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What does Akabane mean?

In Japanese History on June 20, 2013 at 6:44 am

赤羽
Akabane (Red Wings; but more at Red Clay)

Pre-Saitama

Akabane Station.
It’s next to Saitama, so it’s sort of your last chance to be cool and say you live in Tokyo.
It’s also so close to Saitama that it’s kinda uncool by association.
It’s like you’re trying to get your pre-Saitama on.
Preparing to graduate to Saitama[1].

Today’s place name etymology is a pretty interesting one because we will get a sneak peak at the extinct pre-Edo Period dialect of the area. Akabane sits in the northern part of Kita Ward. It’s basically next to Kawakuchi, Saitama. So it’s on the literal outskirts of Tōkyō. Mind you, you won’t see any difference leaving Tōkyō and entering Saitama due to the thorough urban sprawl.

Historically speaking, 赤羽村 Akabane Mura Akabane Village wasn’t a particularly important place, but in the Kamakura Period a highway called 岩槻街道 Iwatsuki Kaidō was built. The road is better known by its Edo Era name, 日光御成街道 Nikkō O-nari Kaidō. As mentioned in my article on Tokugawa Ietsugu’s Mausoleum, 御成 o-nari refers to the presence of the shōgun. As such, this was a private highway for the shōgun family to use when visiting 日光東照宮 Nikkō Tōshō-gū. It was a shortcut that connected the 中仙道 Nakasendō to the 日光街道 Nikkō Kaidō. The road passed through Akabane and there was a rest station 宿場 shukuba at the next town, 岩淵宿 Iwabuchi Shuku Iwabuchi Post Station. That town was pretty important and well known.  Akabane was just another small village in the country.

A Map of the Iwatsuki Kaido as it passes through Akabane and Iwabuchi.

A Map of the Iwatsuki Kaido as it passes through Akabane and Iwabuchi.

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OK. So now we have a little historical context for the city. Where does the name come from?

Well, if we strip away the kanji, we can find the origin of the name:

あか aka means red.
はね hane is the old local dialect word for 埴 hani, clay.

Why would anyone look at the dirt? When you considered that Japanese folk craft pottery could use this clay to make red pottery items, it becomes clear why "Red Clay" was a good place name originally. Remember, this place name pre-dates the Edo Period and gets its first mention in the Kamakura Period. This place name is OLD.

Why would anyone look at the dirt?
When you considered that Japanese folk craft pottery could use this clay to make red pottery items,
it becomes clear why “Red Clay” was a good place name originally.
Remember, this place name pre-dates the Edo Period and gets its first mention in the Kamakura Period.
This place name is OLD.

The 荒川 Arakawa River apparently deposited a lot of red colored volcanic ash from Mt. Fuji here. The buildup of this material produced a red slimy, claylike soil that was particular to the area. If an area eroded, the red clay would become exposed. Thus the area was called 赤埴 Akabani Red Clay. But in the local accent the name was pronounced Akabane. Later, as literacy rates improved in the area, the second kanji was changed to actually match the pronunciation. So 羽 hane wings was added, thus obscuring the origins of the place name as 赤羽 Akabane Red Wings[2].

For another sneak peak at the old dialect, we can look at the name of the highway that passed through here. It was called the 岩槻街道 Iwatsuki Kaidō. But place name 岩槻 Iwatsuki was originally written as 岩付 Iwatsuke. Diachronic Japanese linguists and dialectologists use evidence like this to track the development and differentiation of vowel quantities – in particular /e/ and /i/ which traditionally show great instability. So now you know.

Apparently, 赤羽橋 Akabanebashi (Red Wing Bridge) in Shiba (Minato Ward) has the same derivation. Archaeological findings in the postwar years confirmed the existence of medieval kilns and earthenware factories.

 

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[1] But the most famous pre-Saitama of all is Ikebukuro.

[2] A family name and a place name Akahani still persists elsewhere in Japan and the kanji is consistent with the original writing of the of the name. The writing of Akahani instead of Akabani reflects a conservative pronunciation before the 連濁 rendaku sound changes of the Tōkyō area became the national standard.

Yushoin

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves on June 6, 2013 at 3:05 am

有章院
Yūshōin  (Divine Prince of Who the Fuck Knows[i])
七代将軍徳川家継公
7th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Ietsugu
Zōjō-ji

Tokugawa Ietsugu looking quite mature for his age.

Tokugawa Ietsugu looking quite mature for his age.

The 7th shōgun, Ietsugu, was the last descendent of the direct line started by Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was only shōgun for 3 years.

He died at age 6.

The next shōgun, Yoshimune, threw mad loot at Zōjō-ji for the construction of a large mausoleum next to Ienobu’s. The wood carvings and engravings were said to rival those at Nikkō making it a popular sightseeing spot until it was destroyed in the Great Tōkyō Air Raid in 1945.

Ietsugu’s mausoleum, called Yūshōin, was the last great funerary complex built by the shōgunate. Ietsugu’s short reign saw one of the first serious financial crises of the Edo Period. As an austerity measure, Yoshimune opted for a 合祀 gōshi group enshrinement. I don’t know if this is this was an edict, but the practice continued until the fall of the bakufu in 1868. Just to put things into perspective, there were 15 shōguns. We’re at the halfway point now and sadly, there will be no more funerary temples. The rest of this series is going to go by very quickly. lol

Structures of Yūshōin

Structure Name Description Condition Status
本殿
honden
the main hall destroyed

相之間
ai no ma
in gongen-zukuri architecture, the structure that connects the honden and haiden. destroyed

拝殿
haiden
the inner or private worship hall destroyed

前廊
zenrō
a latticework fence that forms the border to a temple destroyed

中門
nakamon
The “middle gate” which usually opens from a court yard into the worship hall  destroyed

左右廊
sayūrō
portico on the left and right side of a shrine destroyed

渡廊
watarō
portico destroyed

透塀
sukibei
latticework fence that encloses a temple or shrine destroyed

内透塀
uchi-sukibei
?
name means inner latticework fence
destroyed

外透塀
soto-sukibei
?
name means outer latticework fence
destroyed

仕切門
shikirimon
entrance to the oku no in destroyed

鐘楼
shōrō
belfry, bell tower destroyed

井戸屋形
ido yakata 
roof over a well, or spring destroyed

勅額門
chokugaku
mon
imperial scroll gate; posthumous name of the deceased hand written by the emperor which marked the official entrance to the funerary temple destroyed

二天門
niten
mon
main gate, protected by 2 gods extant, but in awful condition

Tōkyō Prince Hotel

奥院波板塀
oku no in

nami itabei
“wave fence” made of planks around the
inner sanctuary
destroyed

奥院拝殿
oku no in

haiden
worship hall within the inner sanctuary destroyed

奥院宝塔
oku no in hōtō
A copper 2-story pagoda styled funerary urn that houses the remains of the deceased fair condition in the Tokugawa Graveyard at Zōjō-ji
奥院唐門
oku no in
karamon
so-called Chinese style gate that provided entry and exit to the tomb of the deceased destroyed

奥院中門
oku no in

nakamon
presumably the gate to another small fence around the hōtō destroyed

水盤舎
suibansha
water basins for ritual purification destroyed

石灯籠
ishidōrō
traditional stone lanterns scattered all over the Kantō area

銅燈
dōdōrō 
copper lanterns scattered all over the Kantō area

御成門
o-nari mon
private “backdoor” entrance to Zōjō-ji for the private use of the shōgun[ii]. extant and in fair condition Tōkyō Prince Hotel

Located inside Ietsugu’s complex, was another mortuary temple for the 9th shōgun, Ieshige, who was co-enshrined at Yūshōin. I’ll talk more about that in a later article.

Nitenmon, the Main Gate

The main gate of many Buddhist temples is a 二天門 nitenmon. The name doesn’t mean “main gate” it means “2 ten” gate. the character 天 ten (“heaven”) refers to the names of the 2 deities that are housed inside of the gate. Next time you visit an Edo Period temple, see if you see this type of gate. Here’s a little background on a famous Nitenmon located at Sensō-ji, a famous tourist destination in Tōkyō (note the connection to the Tokugawa… see what I did there?).

I can’t find any pictures from the before the firebombing, so you’ll have to do with modern pictures.

The nitenmon is in deplorable condition. It's in the original location, but the property is no longer Zojo-ji.  It's now on the Tokyo Prince Hotel's land, a stone's throw from the main entrance to Zojo-ji.

The nitenmon is in deplorable condition.
It’s in the original location, but the property is no longer Zojo-ji.
It’s now on the Tokyo Prince Hotel’s land, a stone’s throw from the main entrance to Zojo-ji.

Go back to my article on Daitokuin and check out Hidetada's So-mon (essentially a nitenmon). Then look at this one. I wish they'd restore it or just tear it down.

Go back to my article on Daitokuin and check out Hidetada’s So-mon (essentially a nitenmon).
Then look at this one.
I wish they’d restore it or just tear it down.

ietsugu_nitenmon_modern (2)

Seriously, WTF, people???

ietsugu_nitenmon_modern (4)

If this were restored, it would be a fantastic addition to the Shiba area.

広目天 Kōmokuten (Virupaksha in Sanskrit) - basically a pissed off deity.

広目天 Kōmokuten (Virupaksha in Sanskrit) – basically a pissed off deity.

多聞天 (Tamonten, generally equivocated with the other Japanese kami, Bishamonten - one of the 7 gods of good luck).

多聞天 (Tamonten, generally equivocated with the other Japanese kami, Bishamonten – one of the 7 gods of good luck).
Still… dude looks pissed off as hell.
A message to Edo riff raff, don’t try to pull any shit inside the mausoleum precinct.

Imperial Scroll Gate

After walking through the nitenmon (main entrance), you would come to a courtyard which led to the next gate, the imperial scroll gate. By now you know what an imperial scroll gate is, so I’m not going to harp on it. However, apparently the scroll gate of Yūshōin was considered a masterpiece for its ostentatious color, gold leafing and most of all, for its elaborate wood carvings.

View of the courtyard between the main entrance (right) and the imperial scroll gate (left) from the o-narimon (the shogun's private entrance).

View of the courtyard between the main entrance (right) and the imperial scroll gate (left) from the o-narimon (the shogun’s private entrance).

zozyoji_k11

View of the imperial scroll gate and behind it you can see the nakamon (middle gate) of the haiden (worship hall).

View of the imperial scroll gate and behind it you can see the nakamon (middle gate) of the haiden (worship hall).

After passing thru the Nitenmon, this would be the next thing you see - the scroll gate.

After passing thru the Nitenmon, this would be the next thing you see – the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

People loved taking pictures of the scroll gate.

Most surviving pictures of this mausoleum of this gate. It was obviously something to behold.

Most surviving pictures of this mausoleum of this gate.
It was obviously something to behold.

Nakamon and Oku no In

After you passed through the scroll gate, you’d find the bell tower on your right.

Backside of the imperial scroll gate and the bell tower.

Backside of the imperial scroll gate and the bell tower.

Bell Tower and the back of the Imperial Scroll Gate

Bell Tower and the back of the Imperial Scroll Gate

Oku no in – Inner Sanctuary

Not sure what most of these structures are… except for the water basins, etc….

1812

Perhaps the Ai no Ma

The water basin and the well.

The water basin and the well.

0033_shiba_go06_img06-16

Not exactly sure, but probably part of the haiden or honden.

増上寺s旧御霊屋s008

Not exactly sure, but probably part of the haiden or honden.

portico inside the haiden

portico inside the haiden

After we leave the haiden, we enter another courtyard and then come to the Chinese Style Gate.

After we leave the haiden, we enter another courtyard and then come to the Chinese Style Gate.

Tamaya – the graveyard

After passing through the Chinese Gate, we come to the actual graveyard.

A bronze okunoin nakamon leading to tomb

A bronze okunoin nakamon leading to tomb

Ietsugu's grave today....

Ietsugu’s grave today….

What About that Secret Shogun Door you Mentioned?

Well, yes… there was a special gate for the shōgun which was called 御成門 o-nari mon.
But it wasn’t a secret.
In fact, it was so famous that even today there is a train station named 御成門駅 onarimon eki onarimon station. And the neighborhood itself is also called onarimon.

The shogun's private entrance....

The shogun’s private entrance….
(shot from inside Yushoin, I think.

The shogun's private gate,

The shogun’s private gate,
Notice the bansho (check point) on the left.

O-nari mon.... the shogun's back door......

O-nari mon…. the shogun’s back door……
(that’s what she said!)

back of the o-narimon

back of the shogun’s backdoor – o-nari mon

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[i] I have no idea how to render this name. 有 means exist and in Buddhism refers to a bhavana. 章 is a kind of poem or composition. He died when he was 6, so they couldn’t very well make a posthumous name based on his reign. Maybe it has something to do with his studies. Or it could just be random.

[ii] The term 御成り o-nari refers to the presence of the shōgun. In the Edo Period, this gate would have been referred to as 御成御門 o-nari go-mon, but today the casual form is used and the second 御 is dropped. By the way, this gate was not technically an entrance to Yūshōin per se, but a general entrance to Zōjō-ji that just happened to be located at the outer wall of the site. The gate led to the courtyards between the main gates (nitenmon) and imperial scroll gates of Yūshōin and Bunshōin.

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