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Posts Tagged ‘sony’

Yamanote Line: Ōsaki & Gotanda

In Japanese History on April 28, 2016 at 4:53 am

大崎
Ōsaki

00411.JPG

It was pointed out to me on Twitter that I unintentionally left you with a cliffhanger. We started this “Explore the Yamanote Line” in Shinagawa and I didn’t say where we were going next.

While the Yamanote Line consists of 2 true loops, one going one way and one going the opposite, for this series I’m going to follow the “official” JR East path which begins in 品川 Shinagawa and heads to 大崎 Ōsaki. So, yeah, that’s where we’re going.

post war osaki station.jpg

Ōsaki Station in the post war years. Here’s a pro tip when eyeballing old photos, besides judging by quality of the image, you can tell a photo is post war because the signage is written left to right, not right to left.

This was probably one of the more boring parts of the Yamanote circle, but it grew in importance since the 1980’s when the 埼京線 Saikyō-sen Saikyō Line began servicing the station. The Saikyō Line is a south-north train that goes from Ōsaki to 大宮 Ōmiya in 埼玉県 Saitama-ken Saitama Prefecture. Sure, Saitama isn’t very exciting, but the station had to be completely rebuilt. After all, you saw the previous picture, right? Can be handling a population boom in the city and host 2 busy train lines with a shack like that, son.

osaki south gate

Ōsaki Station’s South Exit today.

And even though it was home to Sony’s head office for many years[i], the station area underwent a total redevelopment in about 2006 when a new shopping center and business district opened there and the area is now thriving as a commercial district. Unfortunately, it’s starting to eat up the former 下町 shitamachi low city that flourished since the end of WWII. In the side streets and areas where the shinkansen tracks pass you can still feel the shitamachi vibe. Most of Ōsaki is residential.

Check Out Some Related Articles for Details:

soapland

Gotanda is where Shinagawa’s sex industry retreated to.

五反田
Gotanda

If I hadn’t worked for a year or two in Shinagawa, I’d probably have no reason to go to this place. The first time I had to go here was because they had a CitiBank. I needed to go there to access my old American bank account and at the time this was one of the few places to access international bank accounts 24 hours[ii]. What I discovered was a red light district that pretty much seemed to be an outgrowth of the Edo/Meiji Period bayside culture of Shinagawa – lots of drinking & whoring, lots of hostess clubs, and karaoke[iii]. One very noticeable difference was Chinese streetwalkers operating openly in flagrant disregard for the laws restricting the sex industry to established shops that “kept the streets clean.” This kind of unlicensed prostitution has been under a crackdown in the build up to the 2020 Olympics, I don’t expect you’ll see them for the next few years. I’ve noticed a big “clean up” in 鶯谷 Uguisudani and 歌舞伎町 Kabukichō, two other red light districts; I just haven’t visited Gotanda at night in about 10 years so I can’t say for certain. If anyone has, I’d like to hear what you know about the area.

hatakeyama.jpg

The Hatakeyama Memorial Museum is technically located in the affluent Shirokanedai neighborhood, but it is accessible from Gotanda Station… if you’re willing to walk the distance.

For the average tourist or history buff, there isn’t much reason to visit the area. If you’re up for a 10-15 minute walk from the station (or a 5 minute taxi ride), you can visit the 畠山記念館 Hatakeyama Kinenkan Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art which specializes in tea ceremony utensils. The museum rests on the former site of a detached residence of the 島津家 Shimazu-ke Shimazu clan, the lords of 薩摩藩 Satsuma Han Satsuma Domain[iv]. If you’re interested in 茶道 sadō tea ceremony and 侘寂 wabi-sabi a traditional Japanese aesthetic and world view, you’ll probably love this museum! If not, you’ll probably be bored to tears looking tea cup after tea cup after tea cup.

tamales.jpg

Whoa. Wait. Are those tamales? (don’t get your hopes up too high, fellow tamale lovers)

Anything else I’m forgetting? Ummmm, oh yeah! There’s a theater that puts on Broadway musicals. I loathe musicals with every fiber of my being so I haven’t been here and can’t speak to their quality, but they’ve put on some major shows like Miss Saigon, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Mama Mia, and The Lion King. If you’re into that sort of thing, knock yourself out. Oh yeah, one more thing, the Brazilian embassy is located in the area so a Mexican friend and I came here to visit a small grocery store that specialized in South American ingredients. I don’t know if it’s still there – this was like 10 years ago – but we could buy corn masacorn masa, the key ingredient to making tamales. We looooove tamales and couldn’t find any places in Tōkyō to get them, so we decided to make them ourselves. Hopefully the shop is still there.

Even though these 2 station may seem a little boring on the surface, both areas are fascinating to me. Please read the “related articles” for more info and most importantly, please join me for the rest of the series. We’re gonna hit some major areas of Tōkyō, so it’ll be fun to have you all along for the ride (see what I did there?)

If you know the Yamanote Line well, where do you think we’re going next?

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[i] Sony City still remains in the area. I was actually in the old Sony HQ a couple of weeks ago and it was a lot of fun to hang out in their visitors’ section. I got to help test some new prototype technologies and learned that the company cafeteria’s food is shit – didn’t taste it myself, but that’s what I was told by the people who work there.
[ii] Except for 新生銀行 Shinsei Ginkō Shinsei Bank and 7-11 ATM’s, Japanese banks/ATM’s don’t accept foreign ATM cards. In the build up to the 2020 Olympics, this is expected to change but it hasn’t yet. That said, there’s a 7-11 on almost every corner and I dare say 90% of them show up immediately on Google Maps – something I’ve learned very quickly now that I’m giving personalized guided tours of Tōkyō.
[iii] This is a vibrant residential neighborhood; but both high rises and old shitamachi (low city) culture exist side by side.
[iv] Their suburban palace was located in 田町 Tamachi, our final destination when we complete the Yamanote Line Loop.

What does Gotenyama mean?

In Japanese History on February 4, 2016 at 7:15 am

御殿山
Goten’yama (palace mountain)

map

Usually I start off saying “let’s look at the kanji,” but this time I want to look at the actual words we’re going to have to deal with today.

御殿
goten

The meaning is literally “honorable lord” and once referred to any place the lord of castle lived within the castle confines. In the Edo Period, it took on some different meanings. It could be used for any facility the shōgun frequented. In Japanese castle design, the term refers to the residence of the lord of a castle or the main hall where he would receive guests.


yama

hill, mountain


shiro, –

castle; the original meaning was a defensive structure – in Japanese history this usually meant fort/fortified residence until the very late Sengoku Period.

 

According to the 新編武風土記稿 Shinpen Musashi Fūdoki-kō[i] Newly Edited Description of Musashi Province[ii], before entering 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle, 太田道灌 Ōta Dōkan built a hilltop fort on this section of the 高輪台地  Takanawa Daichi Takanawa Plateau between 1457- 1460. This was going to be his main residence, but after seeing a vision in a dream, Dōkan decided to take Edo Castle as his main residence. He gave the fort in this area, called 御殿山城 Goten’yama-jō Goten’yama Castle (palace mountain castle), to local strong man 宇田川長清 Utagawa Nagakiyo[iii]. The castle overlooked 浅草湊 Asakusa Minato Asakusa Harbor and 品川湊 Shinagawa Minato Shinagawa Harbor, so it was a pretty important defensive location.

takanawa daichi.jpg

The Takanawa Plateau

Something Doesn’t Add Up

For a long time, that’s what people have believed and it seems legit on the surface – that is, until you start digging a little deeper. When people of Ōta Dōkan’s day said 城 shiro, they just meant a fortified residence or fort, not the kind of Japanese castle that usually comes to mind. The Shinpen Musashi Fūdoki-kō was written in Edo in the early 1800’s and when those people said shiro they were referring to the castles of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period that their cities were still based around. A warlord in Kantō of the Sengoku Period couldn’t afford to have a standalone 御殿 goten palace. His house inside the fortress walls might have been called a goten, but that was just a single building. The shiro would be what the people referred to, not the goten. That would be like calling a place where a school was located “the principal’s office.”

A Kantō warlord would also have had a few 出城 dejiro outposts[iv] that he would assign to trusted retainers at strategic locations. Ōta Dōkan was a text book case of this approach to defense. The truth is, Ōta Dōkan may have very well had a fort here – and at the very least, the presence of the Utagawa clan in the area is definitely documented. But the name 御殿山城 Goten’yama-jō Palace Mountain Castle is really suspicious. It seems the compilers of the Shinpen Musashi Fūdoki-kō either got their history or etymology wrong[v]. It turns out, this place name is mostly likely far more recent. In fact, the most logical explanation is that it dates back to the Edo Period.

yamashiro

A large hilltop castle

So What Really Happened?

After the first shōgun, 徳川家康 Tokugawa Ieyasu, set up his court in Edo, he used these former Utagawa lands for hunting[vi]. In the mid 1620’s, the 3rd shōgun 徳川家光 Tokugawa Iemitsu built a 休憩舎 kyūkeisha rest station for the shōgun when he came to the hill for 鷹狩 takagari falconry and other hunting activities. Usually rest stations were temporary affairs that could range from tents to large wooden shelters. This one seems to have been large enough to accommodate the shōgun and his retinue. Any such shelter or lodging was called a 御殿 goten in the parlance of the day. A space was also built for entertaining 重臣 jūshin senior retainers at 茶会 chakai tea ceremony events[vii]. In the 1660’s[viii], the shōgunate took on the massive beautification project of transplanting hundreds of 桜の木 sakura no ki cherry blossom trees to the area.

Oh, and what was the name of this playground of the shōguns? Well, it was called the 品川御殿 Shinagawa Goten Shinagawa Palace. The goten sat on the top of the hill and this seems to be the true etymology of the place name 御殿山 goten’yama goten hill.

Another theory exists – one that I don’t think is true, though. This one states that whether the shōguns hunted or hosted tea parties in the area is irrelevant because many 社殿 shaden Shintō shrines and 偉い人 erai hito men of high birth lived in the area. The 殿 den of shaden is the same as the 殿ten of goten. This would fall in line with the concept of 山手 yamanote high city and 下町 shitamachi low city. Unfortunately, the only actually evidence we have is the clear Edo Period evidence that says that the 徳川将軍家 Tokugawa Shōgun-ke Tokugawa Shōgun Family definitely had goten in this area. Thus, it seems pretty clear to me that the Shinagawa Goten is the source of this place name.

But, get this. The life span of the Shinagawa Goten on Goten’yama was only about 50 years. This is probably why the compilers of the Shinpen Musashi Fūdoki-kō didn’t get the story right. The place hadn’t existed for 100 years when they wrote their shitty book[ix].

diorama.jpg

Who doesn’t love a good diorama?

Only 50 Years?

The area seems to have been visited often enough in the mid-1600’s for the shōgunate to decorate it with cherry blossoms. Daimyō and other high ranking officials were often entertained here. However, in 1702, the buildings were destroyed by a conflagration that tore through the area. This marks a dead zone in the timeline of the area.

The 5th shōgun, 徳川綱吉 Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, died in 1709. The 6th shōgun, 徳川家宣 Tokugawa Ienobu, died after 3 years in office and he was succeeded by 7th shōgun, 徳川家継 Tokugawa Ietsugu, who then died at the age of 6 in 1716 – effectively ending the direct bloodline of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Rebuilding a stupid rest station for hunting was the least of the shōgunate’s concerns. Re-asserting Tokugawa leadership took up most of the shōgunate’s time. As you can imagine, the Shinagawa Goten was low priority and ultimately abandoned.

gotenyama girls

Hanami on Goten’yama.

A Place of Supreme Beauty

The shōgunate may not have had the time, energy, interest, or budget to maintain the Shinagawa Goten, but the cherry blossoms that they planted continued to thrive. Since the space wasn’t a private facility of the shōgun any more, the hill soon became one of the most popular locations in Edo for 花見 hanami cherry blossom viewing. The area was located outside of the shōgun’s capital, so it made a good day trip for those who could be granted access to Shinagawa in the spring.

hokusai hanami.jpg

A hilltop view of Edo Bay and Mount Fuji under a surreal white and pink canopy of cherry blossoms? How much more awesome could you ask for?

The cherry blossoms are said to have been in the hundreds. In fact, an account from 1824 claims that there were about 600 sakura trees on Goten’yama. To put this in perspective, 上野公園 Ueno Kōen Ueno Park is said to have about 1,200 sakura and 飛鳥山公園 Asukayama Asuka Hill Park is said to have 650. Both parks have a very different feel today, but the amount of cherry blossom trees is a good comparison – the experience on Asukayama being a little closer to the Edo Period experience than the craziness of Ueno Park.

Goten’yama was one of the defining beautiful areas of Edo and was often featured in 浮世絵 ukiyo-e wood block prints of daily life in Edo. Sadly, it came to a tragic and devastating end in the Bakumatsu. Long time readers will remember that in 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry dropped anchor in Edo Bay and demanded shōgunate open the country. He said he’d be back in a year to accept the shōgunate’s submission or bomb the shit out of Edo. He dropped the mic and took his fleet of 黒船 kurofune black ships back to the US.

kurofune

Kurofune – the Bakumatsu boogyman

The End of Edo’s Most Beautiful Hanami Spot

Totally freaking out, the shōgunate came up with a plan to build 11 manmade islands[x] across the harbor called the 品川台場 Shinagawa Daiba Shinagawa Batteries. Each battery would house a garrison of samurai and feature the best cannon technology they could get their hands on at the time[xi]. The problem with manmade islands is that you need to move dirt from the dry ground and put it into the sea.

Now, let’s see. Where did the shōgunate have unused land nearby? Oh yeah! That big hill with all the cherry blossoms is just sitting there taking up space. Why don’t we use that?

daiba_4

Let there be landfill!

They carved out, hauled off, and dumped into the bay the north side of the mountain. The area corresponds to modern 北品川3丁目3番 Kita-Shinagawa san-chōme no san-ban section 3 of the 3rd block of Kita-Shinagawa, 北品川3丁目4番 Kita-Shinagawa san-chōme no yon-ban section 4 of the 3rd block of Kita-Shinagawa, and the eastern portion of 北品川4丁目7番 Kita-Shinagawa yon-chōme no nana-ban section 7 of the 4th block of Kita-Shinagawa. They effectively cut out a substantial portion of the Takanawa Plateau and reduced it to nothing.

takasugi shinsuck

Chōshū terrorist Takasugi Shinsuck. He was a jerk.

In 1861, the shōgunate had a plan to set up the 英国公使館  Eikoku Kōshikan British Legation[xii] in the razed Goten’yama area. Normally, they would have ordered a temple to accommodate these early embassies, but for some reason, a brand new facility was built from scratch for the British Empire[xiii].

In 1862, as the complex was nearing completion, some anti-foreign terrorists from 長州藩Chōshū Han Chōshū Domain including the hotheaded 高杉晋作 Takasugi Shinsaku[xiv] and future first prime minister of the 大日本帝国 Dai-Nippon Teikoku Empire of Japan 伊藤博文 Itō Hirobumi[xv] attacked the site and burned it to the ground. The site is commemorated in the modern 権現山公園 Gongen’yama Kōen Gongen’yama Park in 北品川3丁目 Kita-Shinagawa san-chōme 3rd block of Kita-Shinagawa[xvi].

english legation memorial

Memorial of the English Legation at Gongen’yama Park

I’m sure some of the cherry blossoms were still there and still bloomed from the 1850’s to 1868, but the national crisis of the Bakumatsu seems to have distracted attention from the Goten’yama area. Between the landfill projects and the ultimately fruitless construction of the British Legation – and let’s not forget, this was the absolute outskirts of the city at the time – Goten’yama sorta fell off the map. But the final nail in the coffin was when the construction of the 東海道鉄道  Tōkaidō Tetsudō Tōkaidō Main Line began. The train tracks cut through present day 北品川3丁目 Kita-Shinagawa san-chōme 3rd block of Kita-Shinagawa and 北品川4丁目 Kita-Shinagawa yon-chōme 4th block of Kita-Shinagawa. The destruction of Goten’yama and the construction of the Tōkaidō Main Line forever changed the topography and image of the area.

sony village.jpg

Former HQ of Sony

Recent History

In 1947, ソニー Sonī Sony moved their headquarters to Goten’yama. There was a collection of Sony buildings in the area and the strong association with the electronics giant landed the area the nickname ソニー村 Sonī  Mura Sony Village. Around 2006, the company relocated to their new HQ in nearby 港南 Kōnan, next to 品川駅 Shinagawa Eki Shinagawa Station.

Today, Goten’yama is not an official postal code, but Shinagawa locals refer to the area from Kita-Shinagawa 3-chōme to Kita-Shinagawa 4-chōme as “Goten’yama.” This is roughly the area that the shōgunate mined to build the Shinagawa Batteries. Interestingly, the Shinagawa Palace is believed to have been located in 北品川5丁目 Kita-Shinagawa go-chōme 5th block of Kita-Shinagawa which is the site of an apartment complex called 御殿山パークハウス Goten’yama Pāku Hausu Goten’yama Park House. This shows that the place name Goten’yama still spans a wide area, despite having no official identity within the postal code system. Local place names and traditions are the only thing preserving it.

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[i] I’ll talk about this book a little more later.
[ii] The translation is mine. I don’t know if there’s a standard English translation of the title. I don’t even think the book has ever been translated into English.
[iii] If the name 宇田川 Utagawa looks familiar, that’s because the family name is preserved in place names all over the city. The most famous is 渋谷区宇田川町 Shibuya-ku Udagawa-chō Udagawachō, Shibuya Ward. I may have to look into the pronunciation of this place name in a future article. That said, both Utagawa and Udagawa are legit variant readings.
[iv] Literally, forts to flee to or outside forts.
[v] Or possibly both.
[vi] Or former Ōta Dōkan lands, since technically Dōkan gave them to the Utagawa.
[vii] Although the location isn’t known for sure, most people assume the Shinagawa Goten was located in present day 北品川3丁目5番 Kita-Shinagawa san-chōme go-ban section 6 of the 3rd block of Kita-Shinagawa. The postal code 御殿山 Goten’yama does not exist today.
[viii] By some standards, this was the peak of the ascendency of the Tokugawa Shōgunate – the reigns of Ietsuna and Tsunayoshi.
[ix] OK, that wasn’t fair. The Shinpen Musashi Fūdoki-kō is a pretty awesome text and we’re lucky to have it.
[x] 7 batteries were begun, but only 6 were actually completed. See my article here.
[xi] This technology was questionable at best compared to the cutting edge technology of the western powers.
[xii] A 公使館 kōshikan legation was the forerunner to the modern 大使館 taishikan embassy. They are essentially the same thing. According to Wikipedia, “A legation was the term used in diplomacy to denote a diplomatic representative office lower than an embassy. The distinction between a legation and embassy was dropped following World War II. All diplomatic representative offices are now designated as embassies or high commissions.
[xiii] Lucky them!
[xiv] Samurai Archives on Takasugi Shinsaku – or as I like to call him, Takasugi Shinsuck. The dude seems like a total wanker. His haircut was retarded, too. Just do a Google image search.
[xv] Samurai Archives on Itō Hirobumi.
[xvi] In Japanese, this act of terror is called the 英国公使館焼き討ち事件 Eikoku Kōshikan Yakiuchi Jiken Burning of the British Legation Incident. Japanese Wikipedia gives a single paragraph to the incident. No other language on Wikipedia even mentions the incident. This speaks volumes about how petty and childish Takasugi Shinsaku and the other Chōshū terrorists were in the early years of the Bakumatsu.

What does Ōsaki mean?

In Japanese History on January 21, 2016 at 7:11 am

大崎
Ōsaki (the great cape)

osaki station sign

Let’s Look at the Kanji


ō, dai/tai

big


saki, misaki[i]

a cape, a land mass that juts out into the ocean

I picked this place name because it looked easy. I mean, it seems straightforward enough. It’s located in modern 品川区 Shinagawa-ku Shinagawa Ward which everyone knows is near the bay. A big cape seems like a totally plausible thing to find in the area.

On top of that, the name first appeared on maps in the early Edo Period. It’s not a super ancient name. Dude, what more could you want? Easiest. Etymology. Ever.

gang

In a nutshell… Daphne.

If it weren’t for those Meddling Edoites

It seems to make sense until you look at Edo Period maps. Ōsaki is near Shinagawa, but it’s quite inland and, well, no. It didn’t jut out into the sea. Turns out this might be a super ancient place name after all.

Also, it seems that local tradition in the Edo Period combined with incomplete records show that the people of the area believed something totally different. By the way, in those days the area was called 武蔵国江原郡居木橋村 Musashi no Kuni Ebara-gun Irugibashi Mura Irugibashi Village, Ebara District, Musashi Province. They seem to have claimed the name 大崎 Ōsaki “Big Cape” was a corruption of 尾崎 Osaki[ii]– a place in 武蔵国秩父郡 Musashi no Kuni Chichibu-gun Chichibu District, Musashi Province. The idea being that at one time this area was indeed jutting out into the sea and was an extension of the 秩父山 Chichibu Yama Chichibu Mountains.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Osaki Shrine – namesake of the area formerly known as Osaki. Something’s not right here.

But wait, you say! Chichibu is in northwest Saitama or some shit[iii]. How could there be a connection so far away? I’m not 100% sure, but even though Tōkyō is a hilly city it’s located in what is called the 関東平野 Kantō Heiya Kantō Plain, ie; it’s relatively flat compared to the surrounding areas. There is a stretch of mountains that forms a natural boundary that spans Chichibu all the way to Tōkyō Bay. Ōsaki doesn’t seem a likely place to include in that path today, given its distance from the sea. However, it may have been at one point. So, more about that later.

Kanto_plain.png

The Kantō Plain. The Chichibu Mountains lay to the west. The star marks Ōsaki. The lone peak in the southwest is Mt. Fuji (no relation to this article).

Another Chichibu Connection

At the end of the 12th century, samurai of the 秩父氏 Chichibu-shi Chichibu clan began to move into this area. The 鎌倉幕府 Kamakura Bakufu Kamakura Shōgunate granted them 7 fiefs in the area, including 江戸郷 Edo-gō Edo Hamlet. As long time readers know, they established a fortified residence in an area called 千代田 Chiyoda and donned the name of the area thus becoming the 江戸氏 Edo-shi. Famously, their residence in Chiyoda came to be called 江戸城 Edo-jō.

I’m not sure how much control they exerted in this area – if any – but there is a particularly ancient shine in their ancestral lands in Chichibu called 尾崎神社 Osaki Jinja Osaki Shrine. Also located in their ancestral lands is an area called 千代田 Chiyoda[iv]. With the arrival of the Chichibu clan (locally renamed the Edo clan), coincidence or not, there may have been a reason for the average person on the street to associate the two areas. Or so the story goes.

Further Reading:

So, Now for the Mysterious (but tenuous) Shrine Connection

The main shrine in Ōsaki is 居木神社 Irugi Jinja Irugi Shrine. The shrine I mentioned before is 尾崎神社 Osaki Jinja Osaki Shrine. I cross checked all of this against a 3rd shrine called 秩父神社 Chichibu Jinja Chichibu Shrine.

wedding irugi shrine

Irugi Shrine[v]

It’s located in Ōsaki. Basically, there’s no founding date for the shrine. By its own accounts, it’s just sorta been there forever. Fair enough. It appears to have been established to honor a local tutelary deity and over the course of a thousand years, 2 other 神 kami Shintō spirits have been co-enshrined there. The shrine lies on a plateau that has been inhabited without interruption since Neolithic times.

osaki shrine shit

Osaki Shrine in Saitama. FFS these people can’t even hold a camera straight. Ugh!

Osaki Shrine

It’s located in Saitama. Today the shrine lies just outside the border of the modern 秩父地方 Chichibu Chihō Chichibu Area, but I think the area was under the Chichibu clan’s control in the Kamakura Period.

chichibu shrine

You need a car to get to Chichibu Shrine, but it’s a really beautiful place.

Chichibu Shrine

It’s located in the Chichibu Mountains, Saitama. This was an important shrine for the 秩父平氏 Chichibu Hei-shi Chichibu branch of the Taira clan[vi]. 4 kami are enshrined here. 2 kami bear the name “Chichibu” using the current spelling 秩父 Chichibu and the ancient spelling of 知知夫 Chichibu.

Since the connection between the Osaki in Chichibu and Ōsaki seemed weak, I thought I’d check connections between the Chichibu clan and Edo. When nothing came up, I checked the shrines. Sadly, I found nothing. The kami enshrined in each location are completely unrelated to the best of my knowledge[vii].

0saki station

Ōsaki Station circa 1955.

OK, So Shall We Look at the History?

Present day 大崎2丁目 Ōsaki Ni-chōme  2nd block of Ōsaki and 大崎3丁目 Osaki San-chōme 3rd block of Ōsaki lie on a plateau that traditionally overlooked the 目黒川 Meguro-gawa Meguro River. Today the view of the river is generally obscured by 大崎駅 Ōsaki Eki Ōsaki Station.

Capture

Most of the  Meguro River is underground today.

In the early 縄文時代 Jōmon Jidai Jōmon Period[viii] (give dates), the waters of the bay encroached quite deep into what are inland areas today. It’s a well-established fact that Jōmon people inhabited this plateau. As a high ground location, it was extremely defensible and probably safe from flooding. Its close access to sea and the rivers pouring to the bay gave it ample access to seafood. The Jōmon people were hunter-gatherers. They didn’t really have agriculture, so access to good fishing areas was critical for them.

jomon-period-inlets

Earlier, I mentioned Irugi Shrine is in Ōsaki 3-chōme. The shrine has luckily preserved evidence of the Jōmon culture that thrived in the area. On the precincts, there is a 貝塚 kaizuka shell mound. To modern eyes, the defining characteristic of these people is their pottery – a lot of pottery has been excavated here. Human bones and other evidence of a human presence is consistent from the early Jōmon Period right up to the present.

The Neolithic culture of the Jōmon people didn’t vanish overnight with the spread of rice culture and the rise of the Yamato State. But, its antiquity and its religious significance are surely the traditional raison d’être for Irugi Shrine’s existence. The importance of the area may very well be an echo of its Jōmon past.

In the 室町時代 Muromachi Jidai Muromachi Period, traffic from 多摩郡 Tama-gun Tama District to 品川宿 Shinagawa-shuku Shinagawa Post Town increased. Because of this, the 居木橋 Irugibashi Irugi Bridge was built across the Meguro River[ix]. As a result, villages began popping up near the bridge to accommodate merchants, fishermen, craftsmen, farmers, and the occasional military or imperial envoys that may have needed to pass through this god forsaken territory.

Further Reading:

osaki

Ōsaki – Common Family Name

You will find places all over Japan called 大崎 Ōsaki. It’s very common. But you will also meet people with this name. Invariably, this family name is derived from a local place name. In the Kantō area – Tōkyō excluded[x] – this name is often traceable back to 下総国香取郡大崎 Shimōsa no Kuni Katori-gun Ōsaki Osaki, Katori District, Shimōsa Province in modern 千葉県 Chiba-ken Chiba Prefecture. The family has ancient origins in the 清和源氏 Seiwa Genji (Seiwa Minamoto). The clan originally descends from 清和天皇 Seiwa Tennō Emperor Seiwa (850–878) who was the 56th emperor. This particular bloodline is ultimately the root of thousands of samurai families, but the Seiwa Genji (let’s just say Minamoto from now on), was the line that gave us 源頼朝 Minamoto no Yoritomo who established the first 幕府 bakufu shōgunate in 鎌倉 Kamakura in 1192. A later descendant, a certain 足利尊氏 Ashikaga Takauji, established the second shōgunate in 1636 – also establishing a precedent that only those who could claim descent from the Seiwa Minamoto could be granted the title of  征夷大将軍 seii tai-shōgun great general who expels the barbarians[xi]. It’s a messy story, but in short, the Ōsaki family of Ōsaki, Shimōsa Province claims to be descendants of this particularly noble bloodline. Next time you meet a person named Ōsaki from Chiba Prefecture, ask them. They probably don’t have a clue lol.

But all of that said, the family name is not related to the Tōkyō place name, Ōsaki.

Further Reading:

アパート_大崎_品川区西品川3丁目4-7_1K

Ōsaki still has some old school areas. These are mostly leftovers from the 70’s-80’s.

Wait! Wait! So What Does Ōsaki Mean??

The kanji mean “big cape,” like I said at the beginning of the article. Where does it come from? The jury is out on that one. No one has a solid etymology – least of whom is me! Enjoy the tenuous connections I’ve given you and accept the fact that some place names may forever be mysterious. I’ll see you in the next article!

 

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[i] There are some other readings of this kanji but saki/zaki are the most common.
[ii] This place name is cryptic – I assume it’s  当て字 ateji kanji used for phonetic reasons. The kanji 尾 o literally means “tail” or “slope at the bottom of a mountain.” 崎 saki, of course, means “cape.” But this area is landlocked. Anyways, it’s not in Tōkyō so it’s outside of the scope of this blog.
[iii] It’s Saitama, so no one really knows where it is. Saitama probably doesn’t even know where it is!
[iv] Don’t get too excited about this, it could very well be a coincidence. But it does make me want to check to see if there is a connection. I hadn’t seen this before. If there is a connection, I’ll have to re-write my article on Chiyoda. (Fingers crossed there’s no connection lol!)
[v] In the interest of keeping this article concise, I decided against describing the shrine in detail. However, the place sounds pretty interesting, so I may go down there on Friday to take some pictures and check it out first hand. If it turns out to be really interesting, I’ll dedicate a short article to it. If it turns out to be boring, I’ll just upload the pix to JapanThis on Flickr and tweet the link. If you don’t follow me on Flickr, you should. I tend to add a lot of historical backstory to a lot of the photos.
[vi] Or Chichibu Taira-shi. The reading isn’t important. The meaning is the same.
[vii] This is a tricky thing, though. It seems like there are different levels of affiliation/enshrinement. I’m not an expert on Shintō by any stretch of the imagination, so if anyone could help me dig deeper to see if there’s a connection, I’d really appreciate it.
[viii] I guess you could call this period Neolithic. Some people would say it’s Paleolithic.
[ix] The bridge took its name from the shrine.
[x] More than half the people you meet in Tōkyō are not originally from Tōkyō – even if they’ve lived here several generations.
[xi] A general consensus among historians says that 織田信長 Oda Nobunaga and 豊富秀吉Toyotomi Hideyoshi never sought the title of shōgun for precisely this reason. They couldn’t claim descent from the Seiwa Genji clan. 徳川家康 Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the 江戸幕府 Edo Bakufu Edo Shōgunate, on the other hand is generally believed to have falsified his genealogy to claim descent from this bloodline in order to secure his appointment as shōgun.

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