

Osaki Shrine

It’s located in Saitama. Today the shrine lies just outside the border of the modern 秩父地方 Chichibu Chihō Chichibu Area, but I think the area was under the Chichibu clan’s control in the Kamakura Period.

chichibu shrine

You need a car to get to Chichibu Shrine, but it’s a really beautiful place.

Chichibu Shrine

It’s located in the Chichibu Mountains, Saitama. This was an important shrine for the 秩父平氏 Chichibu Hei-shi Chichibu branch of the Taira clan[vi]. 4 kami are enshrined here. 2 kami bear the name “Chichibu” using the current spelling 秩父 Chichibu and the ancient spelling of 知知夫 Chichibu.

Since the connection between the Osaki in Chichibu and Ōsaki seemed weak, I thought I’d check connections between the Chichibu clan and Edo. When nothing came up, I checked the shrines. Sadly, I found nothing. The kami enshrined in each location are completely unrelated to the best of my knowledge[vii].

0saki station

Ōsaki Station circa 1955.

OK, So Shall We Look at the History?

Present day 大崎2丁目 Ōsaki Ni-chōme  2nd block of Ōsaki and 大崎3丁目 Osaki San-chōme 3rd block of Ōsaki lie on a plateau that traditionally overlooked the 目黒川 Meguro-gawa Meguro River. Today the view of the river is generally obscured by 大崎駅 Ōsaki Eki Ōsaki Station.

Capture

Most of the  Meguro River is underground today.

In the early 縄文時代 Jōmon Jidai Jōmon Period[viii] (give dates), the waters of the bay encroached quite deep into what are inland areas today. It’s a well-established fact that Jōmon people inhabited this plateau. As a high ground location, it was extremely defensible and probably safe from flooding. Its close access to sea and the rivers pouring to the bay gave it ample access to seafood. The Jōmon people were hunter-gatherers. They didn’t really have agriculture, so access to good fishing areas was critical for them.

jomon-period-inlets

Earlier, I mentioned Irugi Shrine is in Ōsaki 3-chōme. The shrine has luckily preserved evidence of the Jōmon culture that thrived in the area. On the precincts, there is a 貝塚 kaizuka shell mound. To modern eyes, the defining characteristic of these people is their pottery – a lot of pottery has been excavated here. Human bones and other evidence of a human presence is consistent from the early Jōmon Period right up to the present.

The Neolithic culture of the Jōmon people didn’t vanish overnight with the spread of rice culture and the rise of the Yamato State. But, its antiquity and its religious significance are surely the traditional raison d’être for Irugi Shrine’s existence. The importance of the area may very well be an echo of its Jōmon past.

In the 室町時代 Muromachi Jidai Muromachi Period, traffic from 多摩郡 Tama-gun Tama District to 品川宿 Shinagawa-shuku Shinagawa Post Town increased. Because of this, the 居木橋 Irugibashi Irugi Bridge was built across the Meguro River[ix]. As a result, villages began popping up near the bridge to accommodate merchants, fishermen, craftsmen, farmers, and the occasional military or imperial envoys that may have needed to pass through this god forsaken territory.

Further Reading:

osaki

Ōsaki – Common Family Name

You will find places all over Japan called 大崎 Ōsaki. It’s very common. But you will also meet people with this name. Invariably, this family name is derived from a local place name. In the Kantō area – Tōkyō excluded[x] – this name is often traceable back to 下総国香取郡大崎 Shimōsa no Kuni Katori-gun Ōsaki Osaki, Katori District, Shimōsa Province in modern 千葉県 Chiba-ken Chiba Prefecture. The family has ancient origins in the 清和源氏 Seiwa Genji (Seiwa Minamoto). The clan originally descends from 清和天皇 Seiwa Tennō Emperor Seiwa (850–878) who was the 56th emperor. This particular bloodline is ultimately the root of thousands of samurai families, but the Seiwa Genji (let’s just say Minamoto from now on), was the line that gave us 源頼朝 Minamoto no Yoritomo who established the first 幕府 bakufu shōgunate in 鎌倉 Kamakura in 1192. A later descendant, a certain 足利尊氏 Ashikaga Takauji, established the second shōgunate in 1636 – also establishing a precedent that only those who could claim descent from the Seiwa Minamoto could be granted the title of  征夷大将軍 seii tai-shōgun great general who expels the barbarians[xi]. It’s a messy story, but in short, the Ōsaki family of Ōsaki, Shimōsa Province claims to be descendants of this particularly noble bloodline. Next time you meet a person named Ōsaki from Chiba Prefecture, ask them. They probably don’t have a clue lol.

But all of that said, the family name is not related to the Tōkyō place name, Ōsaki.

Further Reading:

アパート_大崎_品川区西品川3丁目4-7_1K

Ōsaki still has some old school areas. These are mostly leftovers from the 70’s-80’s.

Wait! Wait! So What Does Ōsaki Mean??

The kanji mean “big cape,” like I said at the beginning of the article. Where does it come from? The jury is out on that one. No one has a solid etymology – least of whom is me! Enjoy the tenuous connections I’ve given you and accept the fact that some place names may forever be mysterious. I’ll see you in the next article!

 

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[i] There are some other readings of this kanji but saki/zaki are the most common.
[ii] This place name is cryptic – I assume it’s  当て字 ateji kanji used for phonetic reasons. The kanji 尾 o literally means “tail” or “slope at the bottom of a mountain.” 崎 saki, of course, means “cape.” But this area is landlocked. Anyways, it’s not in Tōkyō so it’s outside of the scope of this blog.
[iii] It’s Saitama, so no one really knows where it is. Saitama probably doesn’t even know where it is!
[iv] Don’t get too excited about this, it could very well be a coincidence. But it does make me want to check to see if there is a connection. I hadn’t seen this before. If there is a connection, I’ll have to re-write my article on Chiyoda. (Fingers crossed there’s no connection lol!)
[v] In the interest of keeping this article concise, I decided against describing the shrine in detail. However, the place sounds pretty interesting, so I may go down there on Friday to take some pictures and check it out first hand. If it turns out to be really interesting, I’ll dedicate a short article to it. If it turns out to be boring, I’ll just upload the pix to JapanThis on Flickr and tweet the link. If you don’t follow me on Flickr, you should. I tend to add a lot of historical backstory to a lot of the photos.
[vi] Or Chichibu Taira-shi. The reading isn’t important. The meaning is the same.
[vii] This is a tricky thing, though. It seems like there are different levels of affiliation/enshrinement. I’m not an expert on Shintō by any stretch of the imagination, so if anyone could help me dig deeper to see if there’s a connection, I’d really appreciate it.
[viii] I guess you could call this period Neolithic. Some people would say it’s Paleolithic.
[ix] The bridge took its name from the shrine.
[x] More than half the people you meet in Tōkyō are not originally from Tōkyō – even if they’ve lived here several generations.
[xi] A general consensus among historians says that 織田信長 Oda Nobunaga and 豊富秀吉Toyotomi Hideyoshi never sought the title of shōgun for precisely this reason. They couldn’t claim descent from the Seiwa Genji clan. 徳川家康 Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the 江戸幕府 Edo Bakufu Edo Shōgunate, on the other hand is generally believed to have falsified his genealogy to claim descent from this bloodline in order to secure his appointment as shōgun.

A Visit to the Omori Kaizuka

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on May 17, 2014 at 6:24 am

大森貝塚
Ōmori Kaizuka Omori Shell Mound

The other day I wrote about Ōmori and I mentioned that there was a paleolithic trash dump there that was the first archaeological dig in Japan. I had a little free time so I decided to check it out and take some pictures for the site. Actually, it was a lot less interesting than I thought it would be, but I don’t want the pictures to go to waste. Hopefully, there’s some interesting stuff in here for you.

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Near Omori Station there is a monument commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the discovery and excavation of the shell mound.

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Plaque describing Edward Morse’s contribution to Japanese archaeology and anthropology.

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Today, the site of the shell mound is a quiet park.

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After passing through the gate you walk up a hill (it was a “mound” after all).

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For some reason there was an English sign. This is the only English at the site.

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A panoramic shot of the excavation site. (Click to enlarge).
The structure in the background seems to be a reinforcement of the side of the shell mound. If you walk around it, you can actually go up to the top and get a feel for how tall the mound actually is. I’ll explain the water in the middle later.

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A statue of Edward Morse looking at some Jomon pottery.

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An old plaque commemorating the site. Note the Japanese is written left to right as it was before the American Occupation.

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Morse first noticed the mound when he passed by it on his way to Yokohama. Today the Keihin-Tohoku Line tracks are right next to the mound – the train line name means “Tokyo-Yokohama.”

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Then a train passed by.

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Omori means “Great Forest” and the area is still wooded today.

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View from the top of the mound. Notice the train passing by below.

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The reinforcing wall serves as a rest area. There are chairs and the walls are decorated with shells.

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Every so often mist comes up from the ground in the center of the chill out area.

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Very interesting!

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Across from Omori Station I stumbled across a shrine called Sanno Hie Shrine. Check out my article on Tameike-Sanno for a little background on another shrine with the same name. This gave me a great idea for an article.

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A view of some stone lanterns and the washbasin for ritual purification and the main building.

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There were two smaller shrines to the left of the main hall.

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And there they are.

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Komainu

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My Ii Naosuke t-shirt always gets lots of strange looks.

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This is a massive ginkgo tree that 3rd shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu planted in 1641 at Shiba Toshogu.

What does Tabata mean?

In Japanese History on April 29, 2014 at 4:25 pm

田端
Tabata (on the edge of the field)

In JR's ongoing effort to put department stores in every train station, Tabata Station looks like every other JR station.

In JR’s ongoing effort to put department stores in every train station, Tabata Station looks like every other JR station.

First Let’s Start with the Kanji, Shall We?

ta

rice paddy

hata

edge, boundary, beside, close to

This is a place name found all over Japan, with reading variations.

It’s also a family name found all over Japan… yes, also with reading variations[i].

And despite sounding really backwatery to our modern ears, many people with this family name can apparently claim descent from the 源氏 Minamoto-shi/Genji Minamoto clan. So, stuff that in your pipe and smoke it.

In the Edo Period, 田端村 Tabata Mura Tabata Village was located on a section of the elevated area that is geographically referred to as the 上野台地 Ueno Daichi the Ueno Plateau, but was to known at the time as 上野山 Uenoyama Ueno Mountain. The area was well known because one side was bordered by a cliff. Although, most people don’t notice it now, the west side of Tabata Station clearly shows the cliff – it’s just been woven into the fabric of the modern metropolis.

The cliff of former Tabata Village.

The cliff of former Tabata Village.

It’s said that meaning of the name is 田ノ端 ta no hata on the edge of a rice paddy. Historical records and maps from the early Edo Period are vague at best, but the area would have been quite rural at the time. The presence of 田畑 tahata rice paddies and fields is more or less a given. Speaking of tahata, a second etymology says that via rendaku, tahata became tabata. So there, you just got 2 for the price of 1.

Tabata sits on a ridge – a cliff, if you will – on the edge of the Ueno Plateau. The agricultural lands here were eventually surrendered to the Tokugawa Shōgunate in the name of 参勤交代 sankin-kōtai alternate attendance[ii], for the purpose of building daimyō residences and samurai residences. Without clear historical records, the “edge” could have referred to rice paddies on the plateau itself, or could refer to the cliff – a proverbial “edge” clearly delineating the yamanote and shitamachi, thus indicating the farming was being done in the valley.

one the left, you can see the Hongo Plateau, on the right, the Ueno Plateau. Where you see 田端駅 is Tabata Station.

one the left, you can see the Hongo Plateau, on the right, the Ueno Plateau.
Where you see 田端駅 is Tabata Station.

A second, more intriguing theory maintains that the place name is most likely far more ancient than the kanji reveal. We’ve seen this in really old names. This theory maintains that the oldest place names are all based on the terrain. In an age where most people were illiterate and there were very few – or no – maps, short and descriptive places were the easiest way to find your way around. In my experience writing Japan This!, I’ve definitely noticed this pattern. As areas became more literate, kanji were added post hoc. However, using kanji for their phonetic values distorts forever the original meaning of the word, especially if it’s a name that predates the importation of kanji to Japan or if the place name dates from the languages of the aboriginal peoples of Japan (ie; before the spread of the Yamato people).

This alternate theory uses some archaeological findings to back it up. The area has been inhabited since the Jōmon Period[iii] but the real activity picked up around the Yayoi Period[iv]. During the early to mid Jōmon Period (7,000-4,000 years ago), this area was coastline, and the high areas were inhabited by villagers, communities highly reliant on the sea and not farming. The sea began receding during the Yayoi Period and we find evidence of all kinds of coastal fishing activity, but no farming. Because the only people who farm next to the ocean are idiots[v].

Again, if this is an ancient name – not a medieval[vi] name – the kanji does not matter. Kanji have sounds (readings) but no kanji is divorced from meaning. It always has a meaning. Going by this theory, the archaeological evidence has led a small group of people to maintain that the name comes from a very ancient place name that originally meant “the top of the plateau.” One of the more interesting speculations[vii] was that the name is evidenced by 束旗 tabahatatabata a bundle of flags, because the high ground is where you can build your fort (and of course put up your flags, which can be seen from everywhere).

A residential alley in the shitamachi area near Tabata.

A residential alley in the shitamachi area near Tabata.

So Which Theory Do I Like?

I think the 2nd theory is more or less crap. Trying to relate a place name to the Paleolithic Period or the Jōmon Period is just absurd. Even the Yayoi thing is stretch. If we had a record from the Nara or Heian Period, I’d start to loosen up my skepticism. But we don’t. This name doesn’t even seem to appear in Kamakura Period records, which is when the Kantō area really starts showing up in the historical record. No matter what activity happened here 2000 years ago, I’m willing to bet that has absolutely no connection with what was happening here by the time the Edo clan was established or Ōta Dōkan came around. I don’t know if Japanese clans were raising flags on the high ground around their forts or not before the Sengoku Period, but flags all over the place is an image I associate with the rise of the warrior culture, and in particular with the Sengoku Period[viii].

If we start messing around with ateji again, it becomes a game of unsolvable multiple choice. I’m going to use Occam’s Razor and say that “a village next to a rice paddy” is the most realistic etymology. The fact that this place name occurs all over Japan backs up this rationale as well. After all, why did people make rice paddies? Well, it was to feed villages! Even the “rice paddies and fields” makes more sense than referencing the Yayoi Period.

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[i] There are approximately 23,900 people with the surname 田端 in Japan today. As a place name or surname the variations are: Tabata, Tahashi, Tahata, Tabashi, Tabana, and Tabuchi – in order from most common to least common. As a family name, I think we can say this is fairly rare in Japan.
[ii] See my quick overview here.
[iii] I’m not going into the Jōmon thing because it’s soooo far beyond the scope of Edo-Tōkyō. That said, it bears repeating that the Jōmon people were racially distinct from the Yayoi people. The Jōmon may have been more Caucasian looking. It’s with the Yayoi people where we start getting people whose bones, at least, start looking Japanese.
[iv] Let’s say from 400 BC to 200 AD just to be conservative. But this is where we start seeing people who are racially “Japanese.”
[v] Unless you’re farming seaweed, but that’s completely different from maintaining fields and rice paddies. But try to grow some vegetables in salt water and see what happens.
[vi] This is a term I hate using, but I can’t think of a better one.
[vii] And there are a lot more!
[viii] This is just the image in my head; I honestly don’t know shit about flags and banners in Japanese history.

What does Edo mean?

In Japanese Castles, Japanese History on September 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm

江戸
Edo (literally “Inlet Door,” but more at “Estuary”)

Edo - the shogun's personal domain.

Edo – the shogun’s personal domain.

Today’s post is a monster!
There are a lot of footnotes trying to clarify things in the text.
Please check those.
There are good links and some additional info there.

A few days ago was, if my math is correct, the 145th anniversary of day Edo was renamed Tōkyō. This happened on September 3rd, 1868 by an imperial decree called 江戸を称して東京と為すの詔書 Edo wo shōshite Tōkyō to nasu shōsho Imperial Edict Renaming Edo Tōkyō. The document was written in the ancient and pretentious language of the imperial court which is above my Japanese level so I’m not going to translate it for you. But we all know what happened. Edo ceased to exist and Tōkyō was born.

I tried to find a picture of the actual document, but I couldn’t. But if you do want to see the section of the text that laid out the command in all its highfalutin imperial court language glory, here it is:

朕今萬機ヲ親裁シ億兆ヲ綏撫ス江戸ハ東國第一ノ大鎭四方輻湊ノ地宜シク親臨以テ其政ヲ視ルヘシ因テ自今江戸ヲ稱シテ東京トセン是朕ノ海内一家東西同視スル所以ナリ衆庶此意ヲ體セヨ

UPDATE: I found a translation of this line at no-sword.jp. Here’s the translation:

But enough about Tōkyō.

Today’s topic is Edo.

Every guidebook and general book on Japanese history says something like:

“Before the coming of the Tokugawa, Edo was a sleepy fishing village.”

“Though it was once an insignificant village in the marshy wetlands, Tokugawa Ieyasu transformed Edo into a glorious capital befitting of the shōguns.”

And while those sorts of statements hold varying degrees of truth, just blowing off everything before the  arrival of Tokugawa Ieyasu, raises more questions because why the hell would Ieyasu just pick some crappy fishing village in a marsh and say “Build me a castle from which I can rule Japan!” Ieyasu wasn’t that impulsive and he definitely wasn’t stupid. He was made an offer by Hideyoshi and he took it. He deliberately chose Edo which means the area was strategically important and not a shithole fishing village in East Bumfuck.

One other thing we often hear is:

“A feudal warlord named Ōta Dōkan came into the small fishing village of Edo and built his castle there.”

Again, this seems strategically silly and as you will see, it’s simply not true[i]. Sure, fishing was a big deal in the area – it was for all of Edo’s existence, but things are more nuanced than that.

How do you say East Bumfuck in Japanese?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

PART 1 – SHORT ANSWER
for people with short attention spans

In the 12th century, an influential branch of the Taira clan moved their base from present day Saitama to 江戸郷 Edo-gō Edo Hamlet in 豊島郡 Toshima-gun Toshima District in 武蔵国 Musashi no Kuni  Musashi Province[ii].  Following standard practice of the time, if a powerful lord wanted to distinguish his line as a new clan, he would take the name of his territory as a surname. Thus this new clan was 江戸氏 Edo-shi Edo Clan. Edo’s place name seems to have been quite literal. It meant “estuary.”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

PART 2 – LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG ANSWER
for people with too much time on their hands

First, a disclaimer. I’m not a scholar. A lot of this backstory is not well documented.
There may be some omissions or timeline mistakes in here because my eyes glaze over at Japanese genealogy, etc.If you know something that I don’t or see a mistake, let me know, and I’ll fix it.

OK, so let’s go waaaaaaaaaay back before the Tokugawa.

The Kantō Plain appears to have first been populated in the Late Jōmon Period sometime after 3100 BC. This is well before rice culture found its way to Japan[iii]. It’s fair to say these people were hunter gatherers and don’t really figure into the history of Edo-Tōkyō as an urban space. But still, their presence here gives us some perspective of how long humans have lived here.

Happy little Jomon people having a picnic or something.

Happy little Jomon people having a picnic or something.

The Kofun Period 

Fast forward more than 2000 years and…

During the Kofun Period (200-500 AD), the influence of the Yamato State[iv] finally reached the Kantō area. It seems that around the 300’s, Kantō became a vassal state of the Yamato Court. It’s from this period forward that we can see the arrival of the people who are to become what we will later see as Japanese, physically and culturally. They were a literate people who had ideas of governance, philosophy and technology that they learned[v] from the Korean peninsula and China. The spread of Shintō accompanies the Yamato influence. BTW – Kofun are burial mounds typical of this culture. There are kofun scattered throughout the Kantō area – more than 200 exist in the Tōkyō Metropolis. The so-called 丸山古墳 Maruyama Kofun “Round Mountain” Kofun is in 芝公園 Shiba Kōen Shiba Park next to where Tokugawa Hidetada’s funerary temple was built in the early 1600’s[vi].

Here you can see the size and keyhole shape of the Maruyama Kofun.

Here you can see the size and keyhole shape of the Maruyama Kofun.

Maruyama Kofun is the largest in the area, so it must have been built for someone powerful. The kofun sits an easy walk from Edo Bay and is next to the 古川 Furukawa “the Old River,” one of many rivers and inlets in the area (at the time and, to a certain extent, today).

The hilly area surrounding it could provide high areas for residences and villages. Strategically speaking, these hills were ideal for defense because, duh, it’s better to be at the top of the hill in a ground war than at the bottom. Also, the high ground protected villages from tsunamis and flooding. The proximity to the bay was great for fishing and growing seaweed and the inlets and rivers were convenient for sending heavy supplies and foodstuffs in and out of the area. The bay also provided a natural defense as Japanese ship construction technology sucked ass at this time. The wetland areas were perfect for growing rice. In short, the area was defensible and sustainable. Whoever is buried in the Maruyama Kofun noticed this potential and most definitely exploited it to his and his subjects’ benefit.

From Maruyama Kofun, move a few clicks north on a map of Edo and you will see where Edo Castle stood[vii]. The same conditions existed here[viii] and it’s from here that our story really begins.

The kofun just looks like a big hill. Keep in mind, we don't know who was in here, but at least we can get an idea of the culture that lived in the surrounding areas along the bay.

The kofun just looks like a big hill.
Keep in mind, we don’t know who was in here, but at least we can get an idea of the culture that lived in the surrounding areas along the bay.

The Rise of Samurai in Kantō

Let’s move up to present day Saitama in the area called 秩父郡 Chichibu-gun Chichibu District near 大宮 Ōmiya Ōmiya, not far from the present day Tōkyō-Saitama boarder. At the end of the Heian Period in the 12th century, a noble clan descended from the 平氏 Hei-shi Taira Clan was in control of the area.  The original, major samurai houses descended from imperial branch families like the Taira.

The Taira Clan (called Hei-shi in Japanese) used a stylized butterfly crest called the 蝶紋 chō mon. Most branch families adapted the butterfly into new designs for themselves.

The Taira Clan (called Hei-shi in Japanese) used a stylized butterfly crest called the 蝶紋 chō mon.
Most branch families adapted the butterfly into new designs for themselves.

The family name Taira essentially means you descend from the imperial family of the Heian Period, but you are not 公家 kuge a court family, so your official status is that of a subject of the emperor. But as a samurai family with imperial blood, you – theoretically –have more power and rank than the average samurai.

By the way, this era marks the true rise of the samurai culture. Lords (daimyō) tended to take the names of their fiefs as family names to establish new branch families[ix].  So, although these families were of Taira blood, this branch took the name of their fief and became known as the Chichibu Clan. It seems that bearing the name of your territory was an expression of your dominance. (Remember that! It’s going to come up again later.)

So, for reasons unclear (to me at least), someone from this Taira samurai family in Chichibu moved south to establish a new clan. The most likely candidate is the guy generally considered the first head of the Edo Clan, Chichibu Shigetsugu.

Chichibu Shigetsugu moved south and fortified a small hill in 千代田 Chiyoda “Eternal Fields”[x]. He probably chose this area because this is where Tōkyō Bay had a major inlet that became the Sumida River. It had a strong current for bringing in goods. Being on the coast, it was immune from attacks by sea on one side and with so much seafood production and rice production in the area it was a sustainable area. The same natural features that made area appealing to the people of the Kofun Period, also made it appealing this 12th century samurai.

The area into which Chichibu Shigetsugu moved was supposedly known as 江戸郷 Edo-gō the hamlet of Edo[xi]. Following the tradition of his day, when he became lord of the area, he assumed the name 江戸 Edo and became Edo Shigetsugu. His descendants would also bear this name.

It’s thought that his fortified residence was built on what is now the current 本丸 honmaru main keep and 二ノ丸 ninomaru secondary enclosure of the Imperial Palace (areas still delineated clearly today).

TIP 1: Check JCastle.info to learn what the heck honmaru and ninomaru are!

This is where it gets weirder. Despite being a minor offshoot of the Taira clan, the second successive lord, Edo Shigenaga, was asked by Minamoto Yoritomo[xii] to help fight against the Taira. Lord Shigenaga switched sides (probably to save his ass) and in about 1180, after the war, he was rewarded with 7 additional fiefs in the surrounding area. I’m not sure about this, but although Edo Hamlet was still one of his holdings, it seems he made his main residence and seat of government at Kitami[xiii]. This consolidated the Edo clan’s influence over a wide area.

Edo Shigenaga continued fortification of the military residence in Chiyoda. Because of the clan’s connection to the Minamoto shōguns[xiv], the Edo family’s influence increased and Chiyoda Castle[xv] increasingly came to be referred to as Edo Castle, though the dual naming would persist[xvi].

Edo Castle at its height is highlighted. The tiny green circle is where the Edo residence is thought to have soon. By the this awesome interative map is from JCastle.info. Click the map to go directly the page I took this from.

Edo Castle at its height is highlighted.
The tiny green circle is where the Edo residence is thought to have soon.
By the this awesome interative map is from JCastle.info
Click the map to go directly the page I took this from.

Edo from the Kamakura Period to the Muromachi Period

The area was still minor, but it’s clear from archaeological evidence and administrative records that the area began its first baby steps towards urbanization at this time. It was a minor military hub and because of the nearby 隅田川 Sumidagawa Sumida River and Edo Bay, logistically speaking, transportation of goods was most likely increasing.

We can only imagine that during the Kamakura Period, the villages and hamlets the fell under the protection of the Edo Clan would have grown and prospered a little. Occasionally the area shows up in records of the Kamakura Shōgunate. The Muromachi Period, however, is pretty much silent on the area. Kamakura was not so far away from Toshima and Musashi provinces and so would be up to date on things. The Muromachi Shōgunate was far off in Kyōto and probably too busy to care what a bunch of country samurai in the east were doing. But by 1467, we start to see the country descend into chaos as the shōgunate loses control of the country.

Sengoku Period
i.e.;  ザ・クラスターファック時代

The Sengoku Era saw the rise in castle towns centered around the castles of 大名 daimyō lords who were constantly at war with their positions always changing. So we see great development in castle building and military strategy, but not so much in city building or administration. In the final years of the Sengoku Period castle building reached the stage of what we usually think of when we imagine a stereotypical Japanese castle. In the early years, castle building was a little different. Think dirt-walled, wood-fenced, thatched roofed barn-like firetraps.

1457, at the beginning of the Sengoku Era, a Musashi warlord named Ōta Dōkan attacked Edo Shigeyasu. Shigeyasu surrendered to Dōkan (a vassal of the Uesugi). His life was spared and he was allowed to continue living at the Edo clan’s Kitami residence. (Remember that because it’s going to come up again).

Pretty sure Dokan couldn't get any girls in Tokyo if he walked around in pants like that.

Pretty sure Dokan couldn’t get any girls in Tokyo if he walked around in pants like that.

Dōkan and Uesugi recognized the strategic benefits of the Edo Clan’s residence near the bay (and probably its nice view of Mt. Fuji on one side and the ocean on the other side and decided to build (or develop) the structure for Uesugi Sadamasa. The new structures were built in the same area that the original Edo Clan residence had been. As stated before, this is the area that became the honmaru and ninomaru of the Tokugawa Edo Castle (today this area is the Imperial Palace East Garden). The building may not have been terribly large, but he installed a large and complex system of moats and it began to look more like an early Sengoku Era castle.

Edo Castle at its height is highlighted. The tiny green circle is where the Edo residence is thought to have soon. By the this awesome interative map is from JCastle.info. Click the map to go directly the page I took this from.

Same map as before.
Edo Castle is highlighted in yellow.
Ota Dokan’s thatched roof fortress is highlighted in green.
By the this awesome interative map is from JCastle.info.
Click the map to go directly the page I took this from.

Also, as mentioned before, in the Sengoku Era we see the rise of 城下町 jōka machi castle towns. As the castles got bigger, they needed to rely on goods from the local people. As fighting got worse, the people needed to be closer to the castles for protection. After all, it was dangerous out there. Also, the lords wanted rings of meandering streets around the castles for 2 reasons; one, it’s difficult to siege a castle when you have to go through a city first and two, human shields. That said, this early in the Sengoku Period, I don’t think we were seeing a lot of that. But, it’s clear that this process had begun before the arrival of the Tokugawa. Dōkan also diverted a waterway that became the Nihonbashi River, one of the outstanding traits of city during the Edo Period.

Before I said, Ōta Dōkan didn’t really build Edo Castle. But now you know the reality. By diverting water supplies and laying out a defensive system of moats, he unwittingly began the urbanization process. This new fortress was the catalyst that made the area not just a lord’s residence with a few villages scattered around here and there. It made it a defensible, sustainable, strategic area with a growing population that would look mighty attractive to one Tokugawa Ieyasu about a hundred years later (at least on paper).

Ieyasu obviously new about Ota Dokan's "castle," but you can just imagine him seeing the150 year old ruins for the first time and being like "shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit."

Ieyasu obviously new about Ota Dokan’s “castle,” but you can just imagine him seeing the 150 year old ruins for the first time and being disappointed.

In 1477, Ōta Dōkan attacked Toshima Yasutsune. He took Nerima Castle, Shakujii Castle and the clan’s administrative center, Hiratsuka Castle. Then he literally annihilated the Toshima clan. Bye bye.

In the general narrative of the Sengoku Period, Ōta Dōkan is a kind of minor guy. But history isn’t a narrative. The actions he took, some barbaric, some wise, don’t play into the unification of Japan. But in the history of Edo-Tōkyō, he looms large.

It’s safe to say that he was definitely a product of his violent age.  And in 1486, he met a violent end typical of that age when he was murdered by the Uesugi Clan for a perceived betrayal.

His control of the fortress (can we really say “castle” yet?) in Chiyoda was a little over 20 years.

Now, as for what happened next, I’m not exactly certain. I’ve usually read that the castle remained abandoned from 1486-1590, but it seems that in 1525, Hōjō Ujitsuna took possession of the region and the castle. However, I don’t know if he actually lived there or did anything with it. If I had to speculate, I’d say that in the constant state of war of the Sengoku Period, rehabilitating a hundred year old castle would have been a risky and expensive operation.
If anyone knows, I’d appreciate the info!

End of the Sengoku Period

At any rate, fast forward 100 years later to 1590. Toyotomi Hideyoshi stamped the shit out of the last independent clan remaining on his quest for unification; this last remaining pocket of resistance was the Hōjō who were based in Odawara, thus ending about 80 years Hōjō influence in the area. As everyone who studies Japanese history knows, one of the generals helping Hideyoshi in this final act of unification was Tokugawa Ieyasu.

toyomi_era_osaka_honmaru

Honmaru of Osaka Castle in Hideyoshi’s time.
One of Hideyoshi’s many amazing accomplishments was building Osaka Castle.
It was said to be undefeatable – until Ieyasu defeated it. (lol).
Since the time of Nobunaga, castle building techniques had changed dramatically.
Having gotten used to this as the future of castle building,
imagine Ieyasu’s reaction to seeing Ota Dokan’s castle ruins.
(btw – this is just a model. lol.)

Of course, we also all know that Ieyasu despised Hideyoshi and, well, Hideyoshi pretty much didn’t trust Ieyasu either, especially after Ieyasu fought – but lost – against Hideyoshi in 1584. So after the defeat of the Hōjō/Odawara, Hideyoshi devised a unique plan to pacify and distance himself from Ieyasu. At the time, Ieyasu controlled 5 provinces, Mikawa[xvii], Tōtōmi, Suruga, Shinano, and Kai[xviii] which had fast access to Kyōto. Hideyoshi offered to buy out Ieyasu of his five provinces by giving him the so-called 関八州 Kanhasshū the 8 Kantō Provinces. The Kanhasshū included Musashi, Sagami, Kazusa, Shimōsa, Awa, Kōzuke, Shimotsuke, and Hitachi[xix] — quite literally the whole Kantō region.

Ieyasu's new territory. Edo Bay is totally protected.

Ieyasu’s new territory.
Edo Bay is totally protected.

Ieyasu took the deal and could have chosen any place within his sprawling new dominion for his main seat of government. But he chose Edo.

Sure, he chose fixer-upper. But he chose one with a well-fortified castle that had room for expansion (and Ieyasu now had the money for it). He had waterways in and out of the city. He had a view of Mt. Fuji (a territory that had once been his). He had a view of the ocean, which not only was beautiful – it was a kind of super moat. The area was fertile and partly urbanized.

It’s said that when Ieyasu came to survey the city he planned to make the base of his 8 provinces, the castle that Ōta Dōkan had built consisted of around 100 buildings with thatched roofs surrounded by wide moats and earthen walls. Although it didn’t look like much upon his arrival, the moat system alone was enough to know he’d chosen well.

At the height of Tokugawa power, the castle is said to have been the biggest in the world and the city was likely the most populous.

Who REALLY built Edo Castle?

Ieyasu ordered his castle built in the new style.
There were 4 stages of construction throughout the Edo Period.
Look at that and then tell me who REALLY built Edo Castle.

So, um… What Happened to the Edo Clan?

Oh, I almost forgot.

Now that we’ve come to the Tokugawa Period, which is generally referred to as the Edo Period, I have to back track to something I said earlier about a certain Edo Shigeyasu.

Shigeyasu surrendered the Edo residence to Ōta Dōkan in 1457 in the early Sengoku Period. Keep in mind that ancient samurai families often took their branch names from the lands that they controlled.

Ieyasu arrived in 1590 and began establishing his new capita at Edo. He was still in the service of Hideyoshi at the time[xx], but as the lord of the Kanhasshū he had to establish rapport with his new retainers (lords in their own right). Likewise, his new retainers had to swear allegiance to him.

There was one major problem… with the name!

The Edo clan still had a residence in Kitami, which is present day Setagawa Ward. In light of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s dominance over the area, it would be presumptuous (and confusing) for a clan to retain the name of the capital city when a new daimyō, appointed by the unifier of Japan, controlled that city. So in 1593, taking an oath of submission and fealty to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the last Edo Clan daimyō gave up the name Edo and assumed the name, Kitami, which was where their primary holdings were.

In 1600, Ieyasu was victorious at the Battle of Sekigahara and became the de facto leader of a more-or-less unified Japan. In 1603, the emperor granted him the title of 征夷大将軍 seii taishōgun great barbarian subduing general.

Replica of the armor that Ieyasu wore at the battle of Sekigahara.  Pretty freaking Darth Vadery of him.

Replica of the armor that Ieyasu wore at the battle of Sekigahara.
Pretty freaking Darth Vadery of him.

The Edo Clan’s Final Disgrace…

In 1693, the direct family line, no longer Edo but Kitami, was extinguished after the banishment of Kitami Shigeyasu to Ise when his grandson murdered somebody or something. The once powerful country samurai family, descended from Taira blood in the 1100’s, who had held such influence over the area and had long born the name of the area, just fizzled out into oblivion[xxi].

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Bye bye, Edo Clan.

Bye bye, Edo Clan.

But Wait, There’s More!

Now, if this were any other blog, that would be the end of the story. But long time readers of JapanThis! will surely be wondering why so many other ancient place name etymologies are so difficult and Edo was so easy. Is it really just “estuary???”

Well, not everyone agrees. It seems there are multiple theories on the origin of the name “Edo.”

 Theory 1 – It’s literal.
 Theory 2 – It derives from the Ainu word エト eto which means “cape” or “peninsula.” This theory claims that the name refers to the original shape of the Hibiya inlet around the beginning of the Heian Period[xxii].
 Theory 3 – It derives from 井戸 ido well. エ e and イ i confusion in the Kantō dialects is something that we’ve come across many times in Tōkyō place names. So it’s possible that an ancient spring (or hot spring) existed here at one time. References to wells in place names are common in Japan. This is because people would naturally build new villages near fresh water supplies. No wells that would be a candidate have been found, though.

 

There are a few other theories too ridiculous to bother with here. According to the Kadokawa Dictionary of Japanese Place Names, the literal meaning (estuary = edo) is the most likely derivation and the Ainu word (eto = cape, small peninsula) is the second most likely. I tend to agree.

So there you have it. More background on Edo before the coming of the Tokugawa than you ever wanted to know. Definitely more than you needed to know. Now you can bore your friends to tears at the next party with all of this pointless trivia.

I should probably print this whole article on a t-shirt, dammit.

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[i] It’s also incorrect to apply the term “feudal” to Japan.

[iii] Wet rice cultivation and bronze and iron technologies were imported sometime around 900 BC and eventually spread across the islands.

[iv] The Yamato Court were the predecessors of or origins of the current imperial line, depending who you ask. Their capital was based in Asuka (in current Nara Prefecture).

[v] Learned or brought, depending on who you ask.

[vii] Don’t use a map of Tōkyō because the shape of the bay is radically different today.

[viii] And it’s not unreasonable to assume that the ruler buried in Maruyama Kofun exerted influence over the Chiyoda area as well.

[ix] A reverse pattern sometimes occurs when an area derives its name from the ruling family, but this is not the case with Edo.

[xi] The name 江戸 Edo means “river/bay door.” This describes the inflow of water from Edo Bay into the rivers that gave the coastal regions life. Also, people always say Edo was a small fishing village. If I’m not mistaken, at the time a 郷 sato/ was bigger than a 村 mura village. So, technically speaking, at this point Edo wasn’t a small fishing village.

[xii] The guy who established the Minamoto Shōgunate (ie; Kamakura Shōgunate).

[xiii] In present day Setagaya Ward.

[xiv] The Minamoto Shōgunate is more commonly referred to as the Kamakura Shōgunate.

[xv] I’m not sure if we can call it a “castle” at this point. I imagine it was a large fortified residence, not unlike Shakujii Castle (see the CG reconstruction to get an idea).

[xvi] Even today, if you google Chiyoda Castle, Edo Castle will come up in the search results. Also, technically speaking any castle they held could theoretically be referred to as Edo Castle since this was also their Clan name.

[xvii] Mikawa was Ieyasu’s home province.

[xviii] If you’re good with your Japanese geography… this territory was roughly present day Nagano, Aichi, Shizuoka, and Yamanashi (think Mt. Fuji). It was a fair chunk of territory, but with so many allies at Ieyasu’s command so close to the capital, it apparently was too close for Hideyoshi who wanted a buffer around his court in Kyōto.

[xix] Again if you’re good with your Japanese geography… This is roughly Tōkyō, Saitama, Kanagawa, Chiba, Ibaraki, a part of Gunma and Tochigi.

[xx] In fact, he would be serving him in Kyūshū for a few years, while Hideyoshi embarked on a retarded plan to invade China via Korea.

[xxi] They didn’t fizzle out into oblivion completely. There is a 喜多見駅  Kitami eki Kitami Station in present day Setagaya.

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