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What does Hamamatsu-cho mean?

In Japanese History on April 23, 2014 at 5:09 pm

浜松町
Hamamatsu-chō (seaside pine town, more at Hamamatsu town)

View towards Shiba-Daimon from Hamamatsu-cho.

View towards Shiba-Daimon from Hamamatsu-cho. The hills in the far background are Shiba and Zojo-ji.

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There’s not a lot to go on with this place name. A lot of it adds up, but a lot of it doesn’t. As such, we’ll probably have to do a little more filling in the gaps than I like to do. But anyways, let’s see where this takes us.

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On the record, here’s what we’ve got.

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At the beginning of the Edo Period, the 増上寺代官 Zōjō-ji daikan magistrate of Zōjō-ji[i] 奥住久右衛門 Ozumi Kyūemon[ii] lived here. Because of that, the area was called affectionately called 久右衛門町 Kyūemon-chō Kyūemon Town.

However, in 1696 there was an official name change attributed to the assignment of a certain 権兵衛 Gonbei as successor to the magistracy. The area was renamed 浜松町 Hamamatsu-chō Hamamatsu Town because Gonbei happened to be from 遠江国浜松藩 Tōtōmi no Kuni Hamamatsu-han Hamamatsu Domain, Tōtōmi Province.

If you walk up the street from the above photo, you'll end up at what is called Shiba Daimon today. This street led directly to the Tokugawa Funerary Temple, Zojo-ji. The gate is called Daimon "the Big Gate" and once you crossed it, you entered the outskirts of the temple precinct.

If you walk up the street from the above photo, you’ll end up at what is called Shiba Daimon today. This street led directly to the Tokugawa Funerary Temple, Zojo-ji. The gate is called Daimon “the Big Gate” and once you crossed it, you entered the outskirts of the temple precinct.

Or so they say…

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That is the “official story” endorsed by 東京都港区 Tōkyō-to Minato-ku Minato Ward, Tōkyō Metropolis.

There are a few red flags here. And there are some quick fixes for those. Let’s look at them, and I’ll let you decide on your own what you think is actually going on here.

The original village headman, Kyūemon, had a family name. This meant he would have been a descendant of the imperial court or a samurai. Judging by his given name and his location, one can easily assume he was a samurai. Only noble families were granted inheritable surnames (officially, at least).

At first glance, this Gonbei guy from Hamamatsu Domain had no family name… at least not on record. This is extremely suspicious on some levels. One would think the village headman should be a person of some distinction. So, where’s the family name?

On top of all that, because it was such a common name among commoners after the Meiji Coup, sometimes “Gonbei” can be used to refer to any idiot from the country. And to make matters even worse, “Gonbei” can also be used to refer to a person whose name we don’t know at all[iii]. All of these would normally be red flags for me. But poor Gonbei might have some circumstantial evidence (supported by some speculation) working in his favor.

 

I have no picture of Gonbei so instead I give you a woman washing her drying her pussy in an alcove.

I have no picture of Gonbei so instead I give you a woman drying her pussy in an alcove.

 

After the defeat of the Late Hōjō in 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu took a deal which Toyotomi Hideyoshi thought would resign Ieyasu to a backwater[iv]. But Ieyasu modernized the castle town that Ōta Dōkan, um, in his own day started on a path towards urbanization[v]. All of this risky modernization was justified when Ieyasu’s forces won the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. In 1603, he was granted the title of  征夷大将軍 sei’i tai-shōgun official-fucker-up-of-the-barbarians.

When Ieyasu moved his clan to Edo, one would think that only his chief retainers came with him. But merchants and artisans viewed as critical were encouraged to come and jump start the building of his new capital. Merchants from his former holdings came to Edo in droves after 1603. Japanese history books often talk about Mikawa samurai and the influence they had in Edo as they came from the same province Ieyasu was born in, 三河国岡崎藩 Mikawa no Kuni Okazaki-han Okazaki Domain, Mikawa Province. However, during his rise to power, Ieyasu was lord of 岡崎城 Okazaki-jō Okazaki Castle, then 駿府城 Sunpu-jō Sunpu Castle, and finally 浜松城 Hamamatsu-jō Hamamatsu Castle[vi].

Super digital Hamamatsu Castle with cherry blossoms.

Super creepy digital Hamamatsu Castle with cherry blossoms.

 

Given the amount of artist and merchant relocation from Ieyasu’s previous holdings to Edo, it’s not unreasonable to assume some guy named Gonbei from Hamamatsu ended up in this area. If he were clever and resourceful enough, could he become a 名主 nanushi village headman?

Well, it turns out there’s a possible explanation for this. It seems that the Tokugawa Shōgunate gave a fair degree of autonomy to each village and that the villages could actually elect their headmen. If we assume that Gonbei was elected, we might also be able to assume that Kyūemon had been appointed in the beginning to ensure the shōgunate’s master plan was being implemented correctly. After he died or retired, the village would be left to their own devices and the “democratic” system of self-governance would take effect.

Gonbei, clearly a commoner, may have borne the epithet 浜松権兵衛 Hamamatsu Gonbei to distinguish himself from other Gonbeis in the village (it was a high frequency name, after all).

Is this etymology a hard, historical fact? No, it isn’t. With a little background and a little guess work can we make it work? Clearly so. And as skeptical as I was when I first heard the theory, I have to say this one can be wrapped up fairly tidily. But even if it weren’t true, we still gain a little insight into the building up of Edo, and – I don’t know about you, but – I didn’t know the villages were given that kind of autonomy.

勉強になりました benkyō ni narimashita I learned some shit.

Hamamatsu-cho Station in 1909, 1941, and 1996.

Hamamatsu-cho Station in 1909, 1941, and 1996.

 

The area was (is) located on Edo (Tōkyō) Bay. The kanji 浜 hama means seaside[vii]. 松 matsu means pine trees. A literal reading of the kanji would lead one to believe there were pine trees by the sea. I thought for sure I’d come across this theory, but I haven’t found anything yet[viii].

Next to Hamamatsu-chō Station, you’ll find a stunning daimyō garden called 旧芝離宮庭園 Kyū-Shiba Rikyū Teien Former Shiba Detached Palace. This is an interesting spot because it was originally the site of a senior councilor of the shōgun, 大久保忠朝 Ōkubo Tadatomo. He brought some stone gateposts from the former fortress of a retainer of the 後北条 Go-Hōjō the Late Hōjō[ix], and used them as the foundation of a 茶室 chashitsu teahouse. The teahouse is gone, but the stone posts remain on a hill on the site. If you erase the skyscrapers and put yourself into the dawn of the Edo Period, you can totally imagine enjoying tea in a small house, then exiting the building to enjoy a view of the ocean.

 

The foundations of the teahouse built from the gateposts of Matsuda Norihide’s fortress. Edo Period recycling at it’s best… I suppose. Looks a little cramped.

 

The Edo Period buildings have not lasted — for a number of reasons, least of which is the legacy of its name 離宮 rikyū which is term applied to secondary homes of the imperial family. It was an imperial “detached palace” until the end of WWII. As luck would have it, the imperial family didn’t fuck with the garden too much and as such we have 1 of 2 preserved daimyō gardens in Tōkyō. (Keep in mind there were hundreds of gardens spread across Edo.)

 

Perfect place to end the article. A true blend of Edo-Tokyo.

Perfect place to end the article.
A true blend of Edo-Tokyo.

 

 

 

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[i] I didn’t know that temples had magistrates, which raises more questions about pre-Tokugawa and early Tokugawa organizations of civil administration. Grad students, there are a few theses in there.
Also, remember, Zōjō-ji became the first Tokugawa Funerary temple in Edo when the 2nd shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada asked that he and his wife be interred there. The connection between this area and the Tokugawa is profoundly felt, even today.
[ii] This family name can also be read Okuzumi or Okusumi. I don’t know which is correct for this dude.
[iii] By the way, both of these are modern uses of the name, not pre-modern.
[iv] Edo Bay is a ridiculously defensible bay. Ieyasu probably couldn’t have gotten luckier in this deal – albeit he had to refashion his castle in the grand new style ushered in by Oda Nobunaga.
[v] Long time readers will know well my position on the myth that Edo was just “an obscure fishing village.” If you don’t know, read my article on What does Edo mean?
[vi] Located in 三河国 Mikawa no Kuni Mikawa Province, 駿河国 Suruga no Kuni Suruga Province, and 遠江国 Tōtōmi no Kuni Tōtōmi Province, respectively.
[vii] This is the same hama in Yokohama, also on the sea.
[viii] In Tokugawa Ienobu’s time, many pine trees were planted in the Tokugawa Seaside Palace here, which adds further confusion. That palace, also very nearby was, coincidentally, called 浜御殿 Hama Goten the Seaside Palace and today is called 旧浜離宮 Kyū-Hama Rikyū the Former Hama Detached Palace. This “hama” is actually a reference to the seaside and supposedly has no connection to the name Hamamatsu-chō.
[ix] Based in Odawara, they were the rulers of much of Kantō prior to Ieyasu.

What does Sendagi mean?

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on April 14, 2014 at 8:28 am

千駄木
Sendagi (a lot of trees)

sendagi_station

Sendagi is a mixed residential and shopping area between Nezu and Yanaka[i]. Today the area is distinctly shitamachi[ii]. However, if you go there you’ll notice slopes which are clear indicators that in the Edo Period the area was mixed with the elites living on the yamanote (high city) and the merchants and other people living on in the shitamachi (low city) while low ranking samurai naturally lived on the hillsides according to rank.

The area of Tōkyō extending from Ueno Station[iii] out to Nippori Station[iv] is one of the most popular destinations for lovers of Edo-Tōkyō to take walks. There are many different routes one could take through this area, but one common route is walking the 谷根千 Yanesen, an abbreviation based on the collective areas of  谷中 Yanaka, 根津 Nezu, and 千駄木 Sendagi. The area is dotted with temples, shrines, shops dating as far back as the Edo Period, and is literally so steeped in history that it would probably take a book to do it justice[v]. Also, there are a lot of references to past articles, so be sure to check the footnotes (remember, they’re clickable).

Given the cultural richness of the area, I will just point you here, and move on to the timeline of Sendagi and then get into the place name itself. If that’s alright with you…

Edo Period gate to the residence of the Komagome Village headman.

Edo Period gate to the residence of the Komagome Village headman.

The area was formerly part of 駒込村 Komagome Mura Komagome Village and in fact today is still officially part of Komagome[vi]. The name Komagome isn’t attested until the Sengoku Period. One the other hand, 千駄木 Sendagi isn’t attested until the early Edo Period when it appears as a label in a map. The label reads 上野東漸院持ち駒込千駄木御林 Ueno Tōzen’in mochi Komagome Sendagi o-hayashi the Komagome Sendagi o-hayashi which is controlled by Ueno Tōzen Temple. Another early Edo Period map includes the label 上野寒松院持ち駒込千駄木御林 Ueno Kanshō’in mochi Komagome Sendagi o-hayashi the Komagome Sendagi o-hayashi which is controlled by Ueno Kanshō Temple. An 御林 o-hayashi was a hilltop wooded area owned by the shōgunate, but control of the area was granted to a lord or temple[vii]. Which temple was actually in control of Komagome Sendagi O-hayashi at what time isn’t clear to me, but it’s not really important for us today[viii].

O-hayashi Inari Shrine in Sendagi is one of the legacies of the old forest.

O-hayashi Inari Shrine in Sendagi is one of the legacies of the old forest.

About 1656, the former hilltop forest came to be the site of a daimyō residence of the lords of 豊後国府内藩 Bungo no Kuni Funai Han Funai Domain, Bungo Province (present day Oita Prefecture in Kyūshū). The family was the 大給松平家 Ōgyū Matsudaira, a samurai family from 三河国 Mikawa no Kuni Mikawa Province, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s homeland. As Edo depended on the shōgunate and the shōgun himself was from Mikawa, having a Mikawa family bearing the name Matsudaira bolstered the area’s prestige[ix]. The hill became a yamanote town comprised of high ranking samurai residences. It seems that because the Ōgyū residence was first the prestigious palace built on the hilltop, the area came to be to be known as 大給坂 Ōgyūzaka Ōgyū Hill. If you go to the top of Ōgyūzaka there is a crappy little park with a huge gingko tree called the 大銀杏 Ōichō[x]. They say this tree stood inside the original Ōgyū property.

Yup. That's a big tree, alright.  OK, let's move on.

Yup. That’s a big tree, alright.
OK, let’s move on.

Nearby is another hill called 道灌山 Dōkanyama. It’s said that at the end of the Muromachi Period, 太田道灌 Ōta Dōkan had a branch castle here which he built for tactical support of 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle[xi]. I only jumped way back in time to mention this because… well, you’ll see.

Dokanyama is the large slope next to Nishi-Nippori Station. I've seen this hill hundreds of times, but I never knew it was called Dokanyama until today. Cool!

Dokanyama is the large slope next to Nishi-Nippori Station.
I’ve seen this hill hundreds of times, but I never knew it was called Dokanyama until today.
Cool!

 

OK, so now let’s look at the kanji.

 


sen
1000

da
a pack horse;
a load carried by a pack horse

gi
tree

 

WTF?! This fucking kanji again?

WTF?!
This fucking kanji again?

The other day, we looked at 千駄ヶ谷 Sendagaya and we learned that 千駄 senda was another word for 沢山 takusan a lot. If we want to take the kanji as they are written today, which is by all means the easiest way to do things, we can deduce that the name 千駄木 Sendagi means “a lot of trees.” From what we know, the place name is first written down[xii] in the early Edo Period. From what we know, the area was a hilltop forest at that time. One could make a very strong case that this is the origin of the name Sendagi.

 

But it’s Never That Easy, Is It?

So there are some other theories of varying quality – or a few variations with some anecdotal stories added to lend credence to the general narrative[xiii]. OK, so where to begin?

 

Sexxxy firewood. Awwwwww yeah!

Sexxxy firewood.
Awwwwww yeah!

 

The 1000 Da Theory

In the late Muromachi Period and opening years of the Edo Period, the forest here was used for lumber or for firewood. You could easily get 千駄 sen da 1000 da each day. (If you don’t know what 1000 da are, you should read the last article). This is basically adding information to the above theory.

 

Chinaberry is a flowering tree. There are many planted around Edo Castle. In the background you can see (I think) Shimizu Mon.

Chinaberry is a flowering tree. There are many planted around Edo Castle.
In the background you can see (I think) Shimizu Mon.

The Ōta Dōkan Did It Theory

During the construction of Edo Castle (or perhaps his aforementioned branch castle), Ōta Dōkan used the area for lumber. After cutting down so many trees, he re-forested the area by planting 栴檀 sendan Chinaberry trees here. In the old Edo accent, sendan ki became sendagi. The Ōta Dōkan thing could be true or not. Who knows? The Chinaberry tree thing? It’s possible. Still, we’re looking at a bunch of trees any way you look at it.

 

20121218160224a11

 

It’s a Reference to a Traditional Japanese Prayer For Rain

The last theory is interesting. The godfather of Japanese folklore and linguistics, 柳田國男 Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), actually spoke about this place name. The reason his story bears repeating is because he insisted that prior to the Meiji Restoration, the common narrative of Japanese history was the story of the elite classes only. The day to day toils and reality of the commoners was just omitted. He was also fascinated by the variety of Japanese dialects and began laying the groundwork for modern Japanese dialectology.

Anyhoo, his theory says that in the Edo Period, and indeed, in his youth, at the beginning of summer as the rains got scarcer, the farmers would bring 1000 da of reeds or wood to the nearest body of water and burn them as an 雨乞い amagoi prayer for rain. In the common parlance, this activity was called 千駄焚き senda-taki burning 1000 da. While he was making some of the first modern dialect maps of Japan, he noticed that in many parts of the country the phrase senda-taki was contracted to sendaki. He speculated that this might be the origin of both Sendagi (sendaki – burning 1000 da of wood) and Sendagaya (senda kaya – buring 1000 da of reeds).

His speculation is interesting because he’s a guy who was born with the first 10 years of the Meiji Era, watched Japan modernize, go all crazy theocratic and fascistic, be occupied by a foreign power for the first time ever, modernize again, and host the Olympics. He also lived through the greatest and fastest advances in linguistics and the scientific method.

Kunio himself. Or as I like to call him, "kun'ni."

Kunio himself.
Or as I like to call him, “kun’ni.”

 

So Which Theory Is Correct?

With all this talk of Yanagita Kunio, it’s gotten me thinking about my choice in terminology up to this point on JapanThis!. Linguistics is a science and as such when talking within the framework of science, terminology is important. I’ve been using the word “theory” for some time in the vernacular sense. But “theory” actually means a kind of testable model – something that is so predictable that we can say it’s a fact – for example; the Theory of Gravity or the Theory of Evolution. These things we know are true. The correct term for dealing with much of what I write about on this blog is “speculation.” Unless we have an actual historical document saying “so-and-so named this place such-and-such because of this-and-that” were are dealing with speculation[xiv].

but_i_digress

 

As usual, we saw some interesting speculations today. Without extraordinary evidence, I tend to err on the side of simplicity. For me, I like the literal reading of the kanji. There were a lot of trees in the area. I think the rest of the stories are embellishments, folk etymologies, or downright wishful thinking and coincidence.

Then again, what do I know? I’m just some dude with an internet connection.

 

 

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[i] See my article on Yanaka.
D’oh! I’ve never written about Yanaka before. Weird. Well, anyways, if you scroll down a little bit, on the right hand side there is a list of the 50 most recent articles. Above the list is a search field. If you type “yanaka,” a ton of articles will come up. (If you click word “yanaka” above, it will bring up the same list of articles. Can everyone say, “let me google that for you?”)

[ii] In the modern sense of the word.

[iii] See my super old article on Ueno. Or not, because I just looked at it and it sucks. It’s from when I started covering place names. Night and day difference.

[iv] See my super old article on Nippori. One of the early ones that got researched well.

[v] Here’s an English article I came across about the Yanesen.

[vi] See my article on Komagome here.

[vii] The emphasis on hilltop is most likely because the low city was developed for commerce and commoners and wouldn’t have had many trees, whereas the hilltops were kept lush and green.

[viii] More interesting is that both temples still exist. Tōzen’in was established in 1649 and is affiliated with Kan’ei-ji, the Tokugawa Funerary Temple. You can find Tōzen’in in Uguisudani. Kanshō’in, established in 1627, is also in Uguisudani and is also affiliated with Kan’ei-ji. In fact, later they became of a sub-temple of 上野東照宮 Ueno Tōshō-gū. See my article on Uguisudani here. Don’t worry that the temples are located in Uguisudani and not Komagome – although it’s walking distance, both temples have actually been relocated a few times.

[ix] Keep in mind, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s real family name was Matsudaira.

[x] Literally, big ass gingko tree.

[xi] However, there is an alternate theory which claims the name Dōkanyama is actually derived from a powerful noble who had a fortified residence here in the Kamakura Period. His name was 関道閑 Seki Dōkan.

[xii] A first attestation doesn’t necessarily mean the name was created at that time. It only means it was the first time anyone bothered writing it down. So, in theory, a name in Kantō could be hundreds of years old before anyone made a record of it that we still have.

[xiii] It’s not always the case, but when you get anecdotal stories, your BS Detector should start blinking; often times these stories reek of folk etymology.

[xiv] Even in that case, the document would have to be proven authentic and written by the person who named the place.

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