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Posts Tagged ‘owari’

What does Kioi-chō mean?

In Japanese History on March 23, 2016 at 7:16 am

紀尾井町
Kioi-chō
(Kii Owari Ii Town)

I wasn’t planning on doing this place name because… well, I’ll be honest. I’d never heard of it before. But after my last article on 永田町 Nagata-chō, my friend Rekishi no Tabi[i] got on my case about my treatment of Katō Kiyomasa. In the end, I’m pretty sure we share the same opinions of the dude – or at least of the Tokugawa Shōgunate’s view of him and his family, but our conversation led to an addendum to the article. Then he brought this place name to my attention. It’s inextricably linked to the story of Nagata-chō.

It’s also related to James Bond.

Didn’t see that coming? Neither did I.

First, Let’s Look at the Kanji


ki

Abbreviation of 紀伊
Kii

紀州徳川家
Kishū Tokugawa-ke
Tokugawa of Kishū Domain[ii]


o

Abbreviation of 尾張
Owari

尾張徳川家
Owari Tokugawa-ke
Tokugawa of Owari Domain[iii]


i

Abbreviation of 井伊
Ii

井伊家
Ii-ke
Ii clan of Hikone Domain[iv]

 

If you read your footnotes like a good girl or boy, you should know that the Kii and Owari branches of the Tokugawa family were 2 of the 3 most elite cadastral branches of the family. These bloodlines derived from the male children of Tokugawa Ieyasu who were not in line for succession of the office of shōgun. The Ii family, while not directly related to the 徳川将軍家 Tokugawa Shōgun-ke Tokugawa Shōgun Family, always enjoyed a special connection to the shōgunate and the shōgunate – one that culminated in the appointment of the 16th lord of Hikone Domain, 井伊直弼 Ii Naosuke, as 大老 tairō shōgunal regent.

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So… What’s the Connection?

The name of the area that’s called Kioi-chō today seems to be derived from an Edo Period nickname that blended these 3 names into one. You see, in those days the 中屋敷 naka-yashiki middle residences of Kii, Owari, and the Ii were located in the area. The hill that led up to these palatial estates came to be called 紀尾井坂 Kioi-zaka Ki-O-I Hill.

kioichozaka.jpg

Why the Hell did they Name the Hill?

The explanation is 2-fold, maybe even 3-fold depending on your familiarity with Japan. If you’ve never been to Japan, you’re probably used to streets having names. They’re probably usually laid on in a grid pattern, too. In Tōkyō, street names and grid patterns are the exception, not the rule.

Japanese castle towns – and Edo-Tōkyō in particular – spiral out from the center of the town (ie; the castle). A daimyō would be given a huge estate here, minor shōgunate officials would be assigned there, townspeople would be put in another place, but each 町 chō town was more or less segregated from the other towns. They were also built as needed. From a modern urban planning perspective, this is a nightmare of the highest order. But before you criticize, just know that Rome – arguably the most influential western city of the ancient world developed in a somewhat similar way.

Anyhoo, because of its abundance of alleys and lack of symmetry, naming streets was sort of unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. The local people used landmarks and geographical features to develop a vocabulary of their own to talk about their neighborhoods[v]. The result of this, there is a plethora of geographically-based places names and, yeah, hills get named too. This has given rise to an obscure type of nerd in Japan: the hill nerd. They read about, visit, photograph, and blog about hills in Japan. Their influence is so strong that Tōkyō’s 港区 Minato-ku Minato Ward actually posts signs on all of its major hills that explain the etymology of the name in one or two sentences.

new otani

James Bond in Kioi-chō at the New Otani Hotel… errr, I mean at Osato Chemical & Engineering Co., LTD., a front group for SPECTRE.

It’s James Bond, Bitch. James Bond!

The area is typically 山手 yamanote high city. As such it’s hilly and has a lot of trees and greenery. Many old daimyō residences have been turned into huge office spaces and luxury hotels. Kioi-chō is no different. The area has always been an exclusive residential area, but also an exclusive area for hotels, in particular for minor heads of state and politically connected CEO’s. Because of the area’s proximity to the 国会議事堂 Kokkai Gijidō National Diet and the former residences of the imperial princes in 赤坂 Akasaka and the emperor himself at 旧江戸城 kyū-Edo-jō former Edo Castle, it’s often associated with 議員宿舎 Gi’in Shukusha apartments for the members of the National Diet. If you’re an elected representative from, say, Okinawa, you need a residence in Tōkyō to do your job. Of course, you can buy your own place in Tōkyō or just crash at the place you bought for your mistress, but most likely you’re going to stay at the government subsidized shukusha – especially when your family comes to visit you in the big city because, you know, mistresses.

kioichozaka007.jpg

Oh, look! There’s that hill we’ve heard so much about.

I haven’t seen the movie for ages, so I don’t know if they allude to any of this, but this governmental connection to what the Cold War west would have called the intelligentsia was most likely behind the decision to shoot a certain car chase scene in Kioi-chō in the 1967 James Bond movie 007は二度死ぬ Daburu Ō Sebun Wa Nido Shinu You Only Live Twice. Japan had been a pariah in both the east and west after WWII, and the 1964 Olympics did a lot to showcase a kinder, gentler Japan – a more modern Japan. You Only Live Twice really capitalized on exoticizing Japan – the book does much more than the movie – but it presented Japan as a Cold War ally to the west at a time that China, Korea, and Vietnam were pretty much the de factō enemy communist kids who didn’t play fair in the sandbox.

healthychest

This is Helga Brandt, Mr. Osato’s secretary. She reprimand’s James Bond for smoking, telling him that “Mr. Osato believes in a healthy chest.” No shit. That’s an actual line from this scene. (Later, she’s eaten by piranhas.)

James Bond under the alias Mr. Fisher visits Osato Industries and after the initial meeting receives a death sentence from the company’s CEO. From there, the most geographically ridiculous car chase scene ever ensues. It goes from god-knows-where to Kioi-chō/Akasaka/Nagata-chō to the Japanese countryside and then back to the Bay Area where you can see Tōkyō Tower.

But if all of that wasn’t mind blowing; get this! The screenplay was written by Roald fucking Dahl. Does that name sound familiar? That’s the guy who wrote Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

 

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[i] Not only is Rekishi no Tabi a dude who knows his shit about Japanese History, he’s an amazing photographer who produces some of the most awe inspiring photography of Japan. Sometimes I take a nice picture here and there, but he’s the real “Photography Yoda” of Japanese History. I highly recommend that you follow his work on Flickr.
[ii] The Kii Tokugawa were one of the 御三家 go-san-ke 3 Honorable Families – branches of the main Tokugawa line that could provide a male heir to be accepted into the 徳川将軍家 Tokugawa Shōgun-ke Tokugawa Shōgun Family in the case the main line couldn’t produce a successor itself. The go-san-ke  were the Mito Tokugawa, the Owari Tokugawa, and the Kii Tokugawa.
[iii] The Owari Tokugawa were one of the 御三家 go-san-ke 3 Honorable Families – branches of the main Tokugawa line that could provide a male heir to be accepted into the 徳川将軍家 Tokugawa Shōgun-ke Tokugawa Shōgun Family in the case the main line couldn’t produce a successor itself. The go-san-ke  were the Mito Tokugawa, the Owari Tokugawa, and the Kii Tokugawa.
[iv] The Ii were longtime allies of the Tokugawa in Western Japan since the Sengoku Period.
[v] This is still very much a feature of giving directions or talking about places in Tōkyō today. “Go straight 2 blocks on 1st street, turn right. Walk 3 blocks on Pine Avenue, turn left on 5th Street, and the post office is on your right” just doesn’t work. Usually what you’ll hear is something more along the lines of “Go straight. When you see the train station, turn right. Go straight and when you see bakery, turn left. The post office will be on your right hand side. It’s across from the bookstore.”

What does Sendagaya mean?

In Japanese History on April 9, 2014 at 5:47 am

千駄ヶ谷
Sendagaya (1000 “da” valley)

Quite possibly the most useless map of Sendagaya ever.

Quite possibly the most useless map of Sendagaya ever.

Sendagaya is the area surrounded by Shinjuku, Yoyogi, Harajuku, and Akasaka. In my experience, 千駄ヶ谷駅 Sendagaya Eki Sendagaya Station is famous, but unless you live or work there, I think the area is overlooked. Much of what people may consider to be Harajuku or Yoyogi is actually Sendagaya[i]. Anyways, I’ll talk about what Sendagaya is today at the end of the article.

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OK, Let’s Look at the Kanji!


sen

1000


da

a pack horse, a load (carried by a horse)


ga

the genitive particle in Old Japanese, similar to の no in modern Japanese.


ya

valley

Seems pretty random, right? .

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駄 Da

The key to this place name are the Old Japanese words 一駄壱駄 ichida 1 da or 二駄弐駄 nida 2 da. These are units of measurement that describe how much stuff you can put on a horse’s back. I don’t know the specifics, but it’s probably something like a size and weight measurement. So you could say “This horse is carrying 3 da.” 千駄 senda 1000 da, of course, would be a crazy number and as such, the local people used the word senda to mean 沢山 takusan a lot of.

So the idea is that this area was 千駄の谷 senda no ya “the valley with a 1000 da.” This begs the question, a 1000 da of what? Well, it’s said that when Ōta Dōkan came to the area to inspect his new holdings, the valley was primarily used for rice cultivation so the name meant “the valley where a lot of rice is grown.”

The word 千駄 appears in another Tōkyō place name, 千駄木 Sendagi. I haven’t researched this place name but I’ll take a guess that it means “a lot of trees.” But that’s topic for another day.

This is a 駄馬 daba, a pack horse. I don't know how many da the horse is carrying, but you get the idea...

This is a 駄馬 daba, a pack horse. I don’t know how many da the horse is carrying, but you get the idea…

 But Wait, There’s More!

One theory states that the 渋谷川 Shibuya-gawa Shibuya River ran through this valley and there were so many 萓 gi day-lilies growing along the bank of the river, that in a single day you could carry out 1000 da of them. This etymology is suspect because of the reference to day-lilies which isn’t preserved in the name.

In 1644, we have a shōgunate record that spells the place name 千駄萱村 Sendagaya Mura Sendagaya Village. This name means 1000 da and 萱 kaya is a kind of reed. This theory states that long ago, along the bank of the Shibuya River, a lot of reeds were growing. It seems that the current writing dates from 1688.

Lastly, another theory states that the writing was 千駄茅 senda kaya a 1000 da of kaya, a kind of hay. (We’ve seen this kanji before in my article on Kayabachō.) While the exact origin of this place name isn’t known, the common theme seems to be the use of the word 千駄 senda 1000 da. Take your pick of which one you like the best.

While yes, today Sendagaya is real area in Tokyo, many people don't know where it actually is because the area is only serviced by a single train line. That said, it's proximity to other well traveled stations makes it an attractive residential district. It's quiet, yet has access quick walking access to major areas.

While yes, today Sendagaya is real area in Tokyo, many people don’t know where it actually is because the area is only serviced by a single train line. That said, it’s proximity to other well traveled stations makes it an attractive residential district. It’s quiet, yet has access quick walking access to major areas.

A Little Bit About the Area

In the Edo Period, the area was just countryside. Some daimyō had residences out this way. The 尾張徳川家 Owari Tokugawa-ke Owari branch of the Tokuagawa Family had maintained a 下屋敷 shimo-yashiki lower residence in Sendagaya for a long time. In 1877 or 1878, 篤姫 Atsu-hime Princess Atsu[ii], wife of the 13th shōgun,  徳川家定 Tokugawa Iesada[iii], moved to this residence until she lost her battle with Parkinson’s Disease in 1883. Atsu-hime was originally born in Kagoshima and helped negotiate the bloodless eviction of the Tokugawa from Edo Castle. Her counterpart was none other than the Kagoshima-born general 西郷隆盛 Saigō Takamori[iv].

The Owari Tokugawa maintained their residence here for some time. Today the palace’s lands have been transformed into 戸山公園 Toyama Kōen Toyama Park, but believe it or not, one of the Edo Period buildings of this residence still survives.

In 1957, the 書院 shoin study of the residence was moved to 總持寺 Sōji-ji Sōji Temple in 横浜市鶴見区 Yokohama-shi Tsurumi-ku Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama, not far from Tōkyō. The former study is now the reception hall of the temple. So if you want to see a beautiful daimyō study from a daimyō compound, you can.

The entrance to the study of the Owari Tokugawa's sprawling residence.

The entrance to the study of the Owari Tokugawa’s sprawling residence. Pretty freakin’ dope, huh?

Later, the area around the former Tokugawa residence was used by the Imperial Army as a training ground. Later, under the American Occupation, the US military used the confiscated training ground. Probably due to all the soldiers being there, the area became famous for love hotels and the sex industry. The red light district was shut down in the buildup to the 1960 Tōkyō Summer Olympics and today the area is mostly known as the home to many fashion and design related businesses. I think this is due to its proximity to Harajuku and Shibuya, both of which are fashion epicenters. .

Toyama Park

Toyama Park

There is another Bakumatsu personage associated with the area. One account of of the untimely death of the 新撰組 Shinsengumi commander, 沖田総司 Okita Sōji took place here. There are conflicting accounts of this due to the confusion generated by the abdication of the last shōgun 徳川慶喜 Tokugawa Yoshinobu. Also, Sōji’s brothers-in-arms were scattered at the time. All of the accounts of his death come to us years later.

A sento (public bath) near Jingumae Stadium.

A sento (public bath) near Jingumae Stadium.

鳩森八幡神社 Hatomori Hachiman-gū Hatomori Hachiman Shrine is a famous shrine in the area. I’ve talked about what a Hachiman shrine is before, so I’m not going to get into that today. However, this particular shrine is special in that it has a 富士塚 Fuji-zuka Fuji Mound. In the Edo Period, travel was tightly controlled by the shōgunate and non-samurai would have had a difficult time getting travel permission to leave their 藩 han domains. Many people wanted to make a pilgrimage to Mt. Fuji, so a trend was to bring rocks from Mt. Fuji to Edo and build a huge mockup of the volcano at a shrine and the local people could make the journey up the hill to honor the 富士浅間 Fuji Sengen, the kami of Mt. Fuji. There are still a few of these remaining today in Tōkyō – I’ve been to about 3 of them, I think.

The Fuji-zuka

The Fuji-zuka

The NTT DoCoMo building which looks like the Empire State Building is also in Sendagaya. If you’ve ever been shopping at the Southern Terrace of Shinjuku Station or enjoyed a stroll through 新宿御苑 Shinjuku Gyoen Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

The NTT DoCoMo Building. Sometimes a purely derivative and truly bizarre choice in architecture can work.

The NTT DoCoMo Building.
Sometimes a purely derivative and truly bizarre choice in architecture can work.

Oh, any expat resident of Tōkyō will tell you that Mexican food is hard to come by. While not in Sendagaya proper, there are two very famous Mexican places in nearby Yoyogi and Shibuya – both walkable from Sendagaya. One is a super famous date-spot known as Fonda de la Madrugada located in 北参道 Kita-sandō. It’s expensive, but they have a mariachi band that come to the tables and take requests (unfortunately, the only Spanish song most Japanese people know is the Gypsy Kings’ cover of Volare, so expect to hear it a few times throughout the course of your dinner)[v]. The other one is the more casual and less expensive, El Torito, located in the Southern Terrace of Shinjuku Station. OK, that’s about all I’ve got on Sendagaya.

 

 

 

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 _____________________________
[i] Or maybe that’s just me.
[ii] She’s also called 天璋院 Tenshō-in because this is the name she took after the death of Iesada. It’s a Buddhist name, and I think it’s more like a title. I was told that after the Meiji Restoration she would have been called 篤子 Atsuko, since the title 姫 hime (usually rendered as “princess”) was banned by the new government.
[iii] Yes, the same Tokugawa Iesada who is generally depicted as a complete moron. You can read about his grave here.
[iv]  A guy I don’t have a lot of respect for.
[v] Of course, I’m speaking very broadly here. I’ve personally met Japanese people who know loads of Spanish music – waaaaaay more than I do – but just the average person doesn’t know much.

What does Mejiro mean?

In Japanese History on August 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm

目白
Mejiro (White Eyes)

Little known fact. Mejiro Station is haunted by the ghosts of two high school girls.

Little known fact. Mejiro Station is haunted by the ghosts of two high school girls.

Last time, I wrote about 目黒 Meguro. The kanji mean “black eyes.” Far across town there is an area called 目白 Mejiro. The kanji mean “white eyes.” A couple of readers brought up the name Mejiro and asked if it was related. Some actually knew the story of the 五色不動 Goshiki Fudō the 5 Colored Fudō.  If you don’t know about these 5 temples, you can read about them here. If you didn’t catch my article about Meguro, you can see it here. As seems too often to be the case, there is a little fiction and a little reality served with a healthy dash of mystery – and in this case, an incredibly frustrating mystery.

First, Let’s Start with the Most Commonly Kicked Around Etymologies

Hi yo, Silver! Away!

Did someone say famous white horse?

The Famous White Horse Theory

This theory says, without stating much else, that a famous white horse was born here, a 白い名馬 shiroi meiba, if you will. This theory is plausible because, well… ok, anything’s possible. But naming a place after a single white horse seems a little silly. Anyways, the etymological basis for this derivation is that the original place name was 馬白 Mejiro “white horse” – representing a dialectal variant of ma (horse), me.  If you’re familiar with my article on Meguro, then you’ll likely find the similarity of 馬白目白 to the proposed change of 馬黒目黒 intriguing.

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Tokugawa Iemitsu

When in doubt, Iemitsu did it!

★ The “Tokugawa Iemitsu Did It” Theory

Having researched a ton of Tōkyō place names this year, I’m starting to see patterns emerge that set off my BS detectors. Theories that say the third shōgun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, came into some place and renamed it are a dime a dozen. I’m willing to entertain some of them, but some are just retarded. This is one of them.

The story states that one day Tokugawa Iemitsu came to Meguro for falconry and thought the name 目黒 Black Eyes was inauspicious and ordered the area to be called 目白 White Eyes. The stupidest thing about this theory is that anyone who looks at a map will see that the modern Meguro and Mejiro are nowhere near each other. And while – yes, anything is possible – there could have been another village called Meguro here at one point, it’s pretty fucking unlikely. Even if it was true, why didn’t Iemitsu care about the other Meguro? And he was the shōgun for fuck’s sake – the samurai dictator of the realm. I doubt he was such a pussy as to change the names of villages simply because the name scared him.

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There it is! The statue that named a village.  Or is it?

There it is! The statue that named a village.
Or is it?

★ The “Buddha Did It” Theory

This is by far the most elaborate – and widely told – theory.

At the beginning of the Edo Period, the super monk[i], 天海 Tenkai, was placed in charge of developing Buddhist temples in the area. His pet project was to build a cluster of 5 temples dedicated to Acala, called 不動 Fudō The Unmovable One in Japanese.  Each temple’s statue of Fudō had a different colored pair of eyes. The one in 目黒 Meguro Black Eyes had black eyes[ii]. The statue in 目白 Mejiro White Eyes had, you guessed it, white eyes.  The presence of a temple established by Tenkai, which was part of a grouping of 4 other temples was prestigious for the area and probably brought many pilgrims to the town’s 門前町 monzen-chō (town built at the front of a temple)[iii]. The area then derived its name from this temple’s claim to fame, the white eyed statue.

This theory sounds plausible on the surface, but the fact is that the name Mejiro pre-dates the Edo Era, so sorry to say, the statue’s eye color might originate from the place name, but the place name does not originate from the statue. The name Mejiro allegedly first appeared in one of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s original surveys of Edo when he moved into the area and was sizing up his new holdings.

Now it's time to some useless trivia.

Now it’s time to some useless trivia.

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By The Way, Why Did The Statues Each Have Different Colored Eyes?

Well, I’m glad you asked. The cluster of temples is called the 五色不動  Goshiki Fudō The Five Colored Fudō. The 5 colors are a reference to something called  五行思想  Gogyō Shisō the Theory of the Five Elements, which is some ancient Chinese woo that views the cosmos through a delicate balance of, you guessed it, 5 “elements;” wood, fire, earth, metal, and water[iv].

Gogyo - the Theory of the 5 Elements

Gogyo – the Theory of the 5 Elements

As you can see in the image above, there are 5 colors associated with these “elements;” blue, red, yellow, white, black. Which temples actually make up the Goshiki Fudō is a point of contention these days, as the grouping during the Edo Period is different than the grouping now. In fact today’s grouping has 6 statues (a second yellow eyed statue has been added). The truth is the whole story of the naming of these towns and their connections to the temple statues is an invention of the Bakumatsu Era which only gained popularity in the Meiji Era. In other words, there is zero connection between the temples and the place names.

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OK, so where does the place name Mejiro really come from?

No one knows.

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After reading all that, I hope you feel as let down and disappointed as I was researching this topic. When looking into the origins of Tōkyō place names, there are some that have fascinating stories and some that are just dead ends. At least this story has some interesting tangents that have made it worth your time. I had fun doing the research, but… yeah. I’m disappointed too.

See that large section of green?

See that large section of green labeled “Tokugawa Village?”
Let’s talk about that a little bit…

But the story isn’t finished quite yet. Have you ever been to Mejiro? There’s not much to do there so there may be no reason for you to go. But in 1932[v], the head of the 尾張徳川家 Owari Tokugawa-ke Owari branch of the Tokugawa Family built a residence here[vi]. Since then, his property has been turned into an exclusive planned community called the Tokugawa Village. It’s home to high ranking diplomats and über-rich douche bags of every stripe[vii] and it’s home to the 徳川黎明会 Tokugawa Reimeikai Tokugawa Dawn Society which sounds like an evil cult, and may in fact be one, but on the surface it seems to be a group dedicated to historical research related to the Tokugawa. It’s affiliated with the prestigious 徳川美術館 Tokugawa Bijutsukan Tokugawa Fine Art Museum in Nagoya which preserves the largest collection of art and property of the Tokugawa family and has a hell of a gift shop if you want goods with the Tokugawa family crest printed on them[viii].

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OK, so, to re-cap: famous horse, Iemitsu, 5 Buddhas, eyeballs, über-rich douche bags, Tokugawa cult, nobody knows.

The end.

 

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[i]
I say supermonk because it seems like every other temple in Kantō claims to have been established by or have some connection to him. Dude got around. Or who knows? I’m not into monks so don’t hold me to it. (And “supermonk” sounds hilarious.)
[ii] But as mentioned in my article on Meguro, the name of the town predates the Edo Period. So Meguro’s name does not derive from the statue. There is a chance that Tenkai chose the town Meguro for the black eyed statue or it may be a happy little coincidence. But Edo Period people probably dug that kind of shit, so I wouldn’t put it past the supermonk.
[iii] See my article on Monzen-nakachō for more about this kind of town.
[iv] None of which is actually an element.
[v] Shōwa 7
[vi] In the Edo Period he would have been a successive daimyō, but after the reforms of the Meiji Era he was a Marquis – just as I am a Marquis Star (cue cheeseball drumfill).
[vii] That’s totally uncalled for. I don’t know if the people there are douches or not. I’m not rich, so that’s just my jealous oozing out as totally unjustified contempt.
[viii] Yes, I want. Thank you very much.

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