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What does Shiogama mean?

In Japanese History on August 5, 2015 at 4:28 am

塩釜
Shiogama (salt kettle)

Shiogama Shrine looks more like ruins than an active shrine.

Shiogama Shrine looks more like ruins than an active shrine.

Today’s place name isn’t an official place name, it’s part of a park name, 塩釜公園 Shiogama Kōen Shiogama Park. The park actually takes its name from a shrine.

When I first saw this shrine, which is in such a state of disrepair that I actually thought it was a ruin, I never thought there would be much of a story behind it. The shrine precincts are in shambles, yet it’s designated as an official park of 港区 Minato-ku Minato Ward. But among the scattered ruins of this park, you can see a lot of Edo Period stonework. It has modern signage that designates it as a park, but it doesn’t look like a park that anyone would go out of their way to see[i]. I stumbled across it quite by accident when I decided to walk down a street I’d never taken before.

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Anyways, turns out this decrepit little shrine has a pretty amazing backstory. The shrine’s name is derived from 鹽竈神社Shiogama Jinja Shiogama Shrine in 塩竈市 Shiogama-shi Shiogama City in 宮城県 Miyagi-ken Miyagi Prefecture. Miyagi Prefecture’s capital is 仙台市 Sendai-shi Sendai City.

But wait, “those kanji look different,” you must be saying. The first one is incredibly complex and uses kanji from before the post-WWII writing reforms. The second one updated the first character, but kept the obsolete 2nd character. A 3rd writing is used in Tōkyō, 塩釜 Shiogama, which uses 2 simplified, modern characters. But don’t worry; they’re all the same name as you’ll soon see.

There's a lot of this just scattered all over the place.

There’s a lot of this just scattered all over the place.

The Backstory

Shiogama Shrine in Miyagi enters the historical record in the 9th century and came to be associated with the 平泉藤原氏 Hiraizumi Fujiwara-shi Fujiwara clan of Hiraizumi[ii]. In the Edo Period, the 伊達家 Date-ke Date family became the shrine’s main patrons. In 1600, the warlord 伊達政宗 Date Masmune[iii] had been awarded a large and profitable seaside fief that would come to be called 仙台藩 Sendai Han Sendai Domain.

The 4th and 5th lords of Sendai Domain, 伊達綱村 Date Tsunamura and 伊達吉村 Date Yoshimura, repaired and expanded the shrine from 1695-1704. It became a major shrine in the area at this time and was closely connected to lords of Date and the domain’s ruling class. Most of the institution’s present greatness dates from this 9 year development project.

Cherry blossoms at Shiogama Shrine in Miyagi Prefecture.

Cherry blossoms at Shiogama Shrine in Miyagi Prefecture.

The Real Story Starts Here

In 1695, Date Tsunamura had the 神 kami deity of Shiogama Shrine divided[iv] and brought to Edo to be enshrined on the premises of Sendai’s massive 上屋敷 kamiyashiki upper residence which was located at present day 汐留シオサイト Shiodome Shio Saito Shiodome Shio Site[v]. The shrine stood on the private upper residence of Sendai for just over 160 years.

Then, in 1856, the shrine was relocated to the 中屋敷 nakayashiki middle residence in the 芝口 Shibaguchi area of Edo[vi]. This is the current location of the shrine today. It has stood at its present location for just under 160 years.

Layout of the upper residence of Sendai Domain.

Layout of the upper residence of Sendai Domain.

Just to put the relocation in perspective. 1856 was 3 years after Commodore Matthew C. Perry barged into 浦賀湾 Uraga Wan Uraga Bay demanding the Tokugawa Shōgunate open up the country for trade. It was 2 years after his return with diplomats insisting the shōgunate sign treaties. It was 12 years before the Meiji Coup succeeded in ousting the Tokugawa and establishing the Empire of Japan.

After the Meiji Coup, the daimyō were sent back to their domains. It’s in these early Meiji years that Shiogama Shrine became popular with the common people. Previously, they probably didn’t have much access to it because it sat on a daimyō’s private property[vii]. The 神 kami deity housed in the shrine is associated with 安産 anzan safe childbirth[viii]. Once the public had access to such a “powerful” kami formerly horded by the ancestors of Sengoku rock star, Date Masamune, the popularity of the shrine skyrocketed.

Shiogama Shrine in Shinbashi in the Meiji Period.

Shiogama Shrine in Shinbashi in 1901 (Meiji 34).

Shrine Decline

They say the shrine was completely leveled in the 1923 関東大震災 Kantō Daishinsai Great Kantō Earfquake. One of the positive outcomes of the earthquake was the immediate creation of evacuation areas. As a former daimyō residence, the surrounding area was presumably flat and open[ix]. Shiogama Shrine was designated as disaster evacuation spot. I’m not clear if the entire estate was made an evacuation area or just the shrine area, but by late 1923, the City of Tōkyō created 町立盬竃公園 Chōritsu Shiogama Kōen Shiogama Park of East Tōkyō City.

In the 1940’s, the Tōkyō Bay area suffered horrific aerial attacks by the Americans. The so-called 東京大空襲 Tōkyō Daikūshū Firebombing of Tōkyō[x] brought the city of rivers and wood to her knees. Historical and religious intuitions that had once had deep pockets were forced out of necessity to sell their real estate holdings[xi]. It seems that this was the death knell of this particular shrine. Its 9th century origins and connection to the Sengoku warlord Date Masamune weren’t enough completely restore this once thriving shrine.

Most of the shrine looks like this today.

Most of the shrine looks like this today.

The Shrine Today

In 1971, the small block containing the shrine and the park became 区立塩釜公園 Kuritsu Shiogama Kōen Shiogama Park controlled by Minato Ward. The kanji were officially changed in accordance with the kanji reforms of the post war era (remember the buggy kanji issue I mentioned before?).

The shrine is still active, but Tōkyōites don’t know about. It’s minor as fuck. Also, as I mentioned before, it’s in such a state of disrepair that no one would visit it unless they were interested in really obscure shit… which yours truly happens to be interested in. Obsessively so. lol.

But the shrine is shambles. The park area is tiny and includes nice seats and signage explaining the history of the area. But the shrine itself, which occupies a larger area, is a mess. I’m just going out on a limb and guessing the shrine gets a tax break and the family running it can get by, but Minato Ward is maintaining the smaller park area.

dirty shrine

The Kabuki Konnektion

Earlier I mentioned the 4th lord of Sendai, Date Tsunamura, brought the kami of Shiogama to Edo. He has been immortalized in the world of 歌舞伎 kabuki in a play called 伽羅先代萩 Meiboku Sendai Hagi. It’s the story of the 伊達騒動 Date Sōdō Date Disturbance which was a succession dispute that lasted from 1660 to 1671.

The 3rd lord of Sendai, 伊達綱宗 Date Tsunamune was a big fan drinking and whoring[xii] who spent all his time and money in the Yoshiwara. He was deposed by a faction of uptight clansmen for his negligence and dissolute ways[xiii].

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Long story short, the 2 year old Date Yoshimura was made lord of Sendai and 10 years of infighting within the clan began. The shōgunate was finally asked to step in and resolve the issue before things got out of control. Well, in 1671, things did get out of control – swords were dawn, one samurai was killed, and one retainer’s family was abolished and his family executed. Ultimately, the young Tsunamura’s right to rule was reaffirmed by the shōgunate.

Because the shōgunate censored stories about the scandals of elite samurai, the story had to be “disguised” when put into kabuki form. The stage version was set in the Muromachi Period and given an esoteric title. The name, Meiboku Sendai Hagi, is made of 3 words evocative of the events. 伽羅 meiboku (normally read kyara) is a kind of wood used to make clogs. It’s said that Tsunamune wore clogs made of this material when going to the Yoshiwara. 先代 sendai means predecessor, as in the former head of a daimyō family. So Meiboku Sendai means the “former ruler who wore wooden clogs.” Sendai also sounds like Sendai Domain – I see what you did there. The last word, 萩 hagi Japanese clover, is a flowering plant that is famous in Sendai.

In short, the play presents Tsunamura as a just ruler replacing a Tsunamune, a corrupt ruler. I don’t know a lot about kabuki, but it seems there are many variations of this particular story. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.

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[i] Unless you’re a Japanese history nerd, of course.
[ii] Who were the Fujiwara?
[iii] Who was Date Masamune?
[iv] The dividing of kami is done through a process called 分霊 bunrei which literally means “sharing a spirit.”
[v] Present day 東新橋一丁目 Higashi-Shinbashi 1-chōme 1st Block of East Shinbashi.
[vi] Present day 西新橋三丁目 Nishi-Shinbashi 3-chōme 3rd Block of West Shinbashi. The area was also called 愛宕下 Atagoshita at the time. The name Shibaguchi persists in shop names and in the parlance of locals, it is not an official place name today. The area near 愛宕神社 Atago Jinja Atago Shrine does preserve the name Atago officially.
[vii] Some daimyō made their tutelary shrines accessible to locals, I’m not sure to what extent – if any – the general populace had access to before Sendai’s middle residence had been vacated.
[viii] This term is broad and includes protection for the baby during gestation and birth, protection for the mother during pregnancy and labor, and protection against birth defects or being “sickly.”
[ix] Today it is most definitely flat, but crowded with small post-WWII shops, homes, and businesses. There is a large park and school on the former daimyō residence as well.
[x] Literally “the Great Air-Raid.”
[xi] Even the richest and most beautiful funerary temples of the Tokugawa shōguns had to finally sell off their properties and consolidate whatever holdings they could hold dear.
[xii] And let’s be honest, who isn’t?
[xiii] A bunch of effin’ killjoys, if you ask me.

Why is Sendai Horigawa called Sendai Horigawa?

In Japanese History on May 16, 2013 at 1:04 am

仙台堀川
Sendai Horigawa (Sendai Canal)

Hydrophilia, baby!!!

Sendai Horigawa Park

One of the most fascinating things about Tōkyō is finding little hints of the great city of Edo still lingering. Sometimes it might be a building. It might be just a plaque. It might just be the layout of the street or the type of shops prevalent in the area. Sometimes, it might just be a place name.

Tonight while randomly looking around a map of 江東区 Kōtō-ku Kōtō Ward, I saw this place name. Given the location, I had a sneaking suspicion about the origin of the name and I decided to research it to see if I was right.

As mentioned before, Sendai Domain had their upper residence in present day Shiodome. If you went north up the coast of Edo Bay, you’d come to Kiba, and just above that to the location of Sendai Domain’s warehouses. This is where goods would be imported from the domain and, naturally, goods purchased in Edo would be sent back. Food stuffs for the domain serving sankin-kōtai duty were also stored here until they were needed.

This isn't Sendai's warehouse, but this is more or less what the area would have looked like in the Edo Period.

This isn’t Sendai’s warehouse, but this is more or less what the area would have looked like in the Edo Period.

Around the time of the 3rd shōgun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, a canal was dug here to increase water routes from the bay area. Sendai, being an extremely large domain, would have had an especially large warehouse facility here right on the canal. Since the Edo Period, many of the old waterways have been filled in or re-routed. Sendai Canal was no different and eventually the area around it was converted into a so-called hydrophilic park.* That is to say, it’s a big ass park with a lot of lakes and streams. I’ve never been there before – actually I’d never even heard of it before – but a Google image search pulled up pictures of a pretty nice looking park and one picture of the emperor.
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* The Japanese word is 親水公園 shinsui kōen. While hydrophilic is usually a chemistry term, the Japanese word means something like “close to water” or “water-friendly” and refers to parks on rivers or lakes that make an effort to focus on the natural beauty of water.

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.

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What is Shiodome?

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

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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).

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

Why is Shinbashi called Shinbashi?

In Japanese History on March 26, 2013 at 8:38 am

新橋
Shinbashi (New Bridge)

Shinbashi Station, Tokyo

Present Day Shinbashi Station

Today, I’m a little busy so I chose an easy place name.

Or so I thought. As usual, the history of even the simplest place name turns out to be rich in history. FML

View of Shinbashi Station from across the Shiba River (the river has long since been filled in and there is now a high that goes over where it used to be).

View of Shinbashi Depot from across the Shiba River in the very early Meiji Period (the river has long since been filled in and there is now a high that goes over where it used to be).

Anyhoo, the name is straight forward. It’s the new bridge, as opposed to the old bridge – presumably any older bridge in the area. Also known as the 芝口橋 Shibaguchibashi (Shibaguchi Bridge), the “New Bridge” was first erected across the 汐留川 Shiodomegawa Shiodome River in 1604. This would place Shinbashi among the earliest of major urban projects in the development of Edo as the capital city of the Tokugawa (and within the lifetimes of the first 2 Tokugawa shoguns).*

Shibaguchi_Shinbashi_Depot

A view from Shibaguchi looking towards Toranomon. This ukiyo-e is from the early Meiji Period, note the very un-Edo-like telegraph poles.

In the Edo period, the name Shinbashi was applied to the whole area right up to the border of Tsukiji, which is quite north of what is now called Shinbashi. The area was covered with daimyô residences all the way from 丸之内 Marunouchi (Edo Castle grounds) and 京橋 Kyōbashi right up to present Shiba Park. (This area was called 大名小路 Daimyō Kōji Daimyō Alley, an area I will come back in a future post).

In the Meiji Period, 新橋停車場 Shinbashi Teishajō Shinbashi Depot was built on the site of the former upper residence of 仙台藩 Sendai-han Sendai Domain (present day Shiodome). The area on the south side of Shinbashi Depot, formerly called 芝口 Shibaguchi, came to be referred to as Shinbashi.

Shinbashi Depot from across the river...

Shinbashi Station (formerly Karasumori Station) from across the river. If I’m not mistaken, this river is also no longer there.

Shinbashi Depot was the starting point of the main Tokaidō Line until 1914. If you visit Shiodome today, you can see a reconstruction of the original station. If you walk a little ways towards Ginza, you can find the remains of the Meiji Era bridge (essentially, an old lamp post). Unfortunately, in typical Tokyo style, the river has been filled in and is overshadowed by a massive freeway which totally kills the natural beauty of the river and contributes to noise pollution. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

The modern reconstruction of Shinbashi Depot in present day Shiodome.

The modern reconstruction of Shinbashi Depot in present day Shiodome.

remains of original shinbashi bridge

This lamp post is all that remains of the Meiji Era bridge. (The original Edo Period bridge was wood, silly…) Note the shadows cast by the crappy highway that now looms overhead.

Present Shinbashi Station is located in “Present” Shinbashi. The station opened in 1909 under the name 烏森駅 Karasumori Eki (Crow Forest Station). When Shibashi Depot was closed and demolished, Karasumori Station was renamed Shinbashi Station (1914). Actually, there is still an exit called Karasumori. In the post war era, Shinbashi was a bumpin’ Tokyo hot spot. There were lots of places to go eating, drinking and whoring and today the Karasumori keeps up the tradition as a “salaryman pleasure quarters” where you can see drunk office workers eating, drinking and whoring all night long in dingy Showa Era dives.

It appears that in the 1970’s when Shinkansen service began, old parts of the station were removed because they were in the way. The simple, streamlined station of today looks very little like the classic Meiji Era building that survived the Great Kantō Earthquake and the firebombing of WWII.

Shinbashi Station before and after the Great Kanto Earfquake (1923).

Shinbashi Station before and after the Great Kanto Earfquake (1923).

If you want to see some pictures of Shinbashi Depot and Shibaguchi, check these out!!

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*FYI, the 3rd Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, was born in 1604.

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