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What does Bakuro-Yokoyama-cho mean?

In Japanese History on January 23, 2014 at 6:32 am

馬喰横山
Bakuroyokoyama (horse dealers – side of the mountain)

The sign that started it all.

The sign that started it all.

When I saw this place name on a subway sign, I thought I’d unearthed the holy grail of bizarre Tōkyō place names. Just look how long it is!! A cursory glance at the kanji had me guessing that it was probably two words combined, but without the research I really had no idea.

Well, it turns out that Tōkyō Metro Tōkyō Metropolitan Bureau of Transport (Toei) has fucked up their rōmaji big-time on this one. The name should be hyphenated. The correct rōmaji transliteration is: Bakuro-Yokoyama.

C'mon, Toei, you can do better than that!

C’mon, Toei, you can do better than that!

Why the hyphen? Well, this area is a merger of two established communities: 馬喰町 Bakuro-chō Bakuro Town and 横山町Yokoyama-chō Yokoyama Town.  So today’s article is a two-for.

The area falls within the administrative district formerly known as 日本橋区 Nihonbashi-ku Nihonbashi Ward, although today it’s in the special ward called 中央区 Chūō-ku Chūō Ward. Even though Nihonbashi Ward doesn’t exist anymore, the postal addresses 日本橋馬喰町 Nihonbashi Bakurō-chō and 日本橋横山町 Nihonbashi Yokoyama-chō still exist. 

Former Nihonbashi Ward and Kyōbashi Ward were combined to make the modern Chūō Ward. Shinbashi Station, btw, is located in modern Minato Ward.

Nihonbashi Ward in 1935

Nihonbashi Ward in 1935

Nihonbashi, that sounds familiar…

As we all know from my article on the Go-Kaidōin the Edo Period Nihonbashi marked the beginning of 5 highways connecting the shōgunal capital with the rest of Japan[i]These two Edo shitamachi towns were located close to Nihonbashi, so they are forever tied to the merchant town of Nihonbashi.

The place names actually seem to pre-date the Edo Period, though it’s hard to say exactly how long. The prefix 日本橋 Nihonbashi came to be added later, as the Nihonbashi area became more well-known, and I dare say, iconic. With their inclusion in the 日本橋区 Nihonbashi-ku administrative district, the area became officially linked with the name Nihonbashi.

Bakuro-chō

There seem to be two theories, both related to horses.

馬喰 bakuro or bakurō referred to the business of and the people who engaged in the buying and selling of horses. Many horse related businesses, including what we might call equestrian veterinarians today, lived in the area. (I can’t imagine Edo Period veterinary medicine was much different from western veterinary medicine of the time, which means they were probably just putting down sick horses most of the time). Anyhoo, the idea here is that the area catered to shōgunate officials carrying time-sensitive information. All of their horse-related needs could be met here[ii].

The second theory states two merchants who dealt in 博労 bakurō horse/cattle trading held lands here in the late 1500’s. Two names are actually cited in this etymology; 高木源兵衛 Takagi Genbei and 富田半七 Tomita Hanshichi[iii]. This theory links the two words 博労 bakurō with 馬喰 bakurō. My dictionaries say these are kanji variants of the same name. But the kanji are quite different, the latter being a uniquely Japanese word (ie; not imported from China). But who knows.

In short, both theories are tied to horse-related business and the proximity to the roads in and out of pre-Tokugawa and Tokugawa Era Edo seem to match. Neither theory can be confirmed 100%, but I don’t see much reason to dismiss them. The Great Meireki Fire of 1657 saw much of this area destroyed[iv]. Some areas near Nihonbashi, including Yoshiwara were transplanted to the outskirts of the shōgun’s capital. I can easily see keeping horses or cattle so close to Edo Castle and the heart of the city as not just unsightly, but also unhealthy and a waste of prime real estate as the sankin-kōtai system became more entrenched in the development of Edo and the culture that was flourishing.

Check out that hyphenless, spaceless run on place name! This is postal area designated at Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho.

Check out that hyphenless, spaceless run on place name!
This is postal area designated at Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho.

Yokoyama-chō

横山Yokoyama means “side of the mountain” or “mountainside.” Whenever I see a place name with the kanji for mountain (), I immediately wonder “where’s the mountain?” But this area is pretty shitamachi (low city) and so there aren’t so many big hills. There is definitely nothing worthy of being called a mountain. So I had to dig a little deeper.

The 小田原衆所領役帳 Odawara Shūshoryō Yakuchō, a description of territorial holdings of the Late Hōjō clan, mentions fief held by a branch of the 江戸氏 Edo-shi Edo clan called 横山 Yokoyama[v]. Apparently that passing reference is all we have. It doesn’t mention the location of the fief so we can’t be 100% sure, but given the lack of mountains in the area, I’d say a pretty strong case could be made that this area derives its name from the Yokoyama branch of the Edo clan[vi].

I’m happy to say that despite not having all of the details, these are pretty plausible etymologies.

Phew!!!

Map of the Nihonbashi Yokoyama-cho area.  Notice it's right next to Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho.  You can also see the area is surrounded by Asakusa-bashi, Akihabara and Kodenma-cho.

Map of the Nihonbashi Yokoyama-cho area.
Notice it’s right next to Nihonbashi Bakuro-cho.
You can also see the area is surrounded by Asakusa-bashi, Akihabara and Kodenma-cho.

How about today???

Today Bakuro-Yokoyama is known as a shitamachi wholesale district[vii]. In the early Edo Period, the area had about 20 shops. By the end of the Edo Period, there were nearly 150 shops being passed down by successive families[viii]. That number must have been bigger considering unlicensed shops and whatnot. The Great Kantō Earthquake and World War II saw the area knocked down and built up again.

It’s kind of weird but if you’re interested, check out this video.

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[i] There it is again! I resurrected the word “shōgunal!” Still wondering if this is an actual word, though…
[ii] The name is attested pretty early in the Edo Period, which stands to reason since the so-called “first mile marker” at Nihonbashi wasn’t really a Tokugawa invention. Routes in and out of Edo had existed for some time. One can easily imagine an area to take care of incoming and outgoing horses popping up here organically.
[iii] I can’t find a good reading for this name. I’ve seen Hanshichi, Hanbichi, Hashichi, Hahichi, Habichi. Some of those look Edo dialect style, but I’m going with Hanshichi because it is a fairly standard, modern reading of that name. (The 3 I thought looked like the might be the Edo Dialect are in bold – but this is purely conjecture on my part.  I’m not a scholar.)
[iv] Conservative estimates say that 50-60% of the city was burnt to the ground. Others have suggested much more was destroyed. Either way, since the Edo Period this particular area hasn’t been known for horses.
[v] Oh, did you just say “Edo clan?” Yes, I did. Read more about the Edo Clan in my article on Why was Edo called Edo?
[vi] Just to give you a little perspective. You can walk from the oldest portion of Edo Castle to Nihonbashi Yokoyama-chō in under 30 minutes. The distance from the Edo clan’s residence in Kitami to Nihonbashi Yokoyama-chō can be walked in under 20.
[vii] Not sure why I said “is known as” because it “actually is.” lol
[viii] I’ve been tossing around this term “successive _____” for some time now on the blog, and I may have to come back to it later in detail. But basically this refers to the 家元 iemoto system. Someone establishes a business or dynasty and it will be passed down through successive generations of the family.

Why is Kyōbashi called Kyōbashi?

In Japanese History on April 19, 2013 at 1:04 am

京橋
Kyōbashi (Capital Bridge)

What does Kyobashi mean?

The area surrounding Kyobashi Station is in yellow. Note the other major areas, Ginza, Hatchobori, Nihonbashi, and Takaracho. Also note Tokyo Station.

OK, I still haven’t written about the 五街道 Go-kaidō the 5 Highways or Nihonbashi yet, so bear with me.
Oh… I haven’t written about the capital of Japan yet, so bear with me.
Dammit! I haven’t written about 参勤交代 sankin-kōtai (mandatory service to the shōgun) yet! I’m sorry.
Please, please, please, bear with me.

WHEN SORRY ISN'T ENOUGH

I promise to write the rest of the entrees that are necessary soon. After I commit seppuku.

In the Edo Period, there were 5 main roads that connected the domains with the capital in Edo. When Ieyasu began developing Edo as his new capital, he had to connect the city to the rest of Japan. At first, the most important city to connect with Edo was Kyōto because the 朝廷 chōtei Imperial Court was there.

Long story short, the road that connected Tōkyō and Kyōto was called the Tōkaidō. The Tōkaidō began at Nihonbashi (The Bridge to Japan). You’d start in the commercial district and then cross a bridge and head out of the city. As more roads were built to facilitate 参勤交代 sankin-kōtai alternate attendance duty and other travel needs they all had their starting point/termination at Nihonbashi. Edo, being a castle town, was arranged in small neighborhoods and deliberately without a grid (for protection). In the early days of the shōganate, getting out of the city might prove difficult or at least a waste of time if you got lost. So once you crossed Nihonbashi, you passed through 江戸町 Edo no machi, a merchant district, headed south on a road towards 京橋 Kyōbashi.  Once you passed this bridge, you knew you were pointed in the right direction.

Kyobashi in the Edo Period. Sometimes I can't believe that such a beautiful view is what Tokyo is today. The shogun's capital was without a doubt, one of the finest cities in the world.

Kyobashi in the Edo Period. Sometimes I can’t believe that such a beautiful view is what Tokyo is today. The shogun’s capital was without a doubt, one of the finest cities in the world.

Wait a minute. You said 京橋 means “Capital Bridge.”
So why is this bridge taking us out of the capital???

京都 Kyōto means “The Capital, biaaatch.” And in the old days the city was generally just referred to as 京 Kyō “the capital.” In reality, the capital was officially wherever the emperor lived – an argument can still be made for this denomination even today.

Of course, in the Edo Period, the shōgun lived in Tōkyō. It was the de facto capital and by the middle of the Edo Period there was hardly any pretense in calling Kyōto the capital. But that was the name of the city. So Kyōbashi actually had two nuances. If you were leaving, it was the bridge to imperial capital and if you were coming, it was the bridge to the shōganal capital (scil; Edo).

The original Kyōbashi spanned the 京橋川 Kyōbashigawa Kyōbashi River. To the west was Edo Castle, in particular the so-called 大名小路 daimyō kōji daimyō alley (present day Marunouchi). To the east was Takarachō and Hatchōbori.

Kyobashi in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake. Total destruction, but the bridge survived and served the city well.

Kyobashi in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake. Total destruction, but the bridge survived and served the city well.

This picture is also after the Great Kanto Earthquake. The destruction doesn't seem as bad as the former picture. It was taken in the same year as the disaster, but since things seem a little more back to normal, I'm going to guess that this is later that year -- or straight up mislabeled -- but definitely the city seems on its way to recovery.

This picture is also after the Great Kanto Earthquake. The destruction doesn’t seem as bad as the former picture. It was taken in the same year as the disaster, but since things seem a little more back to normal, I’m going to guess that this is later that year — or straight up mislabeled — but definitely the city seems on its way to recovery.

Today, if you walk down from the starting point of the Tōkaidō in Nihonbashi to Kyōbashi station and walk all the way to the expressway, you’ve followed – more or less – the old Tōkaidō road.

In the 1870’s, a stone bridge was built. In 1922, a second wider bridge was built. It withstood the Great Kantō Earthquake like a champ and stayed there until a decade or so after WWII. In 1959 the river was filled in and the bridge disappeared. If you go to the location of the former bridge, you can view the course of the river roughly by following the 東京高速道路 Tōkyō Kōsoku Dōro Tōkyō Expressway from the Marunouchi Exit to the Kyōbashi Exit – easily done on foot. The original bridge stood in 京橋3丁目 Kyōbashi sanchōme near Kyōbashi Station.

One of the original bridge markers from the 1875 Meiji Period bridge remains as a memorial.

One of the original bridge markers from the 1875 Meiji Period bridge remains as a memorial.

A single bridge marker from the Taisho Era bridge remains. The Taisho Era bridge survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and WWII. It's final demise came with the filling in of the river in the 1950's.

A single bridge marker from the Taisho Era bridge remains. The Taisho Era bridge survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and WWII. It’s final demise came with the filling in of the river in the 1950’s. That’s a bad ass stone bridge. Bad Ass!!!

Why is Hatchōbori called Hatchōbori

In Japanese History on April 18, 2013 at 1:58 am

八丁堀
Hacchōbori/Hatchōbori (872.72m Moat)
(two ways to write it in the Roman alphabet, I prefer the former, Hacchōbori, but the later, Hatchōbori, is more common in the Romanization rules used in Tōkyō street signs and train signs, etc.)

Where am i?

Hey look! It’s a sign that says “Hacchobori!”

I had a seriously busy weekend, but I’m trying my best to keep updating this blog Monday through Friday, saving all my free time for research. Next month, I’ll be changing projects, so my weekends will become tight. Not sure what will happen. I think I’ll still have time for updates, but please bear with me if the posts get shorter. I won’t compromise the integrity of my research into these topics, but I might choose easier place names when I have no time.

As always, I want to hear your questions and am happy to take your requests. The more of those the better, actually. I love your questions because they take me out of my own head and let me see what my readers are interested in. So please, keep ‘em coming.

Today we’re talking about 八丁堀 Hatchōbori, the Eight-chō Canal.

What does Hatchobori mean?

That doesn’t look like 873 meters.

This is another generic place name; like Gotanda, like Ueno, like Nakano.

The place name was originally written as 八町堀. The name was made of 3 kanji: 八 hachi, 町 chō a unit of measurement (1=109.09m), and 堀 hori  (channel or moat). The station and the area is near Edo Castle, so it’s obvious that this was a reference to the castle. It’s not a defensive moat, it’s a canal. In the Edo Period the best way to transport goods within a city was often by a small boat on a canal. This canal happened to be about half a mile long. Good for it.

What does Hacchobori mean?

I’ve always wanted to take a boat tour of Tokyo. One of these days…

Why did the middle kanji become ?

The second character is just a simplified variant of the first. Both forms are used in modern Japanese.

Most of the channel was filled in during the 50’s and 60’s, but some of it remains and still has a few boats in it.

There was an old TV show set in the Edo Period called 八丁堀ノ七人 Hatchobori no Shichinin The Hatchōbori Seven. I’ve never seen the show (and hadn’t even heard of it until now), but supposedly it ran for 3 years. The show featured seven “detectives” who lived in Hatchōbori. I don’t know if there’s any truth to “police” living in this area or not. But it looks like those weird samurai TV that are made for old people.

What does ___ mean in Japanese?

The area that is now called Hatchobori is in dark red.

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