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Posts Tagged ‘nerima’

Ōedo Line: Hikarigaoka

In Japanese History on July 23, 2015 at 4:04 am

光ヶ丘
Hikarigaoka (Sunshine Hill)

hanabi hikarigaoka

This is one of the great 花見 hanami cherry blossom viewing spots that no one ever talks about. While all the newbies default to Yoyogi Park, Ueno Park, Inokashira Park, and the Meguro River, many Tōkyōites in the know hit up Hikarigaoka Park.

Aerial shot of Grant Heights, the US military base. In 1879 (Meiji 12), President Grant was the first US President to visit Japan. He was seen as a symbol friendship between the post-Tokugawa imperial government and the US. I see what you did their, US occupation forces...

Aerial shot of Grant Heights, the US military base. In 1879 (Meiji 12), President Grant was the first US President to visit Japan. He was seen as a symbol friendship between the post-Tokugawa imperial government and the US. I see what you did there, US occupation forces…

During WWII, it was an airport for the Imperial Air Force. During the US Occupation, it was a military base. In the 1970’s, it was converted into a park. The name was chosen in 1969 when the former military base was reclaimed for residential development and public green space. While I’ve used the historic-seeming 光ヶ丘, the official spelling is the modern-looking 光が丘 – both read as Hikarigaoka. They wanted to choose a name that had an image of “sunshine and greenery.”

Hikarigaoka was chosen over 4 other candidates: 緑が丘 Midorigaoka Green Hill, 緑台 Midoridai Green Plateau, 青葉台Aobadai Green Leaf Plateau, and 若葉台 Wakabadai Young Leaf Plateau.

While the name was intended to evoke images of green and sunlight, the park offers something all year round and is no less stunning in autumn.

While the name was intended to evoke images of green and sunlight, the park offers something all year round and is no less stunning in autumn.

The area is residential and there’s not much to say about it from an historical perspective. But I once went to 光ヶ丘公園 Hikarigaoka Kōen Hikarigaoka Park for hanami. It’s an open an expansive park, similar to Yoyogi Park in central Tōkyō, but it’s far less crowded. It’s easy to get a spot under a cherry blossom tree and have a picnic with your group – much easier than it would be in most places in Tōkyō. There are many ways to do hanami, but I would characterize hanami here as “suburban.” When I went, I met a person with a pet bunny and another person with a pet monkey. It was awesome to drink with a bunny and a monkey[i]. That was a first.

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[i] Just to be clear, the bunny didn’t actually drink… but damn, that monkey got fucked up.

Ōedo Line: Toshimaen

In Japanese Castles, Japanese History on July 21, 2015 at 9:11 am

豊島園
Toshima-en (Toshima Park, the name of an amusement park)

Remains of the natural moat of Nerima Castle (the Shakuji'i River) taken before the amusement park was constructed.

Remains of the natural moat of Nerima Castle (the Shakuji’i River) taken before the amusement park was constructed.

To the average Tōkyōite, Toshima-en is an amusement park. To Japanese history fans, Tohima-en is an amusement park built on the ruins of 練馬城 Nerima-jō Nerima Castle.

This “castle” was actually a hilltop fortification that the 豊嶋氏 Toshima-shi Toshima clan established in the 1330’s as an outpost to protect their larger 石神井城 Shakuji’i-jō Shakuji’i Castle[i]. All of the Toshima held castles and fortifications fell to the 太田道灌 Ōta Dōkan in the 1470’s. Dōkan was the first warlord to really stir up shit in the area near Edo and he made his main fortification in the Chiyoda area[ii], by kicking out the Edo clan and taking over their satellite fort on the coast. He hunted down and killed off the Toshima clan and forced the Edo clan to stay at their distant fort in Kitami. In short, the path of this corner of the Kantō region changed dramatically with the fall of these castles and clans – and they fell Game of Thrones style. Dōkan himself would be assassinated a few years later.

The remains of the natural moat today.

The remains of the natural moat today.

Hydropolis water park

Hydropolis water park

But today, the Sengoku Period fortification that was Nerima “castle” is an amusement park. One of the main attractions, a waterslide called ハイドロポリス Hydropolis, is built on one of the old natural fortifications and you can still see part of the natural moat system. And while Japanese castles are pretty cool, waterslides are way more fun than warfare, killing off entire families, and forcing people to do 切腹 seppuku ritual suicide. Also, 4 sweet, sweet words: Japanese Girls In Bikinis™.

toshimaen

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[i] The clan’s patriarch controlled the main “castle” at 平塚城 Hiratsuka-jō Hiratsuka Castle in modern day  北区 Kita-ku Kita Ward.
[ii] Edo Castle.

Ōedo Line: Shin-Egota & Nerima

In Japanese History on July 16, 2015 at 6:26 am

新江古田
Shin-Egota (New Egota)

Shin-egota has some apartments and a even has its very own tire shop.

Shin-egota has some apartments and a even has its very own tire shop.

I’m going to give an oversimplified explanation of this etymology. There was a station called Ekoda Station. Later, a New Egota Station was created[i]. If Ekoda and Egota look different to you, then you’re normal. They are. This place name may warrant its own article, so I’ve added it to my to-do-list.

At any rate, the station is located near the border of Nakano Ward and Nerima Ward. It’s a residential area. No need to go there.

Nerima Station in 1972

Nerima Station in 1972

練馬
Nerima (horse training)

Nerima Station today

Nerima Station today

I wrote a whole article about this place that was very thorough. The history of this place name is pretty much a mystery, but there are a variety of theories. I suggest you click the link below if you’re interested in the etymology.

In the Sengoku Period, this area was controlled by the 豊嶋氏 Toshima-shi Toshima clan. In the Edo Period, this was all country – mostly farmland located well outside of the city limits. Today Nerima refers to one of the 23 Special Wards, so the name applies to an area much larger than the immediate station area. Supposedly, Nerima is the ward that can boast the most farmland. Woo-hoo.

Apparently, you can go drinking and whoring in Nerima. Who'd a thunk it?

Apparently, you can go drinking and whoring in Nerima. Who’d a thunk it?

As for the area modern area, I don’t know much. I’ve been to Nerima Ward before but never Nerima Station. My impression is that it’s a local shopping district with restaurants, small shops, and some department stores.

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[i] They added the “new” because the old station is still in use.

Why is Kita called Kita?

In Japanese History on May 21, 2013 at 12:54 am


Kita (The North)

Kita-ku's logo is a Pink K.

I see what you did there…

Until the 1940’s, this ward didn’t exist. In the 1930’s, 郡 gun districts of Tōkyō were abolished and absorbed into wards or other administrative areas. The former 北豊島郡 Kita Toshima-gun North Toshima District was broken up. Toshima Ward was created in 1932 but two remaining areas of the former district, namely 滝野川 Takinogawa, 王子 Ōji, and 岩淵 Iwabuchi were merged into a new ward in  in 1947. Many names were suggested for the ward, but since the area is in the northernmost part of Tōkyō and is comprised of areas of the former North Toshima district, the name Kita was chosen – reflecting the area’s heritage and geographic reality.

And that’s all she wrote, biatch!

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.”

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(from an earlier, shittier draft of this article)

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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.

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* 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.

What does Nerima mean?

In Japanese History on May 10, 2013 at 12:34 am

練馬
Nerima (original meaning unclear)

The grave of Toshima Yasutsune. He was utterly defeated by Ota Dokan and instead of doing seppuku he tried to escape. (Another legend says he threw himself in the lake. What a wuss.)

The grave of Toshima Yasutsune in Shakujii Park. He was utterly defeated by Ota Dokan and instead of doing seppuku he tried to escape. (Another legend says he threw himself in the lake. Either way, dude was a wuss.)

Today’s place name is another request. It was on my TO DO list but I sorta put it off because… well, let’s just say “can of worms.”

The history of Tōkyō generally starts with the Edo Period. But it wasn’t like this city just popped into existence in 1600. Before Tokugawa Ieyasu, there was Ōta Dōkan. Before him there was the 豊島氏 Toshima-shi Toshima Clan* and (spoiler alert) the Edo Clan. In terms of written records and political relevance, this area’s history actually begins in the Kamakura Period and only accelerates from there.

Toshima family crest

Toshima family crest

The necessary background is this:

The Toshima clan controlled large areas of 武蔵国 Musashi no kuni Musashi Province. Most of their dominion fell within the present Tōkyō/Chiba area. The 郡 gun district was called 豊島郡 Toshima-gun. Their seat of governance was in at 平塚城 Hiratsuka-jō (also known as 豊島城 Toshima-jō), but the family was firmly established in their residential estate in Shakujii Castle and had another fortification at Nerima Castle).** Today in Kita Ward, there is still a shrine called 平塚神社 Hiratsuka Jinja Hiratsuka Shrine. So the Toshima influence was strongest in the north region of Tōkyō. Place names that will definitely come up later will be Itabashi and Edo. The only reason I mention this is because these names will come up again later, for sure.

But OK, back to the subject at hand…

What does Nerima mean?

At first glance the kanji are confusing.

練 neri training, kneading
 (u)ma horse

First, let’s look at the etymologies that make use of the 練り neri “training” and ma “horse” theories

★ One of the oldest stories, documented from the Kamakura Period says that sometime between 700 and 800, there was a road connecting 武蔵国 Mushashi no Kuni Musashi Provice and 下総国 Shimōsa no kuni Shimōsa Province. On that road the Toshima clan had a 宿駅 shukueki a horse relay station. The name of the relay town was 乗沼 Norinuma, “ride-swamp”. This etymology claims that because the area was a wetland it had many lakes and, well, you could refresh your horses there, too. The local accent changed “Norinuma” to “Nerima” and eventually the kanji was changed to ateji.

a horse relay station

a horse relay station

★ Another theory says vassals of the Toshima family were training horses here. This is the most believable story, though it isn’t attested as early as the previous theory. So the name “training horses” is literal.
Compare this to Takadanobaba.

horse training place

horse training place

★ Another literal theory says some dude was stealing horses and keeping them here and then training them for resale. This kind of etymology, while entertaining, is unlikely IMO. But who knows…

dumb theory

Now let’s look at the clay theories

★ Another theory uses an alternate meaning of the kanji 練 neri. The kanji can also mean “knead” as in “knead bread” or “knead clay.” Supposedly there was an abundance of great clay for pottery making and the place was famous for kneading clay. This etymology says the name was originally 練場 Neriba Kneading Place. There are many examples of diachronic changes and dialect variants where ば ba becomes ま ma (and vice-versa). So linguistically speaking, it’s not impossible. On the site of the former Nerima Village (present day 貫井 Nukui), archaeologists discovered a type of kiln which was rare in the Edo-Tōkyō area.

kiln excavation

kiln excavation (this isn’t the one from Nukui, I couldn’t find a picture of that one)

★ Another clay theory claims that the dirt and clay in the area was sticky as if it had been kneaded professionally. Thus the area was called 練場 Neriba, just as in the theory I just mentioned. Over time the pronunciation changed from Neriba to Nerima. The clay hypotheses are intriguing.

wet clay! yummy!

wet clay. yay!

★ I’ve saved the weirdest theory for last. The Shakujii Basin lowlands were an expanse of lakes and swamps and so if you looked at water filled rice-paddies they looked really deep, as in “deep to the roots.” 根 ne root + 沼 numa swamp, marsh = 根の沼 Ne no numa root deep swamp, which changed to 根沼 Nenuma root swamp. Eventually Nenuma changed to Nerima and the kanji was changed to ateji (just like Hibiya).

BTW – The place name 丹根沼 Tannenuma exists in Hokkaidō.

I have no idea what a 根の沼 looks like so this will have to do.

I have no idea what a 根の沼 looks like so this will have to do (丹根沼、北海道)

So it looks like the jury is out on this one. And while every theory, except the last one, has an argument based on kanji, the possibility of the name being just ateji is very possible. It’s particularly possible with old names that pre-date the Edo Period. At any point in history ateji could have been used – and changed later again to support other folk etymologies. So this one will just be a mystery.

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* Toshima can be written 豊島 or 豊嶋.
** Toshima Amusement Park (called としまえん Toshima-en in Japanese) is built on the castle ruins of Nerima-jō.

What does Shakujii mean?

In Japanese History on May 9, 2013 at 12:46 am

石神井
Shakujii (Spirit-Stone Well)

Shakujii Park

Shakujii Park

Today’s place name is another reader request. The kanji are pretty interesting and the history of the area ties into a theme that will come up often later. I wanted to hold off on opening this can of worms, but it’s a reader request. I can’t say no.

The word is made of three kanji:

石 ishi stone
神 kami god/spirit
井 i well

In Shintō, there are an infinite number of 神 kami (some people translate as “gods” some as “spirits”). You can find kami in lakes and trees and forests and waterfalls. Some kami – apparently – love stones.  石神 ishigami spirit stones are curiously shaped stones that people said were homes of (or just related items of) particular kami.

Back in the day some villagers were digging a hole to make a well. While they were digging they found an interesting looking stone rod in the ground. Since no one had ever seen a rod shaped rock before, they decided it might be a good idea to start worshiping it. Cuz, you know… it’s a weird shaped stone.

Anyhoo, they named the well 石神井戸 Shakujin’i Spirit-Stone Well.

But, wait, you say, “shakujin” doesn’t sound anything like “ishigami.” Ishigami is the native Japanese reading of the kanji (kun’yomi), shakujin is the Classical Chinese reading (on’yomi). And how about that missing “n” sound? Well, the final /-n/ sound is weaker than our English /n/ – in fact, in some ways it’s closer to a vowel than a consonant, so it’s easily dropped in situations where it’s difficult to pronounce. There are also cases where the sound is missing in dialectal variations of some words.

I don’t know if the ishigami is still there or not, but it was enshrined at 石神井神社 Shakujii Jinja Shakujii Shrine located in 石神井公園 Shakujii Kōen Shakujii Park in Nerima Ward. If you go there, maybe you can ask where the stone is. In the park there is a lake called 三宝寺池 Sanpō-dera Ike Sanpō Temple Lake. The local people of the area believed that the Shakuji Well eventually became that lake.

Shakujii Castle, Nerima

You call that a castle??!

Another interesting fact is that the Toshima clan had a castle here. The Park grounds are actually the remains of 石神井城 Shakujii-jō Shakujii Castle. None of the castle structures exist, but some of the defensive walls and moats can still be seen. The castle was abandoned in 1477, after Ōta Dōkan defeated the shit out of Toshima Yasutsune and the Toshima clan fell. Remember this clan name because we’re going to talk about this family again tomorrow.

Oh, I almost forgot. Just to put things into chronological perspective. The name of the area was first recorded in the Heian Period. This means that the story of the ishigami and building of the well and the shrine was probably a well-established legend in the area. So this place name is old. The etymology seems legit and we’re lucky to have such an old pre-Edo Period place name with such a well preserved history. The Toshima Clan who ruled much of the area that is now Tōkyō and Chiba managed their holdings from Hiratsuka Castle in the Kita Ward, but main castle of the clan was Shakujii Castle. As a clan, they were active from the Kamakura Period until the Muromachi Period when Ōta Dōkan smote them like little bitches. Place names all over Tōkyō derive from the clan and their retainers. Even the name Edo derives from a vassal of the Toshima… but more about that later.

Oh, and one more thing.

This dude has a photo blog of the Shakujii Castle ruins and some models and maps.
This other dude has some CGI reconstructions of Shakujii Castle on his blog.

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