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Posts Tagged ‘kuroda’

Ōedo Line: Akabanebashi

In Japanese History on July 1, 2015 at 5:49 am

赤羽橋
Akabanebashi (red feather bridge)

Akabanebashi in the Edo Period. My Patron who donate to this page get a private video tour of this area.

Akabanebashi in the Edo Period.
My Patrons who donate to this page get a private video tour of this area.

Stupid trivia fact. On this 38 station course, we’ve finally arrived at the midway point. We’ve come from Edo Period country side locations to some of the deepest areas of Edo. This station is 19 of 38.

I hope that so far I’ve shown that you can walk Edo or get around by train, but as a 10 year resident of this mighty city, trust me: you have to choose your battles wisely, You can’t do an Ōedo Line tour of the city unless you treat it like a pilgrimage. And now I’m thinking that would take about 1 week at least.

That said, I could organize that sort of thing. Is there any interest?
If there is, I’ll put together a 1 week Edo-Tōkyō Tour. We could cover the shoguns’ graves and hit some major spots I’ve written about. Just throwing the idea out there.

Most people who get off at this station (1) are tourists visiting Tōkyō Tower and Shiba Park (2) work in the area or are visiting one of the many hospitals in the area (3) actually live here. The area is a blending of former daimyō residences and commoner areas. You can find truly yamanote areas that are now business districts and small neighborhoods that were commoner towns or low level samurai towns.

View of Akabane Bridge and the Furukawa. The Kuroda Estate is on the right hand side. You can see their famous Kanomi (fire watchtower).

View of Akabane Bridge and the Furukawa. The Kuroda Estate is on the right hand side.
You can see their famous Kanomi (fire watchtower).

If you want to indulge your history nerd sweet tooth, I hope you’re an Edo Period nerd of the highest order. From here you can walk the expansive blocks that are now hospitals and high end apartments that used to be daimyō residences. Most of the blocks have remained unchanged since the Edo Period. If you do this, bring Edo Period maps, otherwise, it’s a meaningless walk because there isn’t much left over. If you walk along the Furukawa River towards Azabu-Jūban, you can see where the old commoner towns were that specialized in lumber and used the river from transporting heavy lumber shipments.

Between this area and Azabu-Jūban the translator/diplomat Henry Heusken was assassinated. His killer, a certain douchebag known by the name Kiyokawa Hachirō was assassinated about 10 minutes upstream from here. I think I inferred well that this area is rich in history if you know what you’re looking for. It’s really deep here.

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This article is part of an ongoing series that starts here.

What does Kasumigaseki mean?

In Japanese History on May 2, 2013 at 1:26 am

霞ヶ関
Kasumigaseki (Fog Gate)

It's name is a mystery-tery-tery-tery-tery-tery....

Kasumigaseki was the traditional administrative center of and borders the Imperial Palace (Edo Castle) and is near the National Diet of Japan.

The word is made of 2 kanji:*
霞 kasumi fog, mist, haze
関 seki barrier (gate)

There are competing theories about this place name.

1) It was the place where the land that separates clouds and fog from the solid land.

2) It was a place where you could look down and view the clouds or mist.

3) There was a 関所 sekisho highway-checkpoint here on a road that allegedly became the 奥州街道 Ōshū Kaidō Ōshū Highway. There is a reference to a 霞ノ関 kasumi no seki in the 1360’s in the region.

4) It was the boundary that separated the Yamato  people from the “Eastern Barbarians” in the “Eastern Country” by the mythological 12th emperor 日本武尊 Yamato Takeru. Thus implying that on the other side of the 関 seki border, there was 雲霞 unka clouds & haze, barbarianism, (barbarian) swarms.

This a reconstructed "seki" check point....

This a reconstructed “seki” check point….

There is another 霞ヶ関 Kasumigaseki in Kawagoe, Saitama. The place names may be related, but we can’t say definitely. In my personal opinion, all four sound a little fishy.

1) All land is separated from clouds – why would you need a name a special place for that?

2) Kasumigeki isn’t so elevated that you could look down on clouds or fog; and even if you could, it would still be foggy there too so you couldn’t see anything.

3) The presence of a military checkpoint on the road is not unimaginable, but it doesn’t really explain the kanji  fog.

4) The Yamato Takeru thing is the most difficult to prove or disprove since we’re dealing with a mythological Emperor. But by the time the place name got written down on maps that we still have today, there would be no way to confirm or disprove the claim. And even at that, it still sounds made up to me. Come on, the dude’s name was 日本武尊, we might as well translate it as “Captain Japan.”

Well, as long as we’re just throwing out random theories, I’m gonna throw some of mine out there. Anyone can play this game!

The kanji appears in some other words, 霞草 kasumi sō (baby’s breath, a flower), 霞石 kasumi ishi (nepheline, a mineral), 霞桜 kasumi sakura (Korean hill cherry, a tree). Any of these plants or stones might have been in the area. Also, if the name predates the Edo Period, there is always the possibility of it being a local name which may have origins in the local dialects (which disappeared during the Edo Period or even later by the creation of 標準語 Hyōjungo Standard Japanese in the Meiji Era). Sadly, I fear we may never know the true origin of this place name.

This is Kasumi Sakura - Korean Hill Cherry. It looks pretty foggy/hazy to me. This could totally be the origin of this place. (See what I did there? That's called folk etymology)

This is Kasumi Sakura – Korean Hill Cherry. It looks pretty foggy/hazy to me. This could totally be the origin of this place. (See what I did there? That’s called folk etymology)

In the early Meiji Era, the Fukuoka Domain’s estate was confiscated and re-purposed as the new government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Imperial family also used some of the land for a palace.

Upper Residence of the Daimyo of Fukuoka, the Kuroda Family.

This is the entrance to Fukuoka-han’s Upper Residence in Kasumigaseki. The Daimyo’s family name was Kuroda. SInce the Edo Period, the lot has been used as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The detached palace at Kasumigaseki. I don't know the details about this building, but it seems to have been short lived. Definitely didn't survive WWII.

The detached palace at Kasumigaseki. I don’t know the details about this building.

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* The middle character , read “ga” is shorthand for a classical Japanese genitive particle. An alternate particle can be rendered as and (no) and in modern Japanese by , (no).

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