marky star

Posts Tagged ‘minato’

What does Toshima mean?

In Japanese History on May 20, 2013 at 1:24 am

豊島
Toshima (Islands Abound)

Toshima Ward's logo

Toshima Ward’s logo

“However, the name survived. Even on Edo Era maps you can see references to the Toshima District. And these days, it’s one of the 23 Special Ward of Tōkyō. Good for it.”

marky star
(from an earlier, shittier draft of this article)

________________________________

I totally just quoted myself.

For no good reason.

Right then, let’s get started.

Recently I’ve shifted direction towards the northern part of Tōkyō. We’ve touched on the holdings of the Toshima clan quite a bit recently, haven’t we? Shakujii, Nerima, and Itabashi – I covered Ikebukuro a while ago. Up until this point, I’ve been referring to a certain administrative area called 豊島郡 or 豊嶋郡 Toshima-gun Toshima District.

As a real political entity, it seems that the Toshima district is quite ancient. From times immemorial (take that with a grain of salt) the etymology has been consistent. The bay* had a number of undeveloped, natural inlets that meandered well into the interior of what became Edo. Left unchecked, natural channels of water may merge with other natural channels of water and result in island-like formations. This is exactly what happened in this area. In fact, numerous “islands” were formed; one might say there was a proverbial “abundance of islands.”

豊 to richness, abundance
, shima islands

The kanji 豊 to/toyo is a really auspicious character. It’s “nobility ranking” is off the meters**. Given our previouos encounters with ateji in old place names, take that with a grain of salt.

Anyways… the Toshima area is first attested in the 700’s. At the turn of the century (1000’s), the 秩父氏 Chichibu clan (a branch of the Taira) was granted influence over the area by the Imperial court. The branch of Chichibu in Toshima took the name of their fief and became an independent clan***. They maintained dominion over the area until the 1400’s when Ōta Dōkan stepped up and slapped their dicks out of their hands and face-fucked them full-force with the giant phallus that was the Sengoku Era.

Ota Dokan. Don't let the silly hat fool you. He was a beast in the Sengoku Period.

Ota Dokan. Don’t let the silly hat fool you. He was a beast in the boring part of the Sengoku Period.

There were four major clans operating in the area:
豊島氏  the Toshima
渋谷氏  the Shibuya (vassal)
葛西氏  the Kasai (vassal)
江戸氏  the Edo (vassal)
There are place names derived from all of these clans still extant in Tōkyō today

Ōta Dōkan’s actions disrupted the old status quō and throughout the Muromachi Period the area was unstable. However, the district did not collapse or disappear.

The 23 Special Wards of Tokyo. Toshima Ward is circled. Originally Toshima District included the whole of modern day Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Taito, Bunkyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Toshima, Arakawa, Kita, Itabashi and a few other areas outside of the borders of those wards.

The 23 Special Wards of Tokyo. Toshima Ward is circled. Originally Toshima District included the whole of modern day Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Taito, Bunkyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Toshima, Arakawa, Kita, Itabashi and a few other areas outside of the borders of those wards.

The city of Edo was just one of many small cities in the district. Before the arrival of the Tokugawa, the district had been divided into two distinct areas, 北豊島郡 Kita Toshima-gun North Toshima and 南豊島郡 Minami Toshima-gun South Toshima. More about Kita Toshima later this week.

After the arrival of the Tokugawa, much of South Toshima fell under direct rule of the shougun as part of the city of Edo. The remaining areas of district continued to exist as an administrative unit separate from the city of Edo – part of 武蔵国 Musashi no Kuni Musashi Province. In 1868, the Emperor entered Edo Castle and Edo’s name was changed to Tōkyō. The boundary of the new city was different from the shōgun’s capital. The Edo Era Toshima District was incorporated into the new city limits. In 1878, the district was abolished when the new system of 区 ku wards was implemented in Tōkyō. But a district called 北豊島郡 Kita Toshima-gun North Toshima District continued to exist until 1932. An official ward called 豊島区 Toshima-ku Toshima Ward was created that year when all of the districts of Tōkyō were abolished. The kita (north) part of 北豊島 Kita Toshima wasn’t thrown out altogether… and we’ll talk about that missing tomorrow.

.

.

.
_______________________________
* At this point we can’t even say Edo Bay, let alone Tōkyō Bay. It was just “the bay.”
** The so-called second great unifier of Japan, 豊臣秀吉 Toyotomi Hideyoshi, received his -name from the imperial court in 1586. It brought potential lasting prestige to him and his newly founded clan, BUT…. use of the kanji in names and place names declined after the rise of the Tokugawa. And take THAT with a grain of salt, too!
*** I mentioned the Toshima clan in the recent articles about Shakujii and Nerima.

Why is Toriizaka called Toriizaka?

In Japanese History, Japanese Sex on May 14, 2013 at 11:20 pm

鳥居坂
Torīzaka (Torī Hill)

Looking up Toriizaka from Toriizakashita.

Looking up Toriizaka from Toriizakashita.

Between the Azabu-Jūban main street* and Roppongi 5-chōme there is a monster hill. I’ve been told it’s one of the steepest hills in central Tōkyō – I believe it. I’ve walked it many times (it’s not that bad), but you definitely get a work out. FujiTV (?) used to run a short segment at night of hot girls running up famous hills. It’s flat at the top of the hill, but the street continues to Roppongi.

(the following video is not Torīzaka, but you get the idea…)*****

___________________________________

.

The name has always be curious to me because it’s made of two very common Japanese words:

鳥居 torī the “gate” to a Shintō shrine and 坂 saka hill. It would seem obvious except for the fact that there is neither a torī nor a shrine. The closest shrine I know is 麻布十番稲荷神社 Azabu-Jūban Inari Jinja Azabu-Jūban Inari Shrine, but it’s located a fair enough distance from the hill that I doubt there is a connection.

Just now as I’m thinking about it, I suddenly remembered that when the Torīzaka street** crosses the main street (which is a valley), it goes back uphill on the other side of the street. I seem to remember seeing some floats for a small neighborhood Shintō festival one time last year. Now I’m wondering if there is a connection.

What does Toriizaka Mean?

If you know this family crest, you can probably figure out the etymology of Toriizaka by yourself….

Let the investigating begin!

The old maps say that is that a residence of the Torī clan existed here. Retainers of Tokugawa since the Sengoku Era, the family is famous for a certain 鳥居強右衛門 Torī Sunēmon, a loyal samurai who preferred crucifixion to double crossing his bros like a little bitch***. He took it like a man. It wasn’t a daimyō residence, but a relative named 鳥居彦右衛門 Torīzaka Hikoemon who a large samurai residence on the hill. The family was prestigious for their loyalty to the founder of the shōgunate and so the area took pride and referred to the area as 鳥居坂町 Torīzakachō the Torī Hill Neighborhood.

CRUCIFIXION - IT'S NOT JUST FOR JESUS ANYMORE!!!!

The crucifixion of Torii Suneemon, the famous ancestor of whomever lived on Toriizaka. He was crucified by Takeda Katsuyori, one of the greatest douchebags of the Sengoku Period.

The area is still upper class and the buildings – be they schools, embassies or cultural institutions are surrounded by trees and greenery that really reflect the high city of the Edo Period elite. It’s a cool area despite being located right next to Roppongi which has a reputation as the dirty-ass gaijin slime pit of Japan.

.

Roppongi is shithole

.

There is another theory that 氷川神社 Hikawa Jinja Hikawa Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in the area, was originally the bottom of the hill near Azabu-Jūban**** and the street name is a reference to the shrine’s torī. The shrine is located in 元麻布 Moto-Azabu Old Azabu. But according to the information at the shrine, they were originally established in 942 on the same street and hill in Moto-Azabu, just a little bit lower down the hill. They were relocated further up the hill in 1659. While Torīzakachō is a neighboring area, the street intersections are too far to have made any confusion. Plus, the Torī family mansion would have already been on the other hill (Torīzaka) by this time. So I don’t think this theory is valid.

So, as it turns out, there isn’t a connection to the festival I saw. It’s mostly like a case of the area taking pride in the prestige of having a relative of a Sengoku Era hero, loyal to the founder of the Edo Bakufu, in their hood. Good for them.

.

.

.
____________________________
* The street, as most streets in former castle towns like Edo, do not have names – and this is by design. The city is not laid out on a grid, streets twist and turn and often dead end suddenly, and they rarely have names. This is to confuse invading armies and hinder an easy advance into the heart of the city, the castle. The Romans built walls around the cities and government, the Japanese built cities around the government lol. Anyways, the street is referred to as the 麻布十番商店街 Azabu-Jūban Shōtengai Azabu-Jūban Shopping Street (in the Edo Period think of it as the merchant district).
** This street also doesn’t have a name, only the hill has a name. Another normal feature of life in a castle town.
*** The Battle of Nagashino is a pretty major event in Japanese History, read more about it here.
**** This area still appears on maps as 鳥居坂下 Torīzakashita (bottom of Torīzaka), but it’s not an official postal code name.
***** I embedded this as hyperlink above, but in case you missed it, here is the direct link to pictures of model, Kawai Asuna, running up Torīzaka (sorry, no video): http://ameblo.jp/asuna-kawai/entry-10483570688.html

Why is Shiodome called Shiodome?

In Japanese History on May 7, 2013 at 1:48 am

汐留
Shiodome (Tide Block)

View of the Tokugawa seaside villa in Shiodome - the gardens can still be visited today. YAY!

View of the Tokugawa seaside villa in Shiodome – the gardens can still be visited today. YAY!

The sad part about this story is that I thought this would be an easy place name to cover. I hoped to research and write it in an under 2 hours. It turns out that it’s pretty fucking complicated.

“Why does everything have to be so bloody complicated?!”

Let’s start with the kanji:
汐 shio tide*
留 tome stop*

Two quick notes.

One, it’s possible that this place name predates the arrival of the Tokugawa. Names that predate the Tokugawa are problematic for a number of reasons, the chief of which is that before the Edo Period records are spotty at best.

Two, Shiodome is not a postal address in Tōkyō – even though it was an official place name (associated with Azabu and Shiba) from 1868 until the 1960’s. Nowadays the area’s most official claims to fame are Shiodome Station and Shiodome Shio Site. But if someone says they live or work in Shiodome, they’re probably referring to Hamamatsuchō, Daimon, or Shinbashi, which have official postal addresses. Today the Shiodome area refers to the area from modern Shiodome station to the bay (In the Edo Period, it was the Bay, in modern Tōkyō, landfill stretches out all the way to Odaiba).

An aerial view of part of the Shiodome

An aerial view of part of the Shiodome Excavations. This excavation was very important to understanding the infrastructure of Edo and, in particular, the amenities of daimyo residences.


There are a couple of theories about this name.

1 – In the Edo Period it was believed that in prior to the coming of the Tokugawa, there was a 塩問屋 shio toiya or shio tonya (a sea salt production and wholesale area) in this area. The area had inlets from the bay which support this theory (but no archaeological evidence does). A sound change from “tonya” and “toiya” to “tome “ seems unlikely, but I don’t know shit about Japanese diachronic linguistics, so let’s leave that “undetermined.”

2 – At the same time that the Hibiya inlet started drying up, major areas of Edo bay dried up. The area became more developed and the area became a natural barrier between the sea and solid land — literally “stopping/blocking the tide.” After the arrival of the Tokugawa, there were were vacation homes of some very important Tokugawa vassals from Tōhoku; Sendai domain, Aizu domain and Nanbu Domain. The Shōgun family also had a detached palace here whose gardens are still intact.

These are the remains of the Tokugawa seaside villa. In the Edo Period, there would have been almost nothing between Edo Bay and the villa. All of the buildings in the distance are built on landfill.

These are the remains of the Tokugawa seaside villa. In the Edo Period, there would have been almost nothing between Edo Bay and the villa. All of the buildings in the distance are built on landfill.


My opinion?

Who the fuck knows. The salt processing area could just be folk etymology, but future archaeological evidence could change that. The barrier between land and see isn’t far-fetched either. It’s supported by common sense and without more documentary evidence we can only take it at face value. But Shiodome, which wasn’t a very well-known place name got a second chance at life when the former Shinbashi Depot was renamed Shiodome Station in the Taishō Era. So it could be argued that the place name’s origin is irrelevant since the modern designation is a product the early 1900’s. There was a chance of the place name disappearing into oblivion in the late 80’s, but recent economic revival efforts since the early 90’s have brought the name into notoriety – and some might say the name notorious.

___________________________________

What is Shiodome?

No matter what the origin of the name, the modern area looks pretty cool.

___________________________________

An Era-by-Era Guide to Shiodome

Before the Edo Period (before 1600):
Unclear. The tidal area may have been used for salt extraction and sales, but this is unconfirmed.

Edo Period (1600-1868):
In terms of developing Edo, Tokugawa Ieyasu went balls out. Daimyō were ordered to finance and move into the area as part of Ieyasu’s plan to surround his castle with his subordinate lords. Shinbashi (Shiodome), Nihonbashi, Hamachō and much of present Minato-ku fell under this influence.

The gardens of the Hama detached palace are still preserved as part of this elite palace area.
Many Tōhoku daimyō built lower residences here. Sendai (descendents of Date Masamune) and Aizu (whose family intermarried with the Tokugawa and remained loyal until the bitter end) had massive residences in the area. The Morioka clan (Nambu domain)’s residence was purchased by an Imperial prince and the garden still exists today, Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park. The Tokugawa family (centered in the Hamachō area) also possessed a seaside estate here, the garden of which is still intact, Hamarikyu Garden (mentioned earlier). There were a few samurai residences also built in the area.

Meiji Period (1868-1912):
The government confiscated the daimyō holdings. In 1872 新橋停車場 Shinbashi Depot was built as Japan’s first major hub station (starting point of the Tōkaidō Line). For most of the Meiji era, the area is known as Shinbashi and is associated with trains.

Taishō Period (1912-1926):
1914 – The station moves to Karasumori (which is renamed to Shinbashi) and the old station is renamed Shiodome Station. The area is increasingly referred to as Shiodome colloquially since Shinbashi is now next to Ginza in former Karasumori.
The old station continues life as a freight station and the area becomes a shipping and warehouse town.

Shōwa Period (1926-1989):
In the 1960’s more highways are built and freight train routes fall into disuse.
In 1987 Shiodome station closes. This could have been the final death knell for Shiodome, but….

Heisei Period (1989-any day now…)
In the 90’s (from Shōwa 60 to Heisei 7) The site of the former freight junction was gutted, excavated and re-developed into a new urban space called Shio Site. One of the interesting things about this activity was that the original Shinbashi Depot was reconstructed as a sightseeing spot. The area was a boon to archaeologists and helped expand much of what was known about Edo Period engineering and daimyō residences. As part of the urban development, skyscrapers were built to encourage big companies to relocate to this new “urban oasis” by the sea. The Tōkyō monorail also stops by the new and improved Shiodome Station. Many Tōkyōites will claim that the Shio Site is effectively a “wall of skyscrapers” that blocks the natural sea breeze from Tōkyō Bay. This “wall” is often blamed for Tōkyō’s excessively humid “heat island.” People even ironically lament the name, saying that we should be getting sea breezes from Tōkyō Bay, but that Shiodome is literally “blocking the sea” from Tōkyō.

What does Shiodome mean?

Before Shio Shite, after Shio Shite. (There’s more Shio Shite now).

.

.

.

___________________________
* both of these kanji are poetic, other variants are 潮 shio (which also has a sexual meaning), and 止 tome (a more mundane rendering).

What does Akasaka-Mitsuke mean?

In Japanese History on May 1, 2013 at 1:45 am

赤坂見附
Akasaka-mitsuke (Approach to Akasaka Gate)

Akasaka-mitsuke approaching Akasaka-mitsuke Go-mon (Akasaka-mitsuke Gate) as it looked at the end of the Edo Period.

Akasaka-mitsuke approaching Akasaka-mitsuke Go-mon (Akasaka-mitsuke Gate) as it looked at the end of the Edo Period.

Just a little update on yesterday’s post.

If you come out of Akasaka-mitsuke station, you’ll find yourself on a major road called 外堀道り Sotobori Dōri Outer Moat Street. This street’s name comes from — you guessed it — the outer moat of Edo Castle.

So anyhoo, we usually translate 見附 mitsuke as “approach,” as in the approach to a castle. From a military perspective, a mitsuke was a defensive installation. The roads approaching the gates of the castle were defended by 見張り番所 Mihari bansho look out guardhouses. Architecturally speaking, most Japanese buildings – be they shrines or castles, businesses or homes – traditionally place importance on a space that leads you from the street into the building or space proper (ie; an approach). In the case of Edo Castle, these spaces required a clear field of vision from the 番所 bansho guardhouse. In pictures of such approaches, you will see a lack of trees, no buildings and a moat and a bridge. The mitsuke provided the guards a clear view of approaching guests (or enemies), and provided the guest with an imposing view of the might of the shōgun’s castle.  The gate provided the name of the mitsuke or the area provided a name for the gate and mitsuke. The place name Akasaka was applied to the mitsuke and the 御門 go-mon gate.

What does Akasaka-mitsuke mean?

Very little remains of the original Edo Castle, but this so-called 100 Man Bansho, is still extant. It’s an example of a REALLY BIG bansho – supposedly it could be manned by 100 samurai.

三十六見附 Sanjū-roku Mitsuke The 36 Mitsuke of Edo Castle.

There weren’t actually 36 mitsuke, this was just an expression. Some of the mitsuke have given place names to Tokyo and can still be seen to today (at least the ruins can).*

Akasaka-mitsuke
Yotsuya-mitsuke
Hibiya-mitsuke
Ushigome-mitsuke
Ichigaya-mitsuke
Shibaguchi-mitsuke (taken down before the end of the Edo Period)**
(if you know any other mitsuke names, hit me up, I’ll add them to this list).

If you’re in Akasaka-mitsuke and you’re interested, be sure to check out 山王日枝神社 Sannō Hie Jinja Hie Shrine. The tutelary deity of Edo Castle is enshrined there. Say “kon’nichiwa” to it for me.

And as always, if you have any questions about Japanese Castles, please visit JCastle.net because this guy knows a lot more about Japanese castles than I do.

Going down Akasaka hill towards Akasaka-Mitsuke. The building on the left is an entrance to the Imperial Residence, but now it's the Tokyo Metropolitan Police HQ.

Going down Akasaka hill towards Akasaka-Mitsuke. The building on the left is an entrance to the Imperial Residence, but now it’s the Tokyo Metropolitan Police HQ.***

A view from Akasaka Mitsuke coming down from Akasaka hill.

A view from Akasaka Mitsuke coming down from Akasaka hill.***

 

Wanna Support My Blog?
Click Here to Donate
Click Here to Buy Awesome Nerdy J-History Goods

 

____________________________________________
* According to my sources, there were at most 27 gates to Edo Castle. I’m fairly certain that the presence of a gate does not guarantee the presence of a mitsuke or mihari bansho. An important interection might warrant an installation. But I could be wrong.
** Shibaguchi-Mitsuke and Shibaguchi Gate are linked to Shibaguchi Bridge, an alternate name for the original Shinbashi (new bridge).
*** These amazing postcards are taken from Old Tokyo.

Why is Akasaka called Akasaka?

In Japanese History on April 30, 2013 at 1:59 am

赤坂
Akasaka (Red Hill)

Today Akasaka just looks like any other business district in Tokyo. It's not much to look at from the street.

Today Akasaka just looks like any other business district in Tokyo. It’s not much to look at from the street.

Akasaka is business and commercial district located between Aoyama and Roppongi and Edo Castle. Due to its elevation and proximity to the castle (ie; right next to it), it was the site of many residences of those daimyō who were the closest to the Tokugawa shōgun, including other branches of the Tokugawa clan. Today it is just one train station away from the 国会議事堂 Kokkai-gijidō National Diet Building. The area has long been a meeting ground of the rich and powerful, and even today it is one of the few areas where you can still find geisha in Tōkyō. The crown prince’s residence is in Akasaka, as is one of the former imperial villas (now a guesthouse for visiting heads of state).

The word is made of 2 kanji:
赤 aka red
坂 saka hill, slope

Akasaka Geihinkan - the State Guest House.

Akasaka Geihinkan – the State Guest House.

There are two explanations. A third explanation is just a combination of these two.

The first explanation is that the slope had ruddy clay that gave it a distinctive look. The second explanation is that the hill was formerly referred to as Akanesaka or Akaneyama (written赤根山 Akaneyama or 赤根坂 Akanesaka or 茜坂 Akanesaka). 茜 akane  Japanese madder or 赤根 akane Japanese madder (literally “red root”), is a plant used to make a brilliant red dye (from its root). Supposedly the area was famous for this plant and it was easily collected there before the arrival of the Tokugawa. Over time, the pronunciation became slurred and Akanesaka turned to Akasaka. The 赤根坂 Akanesaka variant could easily be reduced to 赤坂 Akasaka. The third theory is a mixture of those. It points out that the roots of the Japanese madder, being used for making red dye, naturally turned the dirt and clay of the slope red. Therefor the hill was known for a plant already associated with red and a hill that had reddish dirt.

Akane, Japanese madder. Could the root of this plant be the source of the name? Maybe we'll never know.

Akane, Japanese madder. Could the root of this plant be the source of the name? Maybe we’ll never know.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I believe any of these theories, but the third theory does a good job of tying up the first two. Since the area doesn’t have any Japanese madder growing anymore – and I haven’t seen any red clay there – let’s just say the jury is out on this one until we get more evidence.

By the way, check tomorrow’s post because I’ll be expanding on Akasaka by talking a little bit about Akasaka-mitsuke.

What does Aoyama mean?

In Japanese History on April 26, 2013 at 1:19 am

A

青山
Aoyama (Blue Mountain, Green Mountain)

Aerial view of Aoyama Cemetery

Aerial view of Aoyama Cemetery

Today, Aoyama is one of Tōkyō’s most fashionable and expensive neighborhoods. It borders Harajuku and Shibuya and is famous for shopping, high end dining and has a remarkable amount of green space – sorely lacking in other areas of the city.

The word is made of two characters:
ao blue or green (depending on who you ask)
yama mountain
Aoyama is a family name.

Aoyama Coat of Arms

The Gujo Aoyama mondokoro (coat of arms)

In the Edo Period, 郡上藩 Gujō-han Gujō Domain (located in 美濃国 Mino no kuni Mino Province; modern day 岐阜県 Gifu-ken Gifu Prefecture) was administered by the Gujō branch of the Aoyama clan. The castle and seat of the domainal government was at 八幡城 Hachiman-jō Hachiman Castle, so sometimes the domain is referred to as Hachiman-han. Since the clan originated in Mikawa, the family had a special relationship with the Tokugawa. At one point, during the Sengoku Era, they were responsible for the education of Tokugawa Hidetada who would later become the second shōgun.

Gujo-Hachiman Castle Today (it's a reconstruction from 1933), but the town and castle look well worth a visit.

Gujo-Hachiman Castle Today (it’s a reconstruction from 1933), but the town and castle look well worth a visit.

They had a sprawling palatial residence (下屋敷 shimoyashiki) in the outskirts of Edo. When daimyō residences were confiscated by the Meiji government for re-purposing, the land of the Aoyama residence was converted into present day Aoyama cemetery. It’s a massive urban cemetery. If you walk around it, you can get a feel for how large the estate once was. Even though the family was only worth 48,000 koku, this sub-residence was one of the biggest in all of Edo. None of the domain’s buildings exist today, but the Aoyama family temple, 梅窓院 Baisōin Baisō Temple, can still be found in Minami Aoyama.

Supposedly, the building on the right is one of the Aoyama residences.

Supposedly, the building on the right is one of the Aoyama residences.

 

 

 

Wanna Support My Blog?
Click Here to Donate
Click Here to Buy Awesome Nerdy J-History Goods

Why is Konan called Konan?

In Japanese History on April 25, 2013 at 1:54 am

港南
Kōnan (South Harbor)

Shinagawa Konan Exit

Heading to the harbor!!!

A lot of people who come to Tōkyō stay in Shinagawa. It has central access to the city by train and fast access to the Shinkansen (high speed trains) to the rest of Japan and fast access to the airports which will take you around Japan, Asia, and the world. It is also home to numerous hotels and guest houses. The area is rich in history and yet bustling with lively eateries and global businesses.

Shinagawa Intershitty

Shinagawa Intercity: One of Tokyo’s Nouveau Yamanote in the old Shitamachi

Shinagawa, traditionally a下町 shitamachi low town area famous for manufacturing, has seen a massive revitalization since 2003, when the 港南 Kōnan South Harbor area was developed and some Shinkansen routes were diverted here.

Shinagawa Station has 2 main exits; the Takanawa Exit and the Kōnan Exit.  The Takanawa Exit leads to the old town. There are hotels and department stores in the immediate vicinity and you can walk to historical sites associated with the 赤穂浪士 Akō Rōshi the 47 Rōnin, the first 宿 shuku post station of the old Tōkaidō, and all of the treasures of Minato Ward. The Kōnan Exit leads to a massive business and residential district setup on the highlands in traditional 山手 yamanote high city style and a convenient and bustling commercial district for drinking (but not whoring) in the valley below.

escalator down to the South Harbor

escalator down to the South Harbor

What you won’t see is a harbor.

In the Edo Period, Shinagawa was on the sea. As we said before, the Tōkaidō was the Eastern Sea Route to Kyōto. And it was, indeed, on the sea. 土佐国 Tosa no kuni Tosa Province had a residence in the area (Tosa being a costal domain, it makes sense) meant that Sakamoto Ryōma spent time here and most likely saw the Black Ships from Shinagawa.

whale shinagawa

As you go through the gates you can remember that this was once a harbor. They have a whale tail gate. Not so many whales in Japan now, though. lol

So why is there no sea here??

Where’d this alleged harbor go?

Landfills, baby.

From the Meiji Period until quite recently, 江戸湾東京湾  Edo Bay became Tōkyō Bay and all of this landfill extended the coastal area way out into the sea in islands linked by channels or just straight up new land mass.*

By the way, if you wanna  see some pix that go from the Shinagawa Station area and down the old Tōkaidō road, you might wanna check out this page: Shinagawa walking guide.

 

.

If you like JapanThisplease donate.
Click Here to Donate
Click Here to Buy Awesome Nerdy J-History Goods

.

 

* PS, In earthquake prone Japan, I don’t recommend living on any of these landfill masses.

.

Why is Takeshita Street called Takeshita Street?

In Japanese History on April 14, 2013 at 9:54 pm

竹下通り
Takeshita Dōri (Takeshita Street)

I Love Japanese History!

Trust me. She loooooooves learning about the etymology of place names!

Today’s place name is one of the most famous places in Tōkyō, probably one of the most famous places in all Japan, and definitely one of the most famous places in the fashion world. In the early 2000’s Takeshita Street attracted fashion-hungry high school kids from all over Japan.

This area of Tōkyō, called Harajuku has been – and still is very much – a fashion center. Takeshita Dōri was ground zero for young people’s fashion for about a decade. It is still very popular, especially with kids from rural Japan and foreign tourists.

Old School Harajuku!

Takeshita Dori in 1997 when it was still cool.

The name 竹下通り Takeshita Dōri is quite literally “Takeshita” and “street.” 竹下 Takeshita is a family name. In this case, it refers to a turn of the century admiral of the Japanese Navy named 竹下勇 Takeshita Isamu. It seems old man Takeshita had a house on the street, and being the son of a samurai and a high ranking officer in the Navy and diplomat his name brought prestige to the area. In fact, until 1965 the area at the bottom of the hill and both areas to the left & right of Takeshita Street were known as 竹下町 Takeshita-chō Takeshita Neighborhood. Now that area is 神宮前1丁目 Jingūmae 1-chōme.

The family name itself means “below the bamboo.”

Your mom was awesome last night!

the admiral himself

I tried to find a picture of the dude’s house but couldn’t. I tried to find a plaque commemorating the dude’s house, but I couldn’t. I tried to find an old map of the area, but I couldn’t. I tried to find pictures of Takeshita Street from any period before now and I couldn’t. Edo Period maps just show unused grasslands. There must be some pictures out there, so if you have any – or come across any – please share with me.

Admiral Takeshita might not want to see those photos, though. Apparently the area was famous for love hotels, brothels, and counterfeit goods until the 1990’s. Around that time, the zoning laws changed and they started cleaning up the area. I haven’t been there in a long time, but I don’t remember ever seeing any places like that so I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s been completely “gentrified” for at least a decade – especially with its proximity to Omotesandō Hills.

Two Famous Murders in My Neighborhood (part 2)

In Japanese History on April 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I got so excited talking about these 2 famous murders that I only talked about one last time. Today, I’m gonna try to set things right.

So, last time I told you about the assassination of Henry Heusken.

I really respect Heusken. He loved languages; he apparently loved meeting people and walls ballsy enough to cruise around Bakumatsu Era Edo knowing full well that there were assassination attempts against foreigners all the time. Just like the honey badger, Henry Heusken doesn’t give a shit.

He was cut down in front of 中ノ橋 Naka no Hashi (“the middle bridge), about 50 meters from my house. About 50 meters the other direction, the man who is blamed for his assassination was also cut down at another bridge called 一ノ橋 Ichi no Hashi (“the first bridge”).

Kiyokawa Hachiro in black & white

Kiyokawa Hachiro looking like a douche in black & white.

Kiyokawa Hachirō was born, conveniently, in Kiyokawa village. He opened a fencing school that taught Confucianism in Edo where he tried to spread his anti-shōgunate propaganda. He had to flee Edo for killing someone (as one did in those days) but his students in Edo continued his anti-shōgunate work. Their activity culminated in the killing of Henry Heusken at Naka no hashi in 1861.

Kiyokawa Hachiro looking like a douche in color.

Kiyokawa Hachiro looking like a douche in color.

If you’ve seen the 2004 Taiga Drama, 「新撰組!」Shinsengumi, then you know this guy pretty well. He formed a kind of militia called the 老士組 Rōshigumi (Ronin Corps). The Rōshigumi was a group of masterless samurai who went to Kyōto as an auxiliary police force to keep order while the 14th Tokugawa shōgun, Iemochi visited the emperor, Kōmei.

The home where Kiyokawa Hachiro was born. (Just the sort of place you'd expect a douche to be born).

The home where Kiyokawa Hachiro was born. (Just the sort of place you’d expect a douche to be born).

When the group reached Kyōto, Kiyokawa suddenly announced that he was an anti-foreigner, anti-shōgunate rebel. He also told the ronin that they were now in the service of the Emperor and they must all return to Edo to expel the foreigners. For whatever reason, these dumbasses who just walked for days and days all the way from Edo to Kyōto decided, “Sure! Seems legit!” and turned around and walked all the way back to Edo (for days and days).

History remembers that a little under 20 members remained in Kyōto under the name Rōshigumi and eventually became the Shinsengumi. But that’s another story for another time.

The only good thing that came out of Kiyokawa Hachiro was that the men who refused to go along with his douchebaggery became the Shinsengumi. And they're fucking cool.

The only good thing that came out of Kiyokawa Hachiro was that the men who refused to go along with his douchebaggery became the Shinsengumi. And they’re fucking cool.

At any rate, Kiyokawa has already proven his character to me. He’s a shifty snake in the grass, a racist, and a fucking liar.

Here's Kiyokawa's girlfriend from the 1964 movie,

Here’s Kiyokawa’s girlfriend from the 1964 movie, “Assassin.” Never seen the movie, but you have to admit, she’s pretty cute.

Well, as it turns out, the joke was on him. The Imperial Court wasn’t down with his duplicity and didn’t accept his petition to use the Rōshigumi in the name of the Emperor. And by this time, of course, the Bakufu was also on to his douchery. (If that’s even a word…)

Sasaki Tadasaburo. The man who finally put an end to a lifetime of douchery. (Unfortunately, he'd later pull his own douchebag move by killing Sakamoto Ryoma... but that's a story for another time).

Sasaki Tadasaburo. The man who finally put an end to a lifetime of douchery. (Unfortunately, he’d later pull his own douchebag move by killing Sakamoto Ryoma… but that’s a story for another time).

Once the group was back in Edo, the shōgunate decided do a little restructuring of the leadership of the Rōshigumi since… um… that Kiyokawa guy didn’t work out so well. Kiyokawa went on the run and came up with a plan to burn Yokohama (which was infested with foreigners) and he and 500 samurai would cut down as many of them as they could in the mayhem. (Awesome plan, by the way… not.).  But the shōgunate got him. He was hunted down by a group of samurai, including the hatamoto, Sasaki Tadasaburo. He finally met his end at 一ノ橋 Ichi no Hashi in Azabu-Jūban. If you come out of exit 5 of Azabu-Jūban Station, you’ll find the bridge and the Furukawa River right there across from the 商店街 shōtengai shopping street.

I don't know of any pictures of Ichi no Hashi from the Edo Period. In fact, I can't find any historical pictures of it at all. So here's what it looks like today. Not much to look at, actually.

I don’t know of any pictures of Ichi no Hashi from the Edo Period. In fact, I can’t find any historical pictures of it at all. So here’s what it looks like today. Not much to look at, actually.

Please Support My Blog
Click Here to Donate
Click Here to Buy Awesome Nerdy J-History Goods

What does Mita mean?

In Japanese History on March 31, 2013 at 11:42 pm

三田
Mita (3 Fields)

Mita is home of Tokyo Tower and some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Tokyo.

Mita is home of Tokyo Tower and some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Tokyo.

It’s another busy day, so I chose 三田 Mita (3 Fields) because I thought it would be easy.
Turns out, this one isn’t as cut and dry as I’d thought.

And it’s kinda complicated….

According to the 10th century book, 和名類聚抄 Wamyō Ruiju-shō (Japanese Names for Things), there was a place here written 御田 Mita. (It’s referred to as 御田郷 Mita-gō, the 郷 gō just means “hamlet” or “small village”). That place name was originally written 屯田 Mita and fell under direct control of the Emperor and his court before the Taika Reform (645). 屯田 was specifically used for production of rice for the Imperial Court in Kyōto.

The Taika Reform enacted sweeping land reforms and it makes sense that place names might change as the use of land changed. For a little while, the area was then used as a 神田 shinden (a rice field affiliated with a shrine), with the rice and/or its proceeds going to 伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture. The kanji 神田 can also be read as mita.

The movie

The movie “Always” takes place in Mita in the 1960’s.

By the middle of the Edo Period, the area was coming to be increasingly written as 三田, which you have to admit is a helluva lot simpler than the older ways. The reason is most likely that 御田 can be read as oden, onta, onda, and mita, while 神田 can be read as shinden, kamita, kanada, kada, kanda, kōda, and mita三田 also has variant readings, but is usually read as mita.*

And here I thought I was gonna get off easy, like Gotanda. I didn’t plan on reading up on the Taika Reforms!

Tsunazaka (Tsuna Hill) in the Edo Period. (the building on the right is the lower residence of Hizen Shimabara Domain)

Tsunazaka (Tsuna Hill) in the Edo Period.

Tsunazaka (Tsuna Hill) in the Now Period.

Tsunazaka (Tsuna Hill) in the Now Period.

Please Support My Blog
It Don’t Write Itself™
⇨ Click Here to Donate via Patreon ⇦
BTC: 1HsKqFBVbyKTwMF3rzCprdw7aYv13fbi2A
(I’ve begun making exclusive videos for patrons)

___________________________________

*Some variant readings include: sanda, sata and mitsuda. There’s a Sanda in Hyōgo Prefecture.

%d bloggers like this: