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What does Jinnan mean?

In Japanese History on March 9, 2020 at 4:52 pm

神南
Jinnan (southern spirit; more at “south of the shrine”)

jinnan shibuya
Last time, we explored 宇田川町 Udagawa-chō Udagawa-chō which is located in 渋谷 Shibuya Shibuya. One of the points I hoped to start to convey is that place names in 東京 Tōkyō Tōkyō are far more complicated than you’d think at an initial glance. When most people say “Shibuya,” they could be referring to the train station and its immediate surroundings. That said, they could also be referring to the larger administrative district known as 渋谷区 Shibuya-ku Shibuya Ward. You’ve probably never heard anyone refer to Udagawachō or 神南 Jinnan Jinnan, yet people living in Shibuya will probably recognize these place names, even if they don’t use them regularly. But lucky for you, we’re going to do a deep dive into the real Shibuya.

Just a quick refresher on your Edo-Tōkyō history. When we get this far west, we’re talking about an area that was straight up rice paddies as far as the eye could see – suburban at best. The area had two major influxes. The first was after the 1923 関東大震災 Kantō Daishinsai Great Kantō Earfquake. The second was after Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945. I like driving this point home again and again because today, Shibuya is a straight up city center. 70 years ago, things would’ve been very different. 100 years ago… whoa, even more different. 150 years ago, you’d just see farmers.

Further Reading:

shibuya magnet 109 mens

109 Mens/Shibuya Magnet

Let’s Look at the Kanji


kami; kan, ; shin/jin

kami (a supernatural being; diety) worshipped at a shrine;
the Japanese emperor (under the system of “State Shintō” – roughly 1868-1945)


minami; nan

south

Now that we know the kanji, I can give you the TL;DR explanation. Jinnan simply means “south of the shrine.” Knowing that the first character can be a reference to the emperor, particularly between 1868 and 1945, I think some of you familiar with Shibuya Ward probably have an idea where this is going. For those of you who don’t and those of you who want to know the whole story, let’s dig into it.

jinnan kafe

Jinnan Cafe in Shibuya

Once Upon a Shrine

In 1868, the last shogun 徳川慶喜 Tokugawa Yoshinobu relinquished control of his capital 江戸 Edo Edo and his seat of government 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle. The recently ascended 明治天皇 Meiji Tennō Meiji Emperor made the long journey from his palace in 京 Kyō the “Capital”[i] to Edo, which was soon renamed 東京 Tōkyō the “Eastern Capital.” As we all know, this was the beginning of the 明治時代 Meiji Jidai Meiji Period. This emperor reigned for a unusually long time – more than 40 years! – which saw Japan transform itself from an isolated “feudal” society into a “westernized” industrial society asserting itself on the global stage by creating a “western style” empire in East Asia[ii]. While the rest of Asia was being overrun by western imperialist powers, Japan had a lot to be proud of. It was a success story in a part of the world that to this day has many countries that are still “developing.”[iii]

Emperor Meiji Dammit

The Meiji Emperor during a fit of constipation

Then the unthinkable happened. Around midnight on July 29th, 1912 (Meiji 44)[iv] at the age of 59[v], the Meiji Emperor left this mortal coil for the first (and last) time. Not only were his wife, 昭憲皇后 Shōken Kōgō Empress Shōken[vi], and his five official concubines[vii] heartbroken, but an entire nation went into mourning. Afterall, this was a descendant of 天照大御神 Amaterasu-no-Ōkami the sun goddess. He had presided over an unprecedented social, economic, political, and technological revolution. People who remembered the final days of the Tokugawa Shōgunate were geriatrics – and there weren’t many of them left, to be sure. Under the leadership of the first “hands on” emperor[viii] in almost a thousand years, Japan had reinvented itself and its society. The institution of the Chrysanthemum Throne was exalted in religious terms that rejected Buddhism as a foreign religion adopted by the samurai of past and placed the emperor at the head of Japan’s native spiritual cults under the banner something we now call 国家神道 Kokka Shintō State Shintō[ix]. The death of the Meiji Emperor was so traumatic, that one of his top generals, 野木丸介 Nogi Marusuke Nogi Marusuke, forced is wife to “commit suicide” before he killed himself in an act of 殉死 junshi following one’s lord to the grave.

Further Reading:

Emperor Meiji Grave

Emperor Meiji’s burial mound in Kyōto

Establishment of Meiji Shrine

Although the Meiji Emperor died in 1912 and his empress in 1914, no major shrine was erected immediately following their passing. They were interred in a Shintō-style burial mound, reminiscent of 古墳 kofun kofun[x], in Kyōto where emperors had been buried since the Heian Period. Because of empire building and the subsequent foreign wars that came along with all that and the massive tragedy of the Great Kantō Earfquake in 1923, the government had a full plate, so building a major shrine in Tōkyō was put on the backburner.

However, things started to settle down a bit, and in 1915, the government chose an iris garden on the grounds of the former suburban palace of 井伊家 Ii-ke the Ii clan[xi] to build a sprawling shrine complex to honor the emperor and his empress[xii]. The imperial couple loved this garden and so the site had been chosen way back in 1912. Wars and whatnot kept the pace slow, but the shittiest architect Japan ever produced, 伊藤忠太 Itō Chūta Itō Chūta[xiii], finished the main hall of 明治神宮 Meiji Jingū Meiji Imperial Shrine in 1920. The government formally dedicated the space in 1920 and all construction was completed in 1921. The space was opened to the public in 1926 and the state bestowed upon it the title of 官幣大社 kanpei taisha, basically Government Shrine #1 (ie; officially this was the most important Shintō shrine in the country even though way more ancient shrines had existed for millennia).

meiji imperial shrine harajuku

Of course, in 1945, the Americans fire bombed Tōkyō back into the stone age and the shrine was lost. Sadly, it took about 13 years to rebuild the shrine, but in 1958, the current iteration of the shrine was complete. So yeah, for you tourists coming to Tōkyō for the first time, this isn’t an ancient shrine. It’s from the 1920’s, but what you’re looking at is from the 1950’s and… well, it’s still an important shrine. It’s just really modern as far as “important shrines” go[xiv].

Further Reading:

map shibuya jinnan romaji

That’s Cool and All, But I Thought We were Talking about Jinnan…

We’re are definitely talking about Jinnan. So, settle the fuck down, OK? I just wanted to give y’all some context, dammit. You know, because the rest of the story isn’t very interesting, to be completely honest. From here on out, it’s just bureaucratic mumbo jumbo. That said, it’s how we have to wrap this story up.

As I mentioned, Meiji Shrine opened in 1926, but there was a major administrative shake up in 1928. This area used to be called 東京府豊多摩郡渋谷町 Tōkyō-fu Toyotama-gun Shibuya Machi Shibuya Town, Toyotama District, Tōkyō Prefecture[xv]. A huge swath of that district was made up of the areas formerly known as of 前耕地 Maekōchi Maekōchi, 豊沢 Toyosawa Toyosawa, 宇田川 Udagawa Udagawa, and 深町 Fukamachi Fukamachi which were merged and the new area was named 神南町 Kannami-chō Kannami-chō which literally means “the town south of the shrine.” Careful observers will notice that Kannami uses the same kanji as Jinnan.

toyosawa kaizuka shell mound

Toyosawa Kaizuka – a Jōmon Period shell mound in Shibuya Ward.

Fast forward to 1963, Japan establishes the precursor to the modern postal code system. Long time readers of JapanThis! will be familiar with the effect this law has had on local place names. The first thing that happened is that Kannami-chō was divided up into three new administrative districts: 神山町 Kamiyama-chō Kamiyama-chō which means “shrine hill,” 神宮前 Jingūmae Jingūmae which means “in front of the shrine,” and 渋谷区神南一丁目神南二丁目 Shibuya-ku Kannami itchōme/nichōme 1st and 2nd blocks of Kannami, Shibuya Ward.

Fast forward to 1970, Shibuya Ward declares that Kannami shall henceforth be read as Jinnan. But why? You see, in 1946, sweeping orthographic reforms[xvi] were applied to the Japanese language. One of the most important aspects of this was the establishment of 当用漢字 tōyō kanji, an official list of 1,850 general use characters[xvii]. Basically, to be considered literate, you needed to know all these characters. One aspect of these reforms was to eliminate irregular readings of kanji. Basically, they wanted to simplify things for the benefit of public literacy. As Japan’s economy transformed from agriculture to manufacturing, having everyone on same proverbial page as quickly as possible was imperative. It took seven years to do anything about it, but eventually Kannami had to change because it was a flagrant example of irregular kanji reading under the tōyō kanji prescriptions which weren’t just suggestions but actual law. I mean, nobody was going to go to jail for irregular kanji use, but a city ward in the capital wouldn’t be setting a good example if it just endorsed wacky place name, right?

Now, this wasn’t just pedantry by fiat. There’s an interesting logic behind this name change. Meiji Shrine uses the word jingū (grand shrine; imperial shrine). The area in front of the shrine is called Jingūmae, and so Jinnan fits the naming pattern nicely. The name is easier to read, easier to remember, and the ward can wrap this linguistic package up nicely with a tidy little bow.

yoyogi park greasers

“Greasers” dancing in Yoyogi Park. They have great taste in shoes, but terrible taste in music lol

Heart of Shibuya

I mentioned in my last article on Udagawa-chō that anyone who has ever visited Shibuya had most definitely been in that neighborhood. I’m gonna go out on a limb and make the same claim about Jinnan. It’s right next to Udagawa-chō and so similar that unless you check the postal codes on buildings, you probably wouldn’t notice that you’d passed from one area to the other.

band maid tower records shibuya

Tower Records, Shibuya (Jinnan)

Jinnan is essentially a shopping and business district. As of 2017, its population was a whopping 576 people; most of the people you see around are either customers, tourists, or employees of some sort. In this respect, it’s very similar to Udagawa-chō. The area is home to OIOI Marui Marui Department Store, 109 Mens Ichi Maru Kyū Menzu 109 Mens Department Store, and タワーレコード Tawā Rekōdo Tower Records, the main hub for all things J-Pop and J-Rock.

photo by Arne Müseler / www.arne-mueseler.com

Yoyogi National Stadium

It’s not just shopping, though. NHK放送センター NHK Hōsō Sentā NHK Broadcast Center is in Jinnan. 代々木公園 Yoyogi Kōen is in Jinnan. Also, this is home to 国立代々木競技場 Kokuritsu Yoyogi Kyōgijō the Yoyogi National Gymnasium designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect, 丹下健三 Tange Kenzō Tange Kenzō[xviii], which served as the gymnasium and pool for the 1964 Tōkyō Olympics. Apparently, this facility will be used for handball, whatever the fuck that is, in the 2020 Tōkyō Olympics… that is, if they’re not cancelled because of the coronavirus. There are also a handful of businesses offering high-end sexual services, but unless you’re Japanese, these are probably off the table for you[xix].

Further Reading:

shibuya crossing intersection intersexion jinnan

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I’ve got nothing to say, really. Basically, Jinnan is just like Udagawa-chō. It’s what most people think of when they think of Shibuya: the shopping district right in front of Shibuya Station’s ハチ公口 Hachikō-guchi Hachikō Exit.

On a side note, I just noticed that my last article was number 333. That’s just half of 666!!! It’s taken a while to get there, and finally reaching the number of the beast[xx] will definitely take more time as my earliest articles were pretty short and cheesy. I do much more intensive research now. But, hey, here we are. Thanks for reading and sharing, and for those of you try to support the site financially when you can, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

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Explore Edo-Tōkyō With Me Japan This Guided Tours
(It’s not for tourists, it’s for history nerds!)

 


[i] Also known as 京都 Kyōto Kyōto – duh.
[ii] Yes, I know. Lots of “scare quotes” in that sentence, but that’s because I’m going to “breeze over” all the “nuance” required to “explain” that stuff because it really isn’t important to our “story” today.
[iii] There are those “scare quotes” again.
[iv] The official announcement was on July 30th, at 00:42 so this is the official day of his passing. However, he actually died on July 29th at 22:40. トメトトマト
[v] That’s 413 in dog years!!!
[vi] Her “real name” was 一条勝子 Ichijō Masako. How very Kyōto of her.
[vii] Dude had plenty of side bitches on the DL, too.
[viii] Again, “scare quotes.” How “hands on” the dude actually was… yeah, that’s a conversation for another time.
[ix] It should be said, “State Shintō” was a term created by the American Occupation as a way to erase the cult of “emperor worship.” The term was useful for discussing the need to include the Separation of Church and State in the new post-war constitution.
[x] Ancient burial mounds built between 250-550 CE, essentially the period that saw the consolidation of a “national polity” based around the Yamato clan (ie; the imperial family) before the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. Small versions of these mounds were popular during the Meiji Period among elites who wished to express their loyalty to the emperor. The last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, even requested that he not be buried with the other shōguns and given a Shintō-style grave.
[xi] Yes, the Ii clan. As in 井伊直正 Ii Naomasa Ii Naomasa, one of the first shōgun’s most trusted generals, and 井伊直弼 Ii Naosuke Ii Naosuke, the shogunal regent who decided to end Japan’s isolationist policy, only to be assassinated by anti-foreigner terrorist from 水戸藩 Mito Han Mito Domain in front of Edo Castles notorious 桜田御門 Sakurada Go-mon Sakurada Gate.
[xii] Not sure what happened to the concubines and side bitches. Maybe I’ll look into that some day for y’all.
[xiii] Long time readers will recognize this assclown as the architecture of 月島本願寺 Tsukishima Hongan-ji Tsukishima Hongan Temple which I included in this article.
[xiv] Whoa. There are those “scare quotes” again. Seems to be a theme today.
[xv] By the way, Toyotama District was a huuuuuuge area. It used to comprise: 内藤新宿町 Naitō Shinjuku Machi Naitō Shinjuku Town, 淀橋町 Yodobashi Machi Yodobashi Town, 大久保村 Ōkubō Mura Ōkubō Village, 戸塚村 Totsuka Mura Totsuka Village, 渋谷村 Shibuya Mura Shibuya Village, 千駄ヶ谷村 Sendagaya Mura Sendagaya Village, 中野宿 Nakano-shuku Nakano Post Town, 杉並村 Suginami Mura Suginami Village, 高井戸宿 Takaido-shuku Takaido Post Town. I’ve covered most of those place names, so place use the search function if you’re interested in following up on them.
[xvi] “Orthographic reforms” is just smart people talk for “spelling reforms.” Yes, I’m a smart person.
[xvii] In 1981, this system was updated to 常用漢字 jōyō kanji everyday use kanji which were the 1,945 characters in use when I moved to Japan. However, in 2010, the government increased jōyō kanji to 2,136 characters. For native speakers, this was no big deal, as many of these kanji had crept back into common usage anyway, but this was a pretty frustrating move for people studying Japanese for the first time. I mean, they literally made one of the biggest hurdles for most people, ie; kanji, even more intimidating.
[xviii] Even if you’re not into architecture, Tange is a giant in the field. Ever been to 広島平和記念公園 Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Kōen Hiroshima Peace Park? Yeah, he designed that. Dude is kind of a big deal.
[xix] I guarantee you that somebody is googling this now.
[xx] By the way, the so-called “number of the beast” (ie; 666) is the number you get when you add up Emperor Nero’s name in Ancient Greek.

What does Harajuku mean?

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Travel in Japan on April 7, 2016 at 3:01 pm

原宿
Harajuku
(first post town, more at “rest spot on the plain”)

harajuku stupid

Let this image sink in for a minute.

I get emails about the blog. Not a shitload, but I get them from time to time. However, it’s rare that I get blindsided by an email.

That said, I love getting blindsided by emails, so let’s check this out.

I recently moved to Japan and I’m living in Yoyogi. I spend a lot of time in Harajuku. Because I’m studying Japanese now I’m interested in the kanji for Shinjuku and Harajuku. You’re article on Shinjuku was amazeballs and it got me thinking. But I can only find information on Yoyogi and Shinjuku. I searched your website and can’t find anything about Harajuku. Do you have a plan to write about Harajuku? Love the blog. Looking forward to your next article!

I was outraged! I must’ve written about Harajuku 100 thousand times at least.

Well, OK, not 100 thousand times, but I know I’ve written about Harajuku at least 100 times. And I set out to prove this reader wrong, goddammit.

wrong.jpg

But She was 100% Correct

I searched my own site like crazy, convinced that I’d covered the subject before. After all, it’s such a simple one; I knew I had to have written about it! But after a good 15 minutes of scavenging my own work for a single article about Harajuku, I realized that I’ve mentioned Harajuku and the surrounding areas many times, but I’ve actually never written about the etymology of Harajuku itself.

Dear reader, I stand corrected, and this glaring omission is going to be remedied today – right freaking now. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention[i].
.

As for some related articles, you might want to check later:

.

Japanese vs English google seach

Your image of Harajuku probably depends on your ethnicity, culture, and language. The image of the left was the first image that came up on a Google image search in Japanese. The image on the right is the first image that came up when I searched in English.

 

First Let’s Look at the Kanji


hara, gen

origin, source, beginning; field, plain

宿
shuku/juku, yado

inn, post town

At first glance the word 原宿 Harajuku looks like it means “first post town,” but its actual etymology is “post town on the plains.” You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

Like many place names in the Kantō area, we don’t get a lot of solid information about this place until the Kamakura Period[ii]. Prior to this period elite culture had flourished in Kyōto and western Japan under the imperial court. Kantō cities like Kamakura or (god forbid) Edo[iii], were nothing before the rise of samurai culture in the East under the 源氏 Genji Minamoto clan[iv]. With their rise in the East, came a rise in literacy in the East and much better record keeping.

harajuku station taisho period.jpg

Harajuku Station in the Taishō Period (1920’s), when it was brand spankin’ new.

What Little We Know

It’s said that the 鎌倉街道 Kamakura Kaidō Kamakura Highway going from 相模国 Sagami no Kuni Sagami Province[v] to 大州 Ōshū (roughly modern 岩手県 Iwate-ken Iwate Prefecture) had a post town in the area. But, if you’ve read my article about Shinjuku, don’t get any big ideas. This “town” wasn’t much more than a scattershot collection of farms just barely subsiding on their (luckily) fertile land. Until quite recently, this was the boondocks.

Specifically, it seems to have been a 宿駅 shukueki relay station[vi] for horses. The Kantō area was famous since time immemorial for horse rearing. The highlands near modern Harajuku seem to have been horse grazing areas in the 11th Century. The area was referred to as a 原 hara field/meadow, so 原宿 Harajuku literally meant “field inn.”

But I want to emphasize that it was basically just a horse relay station. This wasn’t a place to eat, sleep, take a bath, and get your dick wet. For the casual traveler in this area, you were lucky to find a little shelter from the elements and a clean dirt floor to sleep on. There wasn’t even a proper village here for most of its existence.

Minamoto_no_Yoshiie.jpg

Minamoto no Yoshiie was held up as the paragon of samurai values by Minamoto no Yoritomo, founder of the first shōgunate. The family’s reverence of his ideals and beliefs (true or not) came to permeate all of samurai culture. As a result, he’s one of those mysterious people who affected Japanese culture in a way that would have blown his mind if he could rise from the dead and read about himself on the internet today.

I mentioned the rise of the Minamoto clan in the east, and usually we talk about 源頼朝 Minamoto no Yoritomo the first Kamakura shōgun. But today we’ll talk about an earlier family member, 源義家 Minamoto no Yoshiie also known as Hachimantarō.[vii] During the 後三年合戦 Gosannen Kassen Gosannen War[viii] which was fought in the 1080’s, Yoshiie set up a camp in this area. Today this day in 神宮前2丁目 Jingūmae Ni-chōme 2nd block of Jingūmae there is a hill called 勢揃坂 Seizoroi-zaka which means “hill where troops are mustered.” The hill is also known as 源氏坂 Genji-zaka Genji Hill – Genji, of course meaning “the Minamoto clan” (but you already knew that).

genjizaka

The hill isn’t much to look at today, but if you do a Google image search in Japanese it’s mostly pictures of amazing looking food. I’m gonna follow up on this.

In the Edo Period, the high grounds were home to daimyō residences and high ranking samurai, while the sides of the hills went to low ranking samurai. The lowlands were fields for growing rice and other types of farming. Keep in mind, this area was on the outskirts of the shōgun’s capital. There really wasn’t much action out here at all.

Watermill_at_Onden.jpg

Farmers cleaning off rice in the area. Why is Mt. Fuji so prominent? Because there was NOTHING in this area in the Edo Period.

So What is Harajuku Today?

Today, Harajuku is kind of a cultural clusterfuck. 15-20 years ago, the bridge leading from 原宿駅 Harajuku Eki Harajuku Station to 代々木公園 Yoyogi Kōen Yoyogi Park (in front of  明治神宮 Meiji Jingū Meiji Shrine) was the spot that saw コスプレー kosuprē cosplay evolve from a hobby to a kind of freaky anime-based exhibitionism[ix]. Photographers, tourists, and foreign gamers/anime fans began descending upon the area to experience Japanese cosplay firsthand or even try to participate in the emerging cosplay culture. As cosplay became more mainstream and otaku culture changed, the Japanese レイヤーreiyā ‘layers (slang for cosplayers) disappeared from Harajuku and “the bridge” came to be populated by foreigners copying a 15 year old, outdated practice. The police cracked down on the crowds of foreign cosplayers, but sometimes you can still see a few foreigners hanging out posing for pictures.

Harajuku is also known as a kind of hair salon mecca. In addition to famous hair salons there are also many small boutique shops. The area was traditionally famous for its street fashion, but Gwen Stefani made the area stupid and to the best of my knowledge these days it’s mostly tourists (both international and from the Japanese countryside).

harajuku station today.jpg

Harajuku Station today. Hasn’t changed at much.

Architecturally speaking, Harajuku Station is interesting because the building dates back to 1901 and it looks like a typical station of the time. Unfortunately, at the time it was build this area was pretty undeveloped and the station can barely handle the amount of traffic it gets. It’s just wall to wall people on the weekends and national holidays. Another interesting aspect of the station is a separate pair of train tracks and platform for the 御召し列車 o-meshi ressha emperor’s private train[x]. The imperial family uses the tracks to visit Meiji Shrine at 御正月 o-shōgatsu the New Year holiday because it leads to a super-secret backdoor.

Harajuku-Kyutei-Platform (1).jpg

OK, it’s not so super-secret… But people like you and me can’t use it.

meiji jingū - damn son

Meiji Shrine is a large shrine, but its architecture is very restrained in contrast to the grand shrines/temples of the Tokugawa Shōgunate. That said the amount of land allotted to the shrine speaks volumes of how rural this area once was and how much money the Imperial Household Agency has.

Which brings me to Meiji Shrine. It’s a big shrine dedicated to the 明治天皇 Meiji Tennō Meiji Emperor of whom long term readers will know I’m not a particularly big fan. That said, the shrine is quite beautiful and definitely worth a visit. If you go on 文化の日 Bunka no Hi Culture Day, you can see an event called 流鏑馬 yabusame which is where people dress up like samurai and do mounted archery. It’s pretty fucking cool and I highly recommend it to everyone. Culture Day is on November 3rd which, incidentally, was originally the Meiji Emperor’s birfday.

yabusame doesn't mean broken shark

Yabusame doesn’t mean “broken shark” that would be 破鮫 and that’s just silly. No language needs a word for that.

Also in the area, though technically not in Harajuku, is 東郷神社 Tōgō Jinja Tōgō Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to 東郷 平八郎 Tōgō Heihachirō who was supposedly Japan’s most decorated naval officer. I don’t know a lot about the dude, but apparently his shrine was partially built as an “eff you” by the Imperial Navy to the Imperial Army. The army had erected a shrine to their hero, the general 乃木希典 Nogi Maresuke in Akasaka, so not to be outdone, the navy set up this shrine. It’s actually a really beautiful spot and it’s popular for weddings because of its photogenic traditional garden. I’ve never served in the military, but I know there are rivalries among the branches, I guess this one got us a scenic city retreat. Not bad.

togo shrine

A wedding at Tōgō Shrine

Alright. So in conclusion, I hope you’ve all enjoyed my take on Harajuku. A lot of people have a lot of opinions – both positive and negative, both reality and fantasy – but the history of the area and its etymology are pretty much straight forward.

As always, thanks for reading to the end and thanks for your support.

Next on the agenda, I’m finally getting around to my Yamanote Line series.If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check my Ōedo Line series. It’s gonna be hardcore, so I hope you’ll join me for what will literally be a wild ride!

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__________________
[i] I’d much rather update my blog than slice open my own belly, which is what samurai bloggers used to do when they were wrong.
[ii] We could roughly say the 12th century, but it’s easiest to think of this as the first shift of power away from Kyōto in the west to the Kantō region. Samurai strongmen ruled in the name of the western nobles in the east. The shift in power was a logical leap from stupid court politics to real martial control over fiefs.
[iii] What does Edo mean? What? You thought I didn’t have an article about Edo? lol
[iv] 源氏 Genji is essentially a nickname for 源氏 Minamoto-shi. The kanji is the same, it’s just more common to read it as Genji. It’s the same with the 平家 Hei-ke which is shorthand for 平家 Taira-ke. Again the kanji are the same and the meaning is the same: the Taira clan (well, technically “family,” but same thing).
[v] This area was located in central and western 神奈川県 Kanagawa Ken Kanagawa Prefecture. For the purposes of this article, it’s a reference to Kamakura – the capital of the Kamakura Shōguns.
[vi] If that word 駅 eki sounds familiar, it is. The modern word for train station is 駅 eki. The kanji was originally 驛 eki and the radical 馬 uma horse. Before trains it referred to relay station for changing horses, just as the modern term “post office” originated from places where messengers “posted” their horses.
[vii] Also known as 八幡太郎 Hachimantarō. 八幡 Hachiman is the god of war and ~太郎tarō is a suffix of a boy’s name. Hachiman was the tutelary 神 kami deity of the Minamoto clan. If you’ve ever been to Kamakura, you’ve probably visited the shrine 鶴岡八幡宮 Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū which was built by the first shōgun, Yoritomo. As a result of the Yoshiie and Yoritomo’s  devotion to this deity, it became the de factō tutelary spirit of all samurai.
[viii] This war is waaaaay beyond the scope of this article, but here’s the Wiki about it.
[ix] Now it’s a fulltime job for some people, at least that’s what my Twitter feed leads me to believe.
[x] Yes, the emperor has his own train.

What does Yoyogi mean?

In Japanese History on June 26, 2013 at 1:57 am

代々木
Yoyogi (Generations Old Tree or Trees)

Yoyogi Station.

Yoyogi Station.
Don’t hold me to this, but I think the present Yoyogi Station wasn’t actually part of Yoyogi Village.

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Once again, I want to throw out a million thanks to my readers. If none of you followed, commented, messaged or just generally showed up, I wouldn’t be able to continue. Y’all make this so much fun.

I was asked by a reader the other today to talk about Yoyogi. So I bumped it up in the pecking order. Hope this is a good one.

Hatsune Miku.

And for no particular reason, here’s Hatsune Miku.
random

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The name 代々木村 Yoyogi Mura Yoyogi Village is attested in the writings of the Sengoku Period. But it’s not clear where that name came from. There’s a good chance the name is much older than the Edo Period. But without other records, we can’t say.

In the Edo Period, the area called Yoyogi was what is now more or less the Meiji Jingū and Harajuku Station area.

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Let’s Look at the Kanji:

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代々daidai
alternate: yoyo
an adverb meaning “for generations, for ages”
ki
alternate: gi 

tree

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The simplest explanation seems to be the most believable to me. There were a lot of trees in the area for a long time – generations, if you will.

There are a few slight variations of this theory. The reason I put off doing this place name for so long[i] was because sorting thru all the details of etymologies that varied little except for a slightly different angle or a curious anecdote was too time consuming. Given the amount of time and effort I’ve put into JapanThis since that time, this topic seems much less daunting now[ii]. And in reality, it wasn’t difficult to research this one.

One theory states that 皀莢 saikachi honey locust trees were cultivated here[iii]. I like this theory best because it’s simple and plausible. It doesn’t try to hard.

This is a close up a honey locust tree.  You can see its bean pods. Legumes FTW... or something

This is a close up a honey locust tree.
You can see its bean pods.
Legumes FTW… or something

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Another theory states specifically that on the Ii family’s lower residence, which made up part of Meiji Jingū and some of the hill at the high point of Harajuku, was covered in  樅 momi Japanese fir trees. This story has some cool anecdotes attached to it, but reeks of folk etymology.

a Japanese fir tree, It looks very firry. Good for it.

a Japanese fir tree,
It looks very firry.
Good for it.

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It should be noted that today both types of trees exist in the area around Meiji Jingū, although after WWII, local trees from all over Japan were donated here during the rebuilding effort.
Also, the area that is now Meiji Jingū Gaien was the original site of the Ii clan’s palatial lower residence’s tea garden. To my knowledge, nothing remains of the site.

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If you go to Meiji Jingū, near the garden’s east gate, there is a tree with a sign that says 代々木の大樅 Yoyogi no Ōmomi The Great Japanese Fir of Yoyogi. The tree is no bigger or smaller than any of the other trees near it. But the story goes that once upon a time, there was a super tall Japanese fir tree that had stood here for generations. The current unimpressive tree is a replacement that stands on the site of the original Great Japanese Fir of Yoyogi Village.

This is where the sign says the big fir tree of Yoyogi was.

This is where the sign says the big fir tree of Yoyogi was.
Note: it’s not a fir tree….

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It was said that this 大樅 ōmomi great fir tree on the Ii family’s lower residence was so great, that mapmakers from the shōgunate would climb to the top of it to survey the city. Another anecdote states that the Ii family’s watchmen would keep an eye on the family’s upper residence which was located near the 桜田門 Sakuradamon Sakurada Gate[iv]. In fact, it was said that you could see all the way to Shiba and Edo Bay. Utagawa Hiroshige even painted a picture of the tree titled 代々木村ノ世々木 Yoyogi Mura no Yoyogi The Generations Old Tree of Yoyogi[v].

There was an imperial residence built on the site of the Ii family’s lower residence[vi]. The tree was preserved… or at least the location of the alleged tree. Eventually the land was incorporated into Meiji Jingū and, as I said, the old tree doesn’t exist anymore, but the new tree does and it has its own sign. So, good for it.

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[i] When I started looking into place names, it was one of the first I wanted to write about.

[iii] 代々木 daidai ki, (alternatively, yoyo ki) “generations of trees” was basically shorthand for 代々皀莢ヲ生産  daidai/yoyo saikachi no ki wo seisa “cultivating honey locust trees for generations.”

[iv] I’m sure I’ve alluded to the Sakuradamon Incident (which sounds like a euphemism, it should be called “the Assassination of Ii Naosuke at Sakuradamon”). Many people consider this the opening of the Bakumatsu.

[v] The Yoyogi of Yoyogi. See what he did there? In the second “yoyogi” he used a variant for 代々 daidai/yoyo generations 世々 yoyo. I can’t find this picture on the internet, so if someone can help me find it, I’d really appreciate that!

[vi] Remember, the lower residences were much more palace like and rustic than their urban upper residences near the castle. When the Meiji Era urban sprawl began in earnest, the Harajuku area became a prime target for rich people and the elite imperial family who wanted to build their own estates in the area.

Why is Omotesando called Omotesando?

In Japanese History on February 28, 2013 at 12:06 pm

表参道
Omotesandō (Main Approach to the Meiji Shrine)

Today, Omotesandō is one of Tokyo’s most fashionable and expensive neighborhoods. It’s famous for Japanese and international brand shops and world-renowned hair salons. Its location next to Harajuku, a fashion center for young people, serves a balancing act making Omotesandō a fashion playground for adults. But what the hell does Omotesandō mean?

A 参道 sandō is the general word for a road that leads up to a shrine.

Every shrine has a sandō, even if the word isn’t preserved in a place name. 表 omote means “front” or maybe better put into English as “main.” If you go north from Harajuku on the Chiyoda Line, you’ll find a station called 北参道 Kitasandō (North Approach to the Shrine). But I digress.

The area was a sparsely populated suburb in the Edo Period and Meiji Period. The shrine was finished in the mid-1920’s and the area began to attract business and residences.

omotesando nogi maresuke

this is nogi maresuke a general in the meiji period. he committed seppuku (hara kiri) when the emperor died so he could follow the emperor in death. that’s how crazy shit got in japan after the fucking meiji restoration. (btw – the only reason i put up his picture is because i couldn’t find any pictures of omotesando from the meiji or taisho eras.)

But wait a minute, you say.
The main street that leads up to the Meiji Shrine is called 青山通りAoyama dōri and not Omotesandō. WTF?

omotesando hills

omotesando hills, a big ass shopping mall in the middle of omotesando. (a mall?? in central tokyo?? go figure!!)

Why, yes it is called Aoyama dōri.

Aoyama dōri is not the Omotesandō. It has been and always will be (presumably, I mean) Aoyama-dōri. But beginning in 1920, a bus that traveled up Aoyama dōri to the 表参道 omote sandō began service. The name of the bus was the “Omotesandō Bus.” This is when the connection with the shrine’s omote sandō began. The station that is now Omotesandō Station was originally called 青山六丁目駅 Aoyama roku-chōme eki. Later it was renamed 神宮前駅 Jingū-mae eki. By the 1970’s the neighborhood had a personality of its own, distinct from Harajuku, Aoyama and – of course – the Meiji Shrine, so it was renamed 表参道駅 Omotesandō eki.

nihonshu is japanese sake

if you happen to be in omotesando, hit up the hasegawa saketen in omotesando hills. it’s a great place to do a quick sake tasting.

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