marky star

Posts Tagged ‘sushi’

What is the Tsukishima Area?

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Travel in Japan on December 9, 2014 at 2:19 am

月島地域
Tsukishima Chiiki
(Moon Island Area)

Tsukishima Matsuri

Tsukishima Matsuri

First of all, happy holidays to you! I hope you’re all able to stay warm during this winter season.
My last article on the Edo Period fishing island of Tsukudajima, raised the unavoidable problem of what to do about all the landfill that extended the island substantially southwest along the coast of the bay. I could have broken up each neighborhood into small articles, but that would have taken a long time. Separately, they might not be as interesting to read. So I decided to combine all of them as an early クリトリスプレゼント Kuritorisu purezento Christmas present to you all. It’s also a present to myself so I can relax during the coming 御正月 O-shōgatsu New Year Holiday. This year I’ve burnt the candle at both ends and it’s finally caught up with me. I can’t wait to relax.

Today we have a lot of ground to cover so let’s get right into it, shall we? Today we’re going on a whirlwind tour from Tsukiji to Tsukuda to Tsukishima to Kachidoki to Toyomi-chō ending in Harumi looking towards the future.

Today's course!

Today’s course!

 。


築地
Tsukiji (landfill, literally “fabricated land”)


tsuki

man-made, fabricated


chiji

land

The word “tsukiji” means fabricated land. Modern Japanese uses a different word for landfill today, 埋立地 umetatechi which means something like “built up land.”

The name means landfill because, that’s exactly what it was. After the 明暦大火 Meireki Taika Meireki Conflagration[i] in 1657, the first landfill efforts were conducted in this area. The shōgunate began extending the area from 鉄砲洲 Teppōzu Rifle Sandbar[ii] southward. At the time, Teppōzu was where the mainland was closest to 佃嶋 Tsukudajima Tsukuda Island. The new expansion was simply called 築地 Tsukiji “fabricated land.”

Teppozu in the Edo Period. They say the name of the landfill is because it looks like a matchlock rifle. I think it looks more like a katana cuz a curved rifle sounds dangerous.  Anyways, the gray areas are commoner towns, the large white areas are daimyo, the small white areas are samurai residences. That's Tsukuda Island to the right. The tiny red areas in Teppozu are land owned by the Teppozu Shrine.

Teppozu in the late Edo Period. They say the name of the landfill is because it looks like a matchlock rifle. I think it looks more like a katana cuz a curved rifle sounds dangerous.
Anyways, the gray areas are commoner towns, the large white areas are daimyo, the small white areas are samurai residences.
That’s Tsukuda Island to the right. The tiny red areas in Teppozu are land owned by the Teppozu Shrine.

An interesting side note about the name Teppōzu. It survives only in the name of a shrine. In 1624, 鉄砲洲稲荷神社 Teppōzu Inari Jinja Teppōzu Inari Shrine was built in the area. The shrine is famous for a wacky winter festival which culminates in 寒中水浴 kanchū suiyoku ritual purification by taking a group bath in freezing water (that link is video of this year’s event, btw). The shrine was moved to 八丁堀 Hatchōbori in 1868.

Look, ma! It's a bunch of people freezing in a pool of ice cold water in the middle of December!!

Look, ma! It’s a bunch of people freezing in a pool of ice cold water in the middle of December!!

Anyways, after the fire in 1657, the 浅草御坊 Asakusa Gobō (a residence for priests of 浅草本願寺 Asakusa Hongan-ji Asakusa Hongan Temple) was rebuilt on part of the reclaimed land. Later, a temple and cemetery were built next to gobō that served the needs of the inhabitants of the area. A local town and economy sprung  around the temple, called a 門前町 monzen-chō in Japanese[iii], and the area began to flourish. Eventually some 武家屋敷 buke yashiki samurai residences and 大名屋敷 daimyō yashiki daimyō residences were built in the area as well.

The temple that was built here was named 築地本願寺 Tsukiji Hongan-ji Tsukiji Hongan Temple (a branch temple of the and because of its unique architecture is a local landmark. It was a traditional Japanese temple until it was destroyed in the 関東大震災 Kantō Daishinsai Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. The present concrete structure is a weird mix of Western Neo-Classicism, Southeast Asian Buddhism, and fascist architecture that looks like a basilica/cathedral mated with a temple and shat out a concrete baby. That said, it’s a unique building and it’s pretty hard to miss.

Not sure if fascist government buildings. Or 1930's train station.

Not sure if fascist government building…or 1930’s train station.

Tsukiji Hongan-ji was built by 伊東忠太 Itō Chūta and was completed in 1934. I don’t know much about Chūta who designed this monstrosity, but he seems to have been the darling of the Japanese Empire. His designs, in my humble opinion, are just clownish. He took the soul out of traditional architecture in an attempt to westernize it. But that’s just my opinion and I can’t deny that his influence was huge. In the Post WWII era, you’ll find many buildings built by his students and architects influenced by him, including so-called traditional buildings. But just to give you an idea of some of his other work: he designed the 遊就館Yūshūkan the biased, pro-imperial museum at 靖国神社 Yasukuni Jinja Yasukuni Shrine. The building boasts a style that would look great on the dead Kim Jong-il or Joseph Stalin.

Oh, and he designed this:

He did this in Kyoto. Kyoto!! I rest my case.

He did this in Kyoto.
Kyoto!!I rest my case.

I’m sorry. My bitching is almost finished. I have one more thing to complain about this temple. You see, it has another claim to fame. The funerary ceremony[iv] of “rock[v]” musician, Hide[vi], was held at Tsukiji Hongan-ji[vii]. Many people with bad taste in music consider him the Curt Cobain of Japan. After he killed himself in 1998, his bad fashion sense and inability to do rock, metal, or industrial music properly launched an entire fashion and music movement in Japan[viii]. The movement came to be called ヴィジュアル系 vijuaru-kei visual style – usually called V系 V-kei today. As far as the bands go, they’re ridiculous looking post-gal style clown shows.

Spend a little more time rocking out and making music with integrity and a little less time doing your hair for a good purikura session.  I mean, if you want people to take you seriously... Clowns.

Spend a little more time rocking out and making music with integrity and a little less time doing your hair for a good purikura session.
I mean, if you want people to take you seriously…
Clowns.

Back to the History – Foreigner Zones

Sorry, got off track there but I had to get off my chest while researching this.

So, way back in 1869 (Meiji 2), foreigners still weren’t a common site in Japan and given the animosity towards and even violence against foreigners since the 1850’s that had been commonplace[ix], the major ports of Japan often had special “foreigner towns” set up where non-Japanese could live peacefully without having to deal with any BS from the locals[x]. And so in 1869 (Meiji 2), a 居留地 kyoryūchi foreign settlement[xi] was established in Teppōzu. The area had foreign schools, churches, and buildings associated with the newly born international spirit of trade. The American School in Japan was established in the foreign settlement in 1902 (Meiji 35).

tsukiji foreign settlement

The Tsukiji Settlement in 1894 (Meiji 27). You can clearly see the traditional 2 story buildings of the Edo Period in the surrounding areas. I imagine this sort of unique neighborhood with its unique architecture and strange inhabitants must have been a mind blowing experience for Meiji Era residents of Tokyo.

Also, I don’t want to paint the Japanese as being completely racist here. These settlements were born out of a necessity of the Bakumatsu. Radical samurai were indeed trying to assassinate any foreigners they deemed as a threat – they were straight up terrorists. The Japanese had a highly complex hierarchy that was unfamiliar to the newly come foreign embassies. The foreign nations had negotiated for exemption from things like kowtowing to daimyō processions and beheadings and such because… well, they couldn’t wrap their heads around it[xii]. The shōgunate assigned samurai bodyguards to protect the foreigners and established “foreigner zones” to keep them safe. In the new “Meiji Chill Out™[xiii]” foreign settlements, many established before the coup, were areas where commerce and official business could be conducted in a kind of creole and mash up of styles that was conducive to everyone. The Christian westerners could get their Jesus on in peace and educate their kids in their parents’ languages. They didn’t have to learn Japanese to survive. A foreigner could sit in a chair and not the floor. A Japanese person could wear foreign fashion and not take any shit for it. Fair enough [xiv].

Was Meiji Fashion the birth of cosplay?

Was Meiji Fashion the birth of cosplay? That’s not a rhetorical question.

With the establishment of an imperial navy, the area became an education center for naval officers. Beginning in 1888 (Meiji 21), present day 築地 Tsukiji was the home to the 海軍経理学校 Kaigun Keiri Gakkō the Naval Administration School of the Japanese Empire. The school operated on that property until the end of WWII. The founder of the Japanese Navy and one of the real visionaries of the late Edo Period, 勝海舟 Katsu Kaishū, even served as a professor in the area[xv].

Navy Training. No boat style. Awwwwww yeah!

Navy Training.
No boat style.
Awwwwww yeah!

The area began a kind of transformation after the 関東大震災 Kantō Daishinsai Great Kantō Earfquake in 1923. Most of the old Edo Period buildings were burnt to the ground, but the area didn’t modernize overnight. Of course, the Naval Academy was rebuilt as soon as possible. But Edo’s fish market, which had also been burnt to the ground, needed to be rebuilt. The Nihonbashi market was no longer as convenient as it had once been, so it was decided to relocate the fish market to Tsukiji. The construction of a “modern” market facility opened in 1935. The modern Tsukiji Market has been a work in progress ever since. There is a great debate about moving it now, much to the dismay of the locals. So far the market remains in its place and if you want some ridiculously delicious 江戸前寿司 Edomae-zushi Edo-style sushi, then get your ass there.

Edomae Sushi

Edomae Sushi

 。



Tsukuda (cultivated field)

A view of Tsukuda Island from the north. The wooded area is Ishikawa Island. The unwooded, developed area is the commoner town.

A view of Tsukuda Island from the north. The wooded area is Ishikawa Island. The unwooded, developed area is the commoner town.

So, the other day I wrote about this location. Directly across from Teppōzu was a fishing island called 佃島 Tsukudajima Tsukuda Island. Located on this island, was the official fishing concession of the Tokugawa Shōgunate. The original article is long and really is the background for this article. I highly suggest you read it.

The island was expanded southwards by landfill. Whether the shōgunate or whoever was in charge of the building project knew or cared where the name “Tsukudajima” came from isn’t really important. By this time, a folk etymology had come about where people thought that Tuskudajima’s “tsuku” was related to 築地 Tsukiji’s tsuki build, fabricate and the daily word 作る tsukuru make, build. So the new landfill’s name was bound to be affected by this collision of roots. Which brings us to our nest place name…

Tsukuda at night

Tsukuda at night

 。


月島
Tsukishima (moon island)

Tsukishima

Tsukishima


tsuki

moon


shima

island

In the Edo Period, there were no televisions or movies or love hotels with jacuzzis and 25 channels of porn. One possible option for date night was heading down to 月之岬[xvi] Tsuki no Misaki Cape Moon to watch the moon rise over the bay. Restaurants, tea houses, and other types of businesses lined the bay in 三田 Mita that offered rooms with a view of the bay for this very purpose[xvii]. 月見 tsukimi moon viewing is a famous past time of “Old Japan” and so I don’t feel much need to go into it any deeper. Even to us, the moon is a pretty spectacular thing to behold. Unfortunately, the coastline of Edo Bay was immediately built up by the new Imperial Government after the Meiji Coup. As a result, the area called Tsuki no Misaki was built over and faded into oblivion.

There are many places called Tsuki no Misaki around the coastlines of Japan. If I'm not mistaken, this is one from the outskirts of Edo in Shinagawa.  But this is what a party room would look like on Edo Bay.

There are many places called Tsuki no Misaki around the coastlines of Japan.
If I’m not mistaken, this is one from the outskirts of Edo in Shinagawa.
But this is what a party room would look like on Edo Bay.

A new landfill build up was begun in 1887 (Meiji 20) and completed in 1892 (Meiji 25). This extended Tsukuda Island southwards significantly. As I’ve shown, 築地 Tsukiji was a place name that existed on the mainland from the Edo Period. 佃 Tsukuda was also a place name. And there was ample reason to mix up the “tsuki” of Tsukiji and the “tsuku” of Tsukuda and the “tsuki” Tsuki no Misaki.

In 1892, the 東京市参事会 Tōkyō-shi Sanjikai Tōkyō City Council gave the new landfill the name 月島 Tuskishima “Moon Island” and although we don’t have the exact reason written down, it seems fair to say the name is a mash up of 月の岬 Tsuki no Misaki (Moon Cape) and 佃島 Tsukudajima (Tuskuda Island) and Tsukishima (Landfill Island→Moon Island), obviously opting for the kanji 月tsuki moon over the kanji 築 tsuki landfill for esthetic reasons.

For most of its history, Tsukishima has been decidedly 下町 shitamachi low city. But in the last 15-20 years the area has seen an influx of タワーマンション tawā manshon sky rise apartments. Some long time and some short term residents of Tsukishima and Tsukiji have been fighting hard to prevent over development of the area. Tsukishima is famous as the もんじゃの街 monja no machi monja town. Monja-yaki is a local Tōkyō delicacy… that was once described to me as “something that looks like barf on an iron grill, but taste really yummy.” That was not encouraging to hear, but since monja-yaki and okonomi-yaki are usually considered a kind of Wonder Twins of Japanese shitamachi cuisine, I have to say that to my palate, monja is way more flavorful. In Tsukishima, you can go to the もんじゃストリート monja storīto monja street and find monja-yaki of every type, from the most simple Shōwa style to the most cutting edge styles. If you ever come to Tōkyō, a visit to Tsukishima and a little dabbling in the world of monja-yaki is a must. I’ve heard there are about 70 monja shops in the area.

Monja Street.

Monja Street.

If we move a little farther south on the new land fill, things become a little complicated. We start seeing names like 晴海 Harumi and 勝ちどき Kachidoki.

 。


勝鬨

Kachdoki (a victory cry)

Hey, look, more crap theologico-fascist style from the 30's.

Hey, look, more crap theologico-fascist style from the 30’s. I wonder if Ito Chuta built this?


kachi

win, victory


toki

war cry

As soon as they had time to think about city planning, the Meiji Government had plans to connect present day 築地 Tsukiji with 佃島 Tsukudajima (Tsukuda), home of the area’s most powerful fishing concession in Edo Bay[xviii]. But government money was tight and fishermen have boats, so fuck it. The fishermen could just take a boat over and deliver fish the way they had for hundreds of years. Tuskuda’s location was ridiculously good and the rivers of Edo-Tōkyō were sufficient.

However, in 1905 (Meiji 38), a ferry crossing was established that connected Tsukiji with Tsukishima. Boats would taxi people and goods from the mainland to Tsukuda/Tsukishima. Who was using this particular crossing? Well, presumably the 海軍経理学校 Kaigun Keiri Gakkō Naval Administration School in Tsukiji and what were they doing at Tsukishima… let’s just say they were getting fresh seafood.

The sign commemorates the ferry crossing.

The sign commemorates the ferry crossing.

However, after the 日露戦争 Nichiro Sensō Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the Naval Administration School set up an 碑 ishibumi  memorial to commemorate the 旅順陥落 Ryojun Kanraku Fall of Port Arthur. The name was the 勝鬨ノ碑 Kachidoki no Ishibumi Victory Cry Monument. The location was the landing of the ferry crossing and as such the ferry crossing was called the 勝鬨渡し Kachidoki Watashi Kachidoki Crossing.

In 1915, the sail boats or oar-driven boats came to be replaced by steamships, which could carry much more cargo to and from Tsukiji and Tsukuda/Tsukishima. Tōkyō’s population was exploding and as such the traffic from Ishikawajima, Tsukuda, Harumi, etc., was so heavy both ways, a bridge was built.

In 1933 (Shōwa 8), Tōkyō finally got around to building that bridge they’d been putting off for so long. Construction was finished in 1940 (Shōwa 15)[xix]. This being the peak of Japanese nationalism, I’m sad to say, that the “Victory Cry Monument” seemed as good a namesake as any for the bridge. And voilà! We have a 勝鬨橋 Kachidoki-bashi Kachidoki Bridge. The bridge was built as a draw bridge to accommodate large military steam ships passage. To the best of my knowledge, the bridge doesn’t open these days.

C'mon, kiss!! Do it!! You know you want to!

C’mon, kiss!!
Do it!! You know you want to!

Incidentally, today the name isn’t written 勝鬨 kachidoki, but 勝どき kachidoki. The reason is that after WWII, major reforms in Japanese spelling were made and the kanji 鬨 toki was removed from the list of 当用漢字 tōyō kanji general use kanji so there was no choice but to write it in hiragana.

Let’s move down to the next section of landfill, shall we?

From the air, Kachidoki look a lot like Edo, except with skyscrapers.

From the air, Kachidoki look a lot like Edo, except with skyscrapers.

 。


豊海
Toyomi (abundant sea)

Where slipping into shipping companies happen territory...

We’re slipping into shipping companies happen territory…

Toyomi is the southernmost and smallest section of the original manmade island. It lay directly across from the former 浜御殿 Hama Goten Seaside Palace, a villa of the Tokugawa[xx]. The view from this villa would have been a magnificent view of Edo Bay – possibly good for viewing a moon or two. The park is absolutely beautiful, but the view of the bay is blocked by landfill and skyscrapers.

That said, in 1963 a new landfill expansion was completed and the name was decided by the residents via questionnaire. The name is a mix of the following kanji:


toyo

abundant, rich, bountiful, excellent


umi

sea, ocean, waters


chō

town

The meaning of 豊海町 Toyomi-chō is essentially “bountiful sea town” and looks quite charming on paper.

The first kanji is particularly auspicious. For one thing, the character appears in the name of 豊臣秀吉 Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the second of Japan’s so-called 3 Great Unifiers. It also appears in the Tōkyō place name 豊島 Toshima, which I wrote about in 2013. The area owes a lot to the bountiful waters of Tōkyō Bay. For all of its history it’s been a wharf for fishing boats and a home to a whole gaggle of refrigerated seafood warehouses.

tsukishimafuto10

 。


晴海
Harumi (clear seas)

Oh look! You can see Tokyo Tower from here!

Oh look! You can see Tokyo Tower from here!

The last area we’re going to look at is a second landfill island built to the east of the other places we talked about.

First, let’s look at the kanji.


hare

clear


umi

sea, ocean

晴海 Harumi is a perpendicular, man-made island that lies directly east of Tsukishima, Kachidoki, and Toyomi. Building out the land fill began from Tsukuda in the middle of the Meiji Period and was finally completed in 1929.

In 1939, the residents of the island voted to divide the area into six 丁目 six chōme blocks and named it 晴海町 Harumi-chō Harumi Town. The idea being that they lived on the bay and they always hoped for 晴れ海 hare umi tranquil waters. Recently built landfill was merged with the older area and the number of chōme was reduced to 5. The suffix 町 chō town was also eliminated. The future of Harumi should be interesting. The 選手村 Senshu Mura Olympic Village for the 2020 Tōkyō Olympics is planned to be built in Harumi 5-chōme.

tokyo-2020-olympic-games

 。

So In Conclusion…

Happy Holidays to all of you! As always, I would just be talking into an insane vacuum if it weren’t for you. Every like, re-tweet, share, and comment means a lot to me because I know there are some other people who really love Japanese history and really love Tokyo out there. Much love to each and every one of you! Stay warm and I’ll see you in 2015!

 。

Wanna Support My Blog?
⇨ Click Here to Donate ⇦
⇨ Click Here to Buy Awesome Nerdy J-History Goods ⇦

 。

____________________
[i] I wrote an article about fires waaaaaaay back in 2013. You can read it here.
[ii] This is a topic for another day, but my understanding is this area had nothing to do with rifles and was a reference to the long narrow alleyways. Could be wrong, but it’s not important for this article.
[iii] I have an article discussing monzen-chō here.
[iv] A kind of Buddhist wake.
[v] And I use the term “rock” loosely…
[vi] His name isn’t pronounced /haɪd/ like English “hide and seek,” but /çide/ following the Japanese pronunciation. His real given name was 秀人 Hideto. He was the guitarist or some shit for a crap band called X-Japan.
[vii] His actual grave is in Kanagawa. Apparently, it is routinely “vandalized” by fans.
[viii] Emphasis on fashion, not art.
[x] And I’m sure that most Japanese didn’t want to deal with them either. After all, their arrival had caused, like, almost 2 decade of chaos, the collapse of the government, and a cultural revolution. You know. That kind of thing.
[xi] This word is the same word used in Modern Japanese for “Indian reservation.” So this could be seen as a “foreigner reservation.” Sometimes another word was used 居留区 kyoryūku “foreigner zone.” In PC Japanese, the word is usually prefixed with 外国人居留地 gaikokujin kyoryūchi foreigner’s settlement using a polite word for foreigners.
[xii] This didn’t always work out as planned, though.
[xiii] My term for the new Japanese openness to foreign cultures. Feel free to use it, but be sure to write it as The Meiji Chill Out™. The ™ is crucial.
[xiv] Not unlike the modern scenario where rich foreigners staff embassies in free housing and live in nice neighborhoods and don’t learn the language, culture, or bother integrating at all. Ooops, did I say that outloud?
[xv] I wrote a book review about Katsu Kaishū! (ps: I’m starting to doubt this claim because he would have been 80 years old about this. Maybe he worked at a different location at an earlier time… I don’t care enough to look it up.
[xvi] Also written 月の見崎 Tsuki no Misaki.
[xvii] Alright, it wasn’t just for date night. Entertaining of officials and merchants and other types of social functions could be carried out here.
[xviii] OK, I guess we can call it Tōkyō Bay now…
[xix] Which seems like an awfully long time to build a bridge.
[xx] Today it’s generally referred to as 浜離宮庭園 Hama Rikkyū Teien Hama Detached Palace Garden, and was property of the Imperial Family until it was gifted to the city as a public park.

What does Yurakucho mean?

In Japanese History on October 2, 2013 at 11:51 pm

有楽町
Yūrakuchō (Town where you can have a good time)

Yurakucho Station. The elevated train has been a feature of the area for a long time.

Yurakucho Station.
The elevated train has been a feature of the area for a long time.

, u

is the default reading, it means “have” or “possess” or “exist.”

—————————————–

U usually has a Buddhist meaning of bhava, ie; “becoming.” The Buddhist meaning is the original meaning and you’ll see why later.

 

raku

 ease, comfort, leisure; music

chō, machi

 town
Even in the old days, the elevated train has been part of the scenery.

Even in the old days, the elevated train has been part of the scenery.

If you look at the kanji for Yūrakuchō, you might think this is a quarter of the city that is reserved for debauchery. It’s next to Ginza. It’s near Hibiya and Nihonbashi. It’s close enough to Shinbashi (which is debauched in its own right). It’s located in the southern end of Marunouchi[i]. Today the area doesn’t seem like much to the modern eye. It’s famous for business, shopping, and kind of plain in my opinion, but there are some interesting places to drink there. (Each of those links is to the Japan This! etymology of those places, hint hint wink wink.)

However, if you look at a map of Edo, you’ll notice this area is right next to 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle. As I mentioned in my article on Marunouchi, it was within the outer moat of Edo Castle and one of the features of this place was a long road lined with the high walls and gates of the 上屋敷 kami yashiki upper residences[ii] of the most elite feudal lords.

Today Yurakucho is boring. It's Ginza's embarrassing  little sister.

Today Yurakucho is boring. It’s Ginza’s embarrassing little sister.
And that stupid elevated train is still there.

The Official Story

If you look just about anywhere, people will say that the area is named after one Oda Nagamasu, the younger brother of Oda Nobunaga.

織田長益 Oda Nagamasu was a daimyō who was in the service of 豊臣秀吉 Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He was a pupil of 千利休 Sen no Rikkyū – the proverbial Godfather of Funk[iii]. He assumed his DJ name 有楽斎 Yūrakusai or 有楽 Yūraku[iv]. The difference between the two names is the kanji 斎 sai which is closely related to Zen Buddhism. I’m not a specialist on Buddhism, but I think this refers to sharing a meal (or in this case, a drink) in a spiritual situation. As mentioned earlier, the kanji with the specialized reading u is also closely connected to Buddhism.

So according to the story that usually gets touted on NHK and Wikipedia[v] and what in-the-know Tōkyōites generally repeat is the area was named after Oda Nagamasu, AKA Yūraku.

Sounds legit, right?

Oda Nagamasu (Yuuraku) - the man himself.

Oda Nagamasu (Yuuraku) – the man himself.
Do you like his apron?

Lords had to have a residence (they generally had 3 in Edo)
So, where was the Oda family residence?

天童藩織田家上屋敷 Tendō Han Oda-ke kami yashiki the Upper Residence of the Tendō Domain Oda Family[vi] was located where the present day 三菱ビル Mitsubishi Biru Mitsubishi Building and 丸の内三丁目ビル Marunouchi San-chōme Building are located. Today this area is called Marunouchi, but it’s a bit of a walk from present day Yūrakuchō. So the remaining family of Oda Nobunaga definitely was living in the area… just not in the area that is called Yūrakuchō. And in Edo Period terms, there seems little reason to transfer the name from this part of Daimyō Alley[vii] to present day Yūrakuchō.

This is Marunouchi, not Yurakucho, but you can see the proximity to the inner moat.

This is Marunouchi, not Yurakucho, but you can see the proximity to the inner moat.

So I had to dig a little deeper.

It seems there are a few theories.

1 – Oda Yūraku had a residence here
Any Edo Era map I’ve looked at clearly delineates the 上屋敷 kami yashiki upper residence of the Tendō Oda family as a modest residence (by daimyō standards) located on a corner of Daimyō Alley. Present day Yūrakuchō was the location of extremely large palaces of various branches of the Matsudaira[viii]. Although Yūraku lived until 1621[ix], I can’t find any evidence that he actually maintained a residence in the area. After the winter and summer sieges of Ōsaka, when the Tokugawa and their newly established 幕府 bakufu shōgunate put down the last pocket of Toyotomi resistance, it seems that he lived a life outside of politics and in relative seclusion in Kyōto. He may have visited Edo, but again, there’s no evidence of this.

This is a view of "maru no uchi."  Daimyo Alley is street highlighted in red. The hot pink square is the Oda Residence.  Note that Yurakucho is quite far from here.

This is a view of “maru no uchi.”
Daimyo Alley is the street highlighted in red.
The hot pink square is the Oda Residence.
Note that Yurakucho is quite far from here.

2 – Yūraku ga Hara
Having retired from his daimyōship, Yūraku dedicated his life to practicing tea ceremony. This theory states that he maintained a modest residence in the area to perform tea ceremonies with the powerful daimyō in the area and with shōgun Ieyasu and shōgun Hidetada. This residence fell into ruins and became 有楽ヶ原 Yūraku ga Hara Yūraku’s Field[x]. The name Yūraku ga Hara first appears in records during the reign of the 3rd shōgun, Iemitsu. Iemitsu’s reign was from 1623 to 1651. If Yūraku had a residence here, it would have been empty for 2 years at the time of Iemitsu’s ascension.

3 – Yūraku established many tea houses here
This theory states that being a passionate 茶人 chajin tea practitioner, he established many 数寄屋 sukiya tea houses[xi] in the area. This would be for the daimyō in the area to enjoy tea without leaving the confines of the outer enclosure of Edo-jō.  There was a bridge in the area with this name in the Edo Period. The moat was covered up in 1958 in preparation for the 1964 Tōkyō Olympics (dick move, Tōkyō). The area is still referred to as Sukiyabashi and Shin-sukiyabashi[xii]. Another theory along this line states that although Yūraku never left Kyōto, many tea houses built in accordance to his practice were located here (I assume by his followers, who were all daimyō anyway).

4 – There was one tea house here and Yūraku ga Hara was its ruins
This theory is a variation of Theory 2. There wasn’t a residence here, but a single tea house. Yūraku, or one of his descendants or followers, established a tea house here. A decent sukiya has an outer garden (with many plants and trees to block outside distractions) and an inner garden (much simpler and sparse to avoid distractions if the doors/windows inside the tea house are open). This would have required a substantial amount of space. The theory states that the tea house was near the bridge and after Yūraku died, it fell into ruins and the area was just a deserted lot – a deserted lot with a name.

5 – Ura ga Hara → Yūra ga Hara
The final theory is intriguing. It states that the name has absolutely nothing to do with Oda Nagamasu or tea or teahouses. The name is a remnant of the original geography of the land. This theory states that the Hibiya Inlet stopped here[xiii]. This theory operates off the premise that there was a 原 hara field near the 浦 ura inlet. That is, it was an 浦ヶ原 Ura ga Hara (a field near the inlet).

So those are the stories….

Sukiyabashi when there was still a river and a bridge.

Sukiyabashi when there was still a river and a bridge.

As I mentioned, the name Yūraku ga Hara appears in some records. This is roughly 25 years into Tokugawa rule, but like much at that time, names are not so official. I have to add to this, 50 years later Oda clan’s connection to the Tokugawa was just hereditary bullshit. True, they were located in Daimyō Alley, but in such a small compound, one can’t help but imagine the later shōgunate considered the contemporary descendants of the Oda family as irrelevant. Worthy of respect[xiv]. But irrelevant.

.

.

After the Edo Period

The small island that made up what was a prestigious compound of daimyō residences was annexed by the emperor and the daimyō had to return to their fiefs. In 1872 (Meiji 5), the name Yūrakuchō became official. This is after the Ginza Taika, a massive conflagration[xv] that burnt down much of Yūrakuchō, Ginza, and Marunouchi. This was an awesome opportunity for the new Meiji Government occupying the newly renamed Tōkyō Castle.

What was so awesome about it? In my opinion, nothing. But for those who overthrew the shōgunate, it was a chance to rebuild Tōkyō – not Edo – according to their own vision. After the fire, the land was cleared out and the Meiji Army used it as a place for military exercises[xvi]. Famously, in 1890 (i.e.; 20 years later), Iwasaki Yanosuke, the second successive president of the Mitsubishi Corporation and the 4th president of the Bank of Japan bought the former outer enclosure of Edo Castle and began development of the area as a business district. The Sukiyabashi area still retained the bridge and whether it was really connected with Oda Nagamasu or not probably didn’t matter. The bridge’s name seemed to refer to a tea house. The Oda clan had lived nearby. An Oda family member was a famous tea practitioner. It could be true or it could be early Meiji marketing.

Can we Know the Truth?

I’ve wanted to write about this one for a while now, but the “official story” is so ingrained in the history of Tōkyō and because of the location within the former grounds of Edo Castle and the connection to the establishment of the Tokugawa shōgunate and the demise of the Toyotomi compounded by all of the bravado of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, maybe we’ll never be able to get to the truth. The alleged link to tea culture and this place name and the well documented fervor with which the daimyō of the Sengoku Period and anyone with a little money in the Edo Period appreciated tea culture further obscures the origin of this place name. My personal opinion is this: as a skeptic, I can’t buy into any of these theories wholesale. But there are connections and common threads between all of them. I’m gonna err on the conservative side. Maybe a follower of Yūraku (or maybe Yūraku himself) had a sukiya (tea house) in the area. Then again, who knows? Maybe it’s a pre-Tokugawa reference to the Hibiya Inlet. That doesn’t seem unreasonable either.

Edo Castle - Sukiyabashi

Edo Castle – Sukiyabashi

So what’s up with the spelling of the name?

So is homie’s name Uraku or Yūraku? It’s hard to pinpoint but in Ōsaka his name is preserved in a town with the same name… but different pronunciation. In Ōsaka, it’s 有楽町 Uraku-machi. In Tōkyō it’s 有楽町 Yūraku-chō. I can’t find much consensus on this, but it seems that in his time, by his own reading of the kanji, Nagamasu’s assumed name was read as うらく Uraku. He lived out the rest of life in Kyōto where we may be able to assume a family tradition or local tradition preserved the pronunciation Uraku. In Edo or other parts of Japan that didn’t have a strong connection to the man – at least not in a direct sense – the kanji was more readily read as Yūraku[xvii].

Edo Castle - Sukiyabashi

Edo Castle – Sukiyabashi

Another Mystery

One final thing I’d like to mention. In the beginning, I deliberately mentioned that 有 u and 斎 sai have Buddhist connotations. If you see a picture of him, he has a shaved head and wears the clothes of Buddhist monk. But supposedly, while still a daimyō he converted to Christianity in 1588 and took the baptismal name ジョアン Joan, the Portuguese version of John. Many Japanese did this during this time. In 1590, Nagamasu assumed the named Uraku (or Urakusai) when he became a Buddhist monk. He retired from politics after the Siege of Ōsaka (1614-1615). Some people say he was a Christian. Some people say he was a Buddhist. Japanese religion is syncretic, so I’d venture to say he cherry-picked what he liked from both religions. As he is buried in a Buddhist temple in Kyōto and his approach to tea seems very Zen, I would venture to say he was more or less a Buddhist. He may have abandoned Christianity altogether. But again, this is a mystery and I’m just putting forth my own conjecture.

Wanna Support My Blog?
Click Here to Donate
Click Here to Buy Awesome Nerdy J-History Goods


[i] This was once part of the grounds of Edo Castle where the daimyō closest to Tokugawa Ieyasu held their residences for their 参勤交代 sankin-kōtai service (alternate attendance). Click here for more about sankin-kōtai.

[iii] Oooops, no… he’s the godfather of tea. But just to clarify, he didn’t bring tea to Japan. That happened hundreds of years earlier. He didn’t invent the tea ceremony either. But many people, from his own time until present day, consider his aesthetic approach to tea as the pinnacle of tea ceremony. Most of the modern “schools” of tea ceremony are derived from his followers, including Oda Nobumasu (Yūraku).

[iv] I’ll address the pronunciation in a while. But for those who want spoilers, the name can be read as both Uraku and Yūraku.  Also this wasn’t really his DJ name. They didn’t have DJ’s back then, silly. This assumed name is called号 gō, a kind of sobriquet.

[v] If you want a good laugh, the Wikipedia version is pretty ridiculous.

[vi] Why wasn’t the Oda family in control of Owari (Western Aichi Prefecture)? Because when Nobunaga died, that area was re-assigned. Eventually it became a Tokugawa holding.

[viii] The Tokugawa were actually a branch of the much older Matsudaira clan.

[ix] Tokugawa Ieyasu himself lived until 1616. Yūraku died at age 75, Ieyasu as at age 73. So these men were very much contemporaries. Keep that in mind as the story goes on…

[xi] Sukiya is a type of tea house. Read more about it here.

[xii] The movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi made this area famous when the shop became known outside of Japan as the best sushi shop in the world – an assertion that is met with mixed responses or blank stares when brought up with Tōkyōites.

[xiv] The system called 家元 iemoto was an officially recognized system that demanded patrilineal succession of family businesses or, in the case of the shōgunal famiy, direct rule over the 天下 tenka Japan.

[xv] More about conflagrations at you know where!

[xvi] No doubt a propaganda tool to discourage any pissed off ex-samurai from starting an insurgency.

[xvii] If I ever write “readily read” again, please shoot me.

What does Shiba mean?

In Japanese History on May 23, 2013 at 12:37 am


Shiba (grass/lawn)

Shiba. There's stil some lush greenery as well as some gaijin lushes.

Shiba. There’s still some lush greenery as well as some gaijin lushes.

The first theory I came across was one that said that the grass in this part of the Musashi Plain was particularly lush. A quick search for old art depicting any areas of the vast Musashi Plain will yield pictures of tall grasses.  Search for plants of the Musashi Plain and all that you’ll see are lush grasses. I don’t see how an area next to the sea would be particularly more luxurious than any other area.

The second theory is that the 斯波氏 Shiba clan had a residence in the area. During the Ashikaga shōgunate, the Shiba were one the families that could hold the position of 管領 kanrei deputy shōgun (literally controller). While the family line came to an end in the mid 1500’s, it’s not impossible to imagine that some member of the Shiba family had a residence here. However, there doesn’t seem to be any collaborating evidence for this theory.

Shiba this, bitch!

These are shiba (柴) at high tide in Omori Kaigan. They’ve been placed in the inlet to harvest seaweed, a centuries old technique… apparently still used.

Another theory is that in the early days, when there were many shallow inlets cutting in to what is now central Tōkyō (and this part of town was literally part of the bay, the area was characterized by brushwood used to grow and harvest 海苔 nori seaweed. The general word for brushwood is 柴 shiba*. As far back as the Sengoku Period, we know there to have been a 柴村 Shiba Mura Shiba Village in the area. In the early Edo Period, 柴町 Shiba Machi Shiba Town is attested. The name change reflects an area whose population had grown substantially. In the early Edo Period we start to see an alternate writing as 芝町 Shiba Machi. Over the course of the Edo Period, this new variation becomes the standard and the old variant dies out. Products developed in the area develop a widespread reputation as “Shiba Machi” products – like a brand name.

A view of Zojoji, one of the two Tokugawa shogun funerary temples in Edo. Notice the long sando.   (You don remember what a sando was, don't you??)*****

A view of Zojoji, one of the two Tokugawa shogun funerary temples in Edo. Notice the long sando.
(You do remember what a sando was, don’t you??)****

I couldn’t find anything to explain the change in the kanji or the demand for goods produced in the area, but I have a theory. The shōgunate built a funerary temple complex called Zōjōji in Shiba. As a result, many daimyō residences were also built in the area. I’m willing to bet that the urbanization of the bay front area and controlling the water that flowed in and out of the bay curtailed land/water use in the area. This would have produced more dry land where lush fields of grass might grow instead of mushy wetlands**. The gentrification that came with the arrival of nobles and one of the shōgun family’s main temples would have given the area a lot of prestige. This is all conjecture, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable that lush grass became more of the stereotypical image of the area than swampy inlets filled with half-naked villagers checking their crappy brushwood nets for seaweed. It’s also not unreasonable to assume that as the area had grown in prestige a nice kanji like (lawn, grass) was preferable to which looks like something you’d use for kindling in a fire.

Some of that the lush-ass Musashino grass. Too bad you can't smoke that shit.

Some of that the lush-ass Musashino grass. Too bad you can’t smoke that shit.

Personally, I don’t find any of these satisfying etymologies, but the last one has a lot more to play with. The practice of using 柴 shiba brushwood to harvest nori is apparently still done in a few existing inlets (see picture).

But there is a chronology problem. In 1486, there is a reference to an area called 芝ノ浦 Shiba no ura “under Shiba.” This place name uses the “grass/lawn” kanji and not the “brushwood” kanji. The area is noted for salt production and shipping***.

In present day Tōkyō, the south of Shiba is called 芝浦 Shibaura (literally, “under Shiba”). This indicates that the grass/lawn kanji variant may have been in use prior to the Edo Period. It might also suggest that – coincidentally – there were two areas phonetically referred to as しば shiba but – possibly – unrelated to each other etymologically. If this were the case, the alternation of the kanji in the early Edo Period could reflect a confusion or ambiguity about the area that was finally resolved through standardization by the mid-Edo Era – perhaps through a process similar to what I hypothesized above…

…or perhaps not.

Shiba Shrimp - Delicious Japanese Food

Mmmmmmm. Shiba Ebi.

So, who the fuck knows? Once again, the origins of another pre-Edo Period place name prove to be elusive. But this time I won’t leave you totally empty handed. As I mentioned before, items produced in Shiba were famous throughout the land in the Edo Period. One of the products was a particularly delicious variety of shrimp that were abundant in the area and brought into port in Shiba/Shibaura. Originally 芝海老 Shiba Ebi Shiba Shrimp was the local name for this species in the area. The species wasn’t specific to this corner of Edo Bay, but the name spread and became the standard appellation for this type of crustacean everywhere in Japan. So while I can’t give you a clear etymology of Shiba, the origins of the name Shiba Shrimp is something we know 100%.

The ironic thing is that these days the water is so polluted that there are very few of them in Tōkyō Bay. Now, most Shiba Shrimp in Japan come from Niigata and Taiwan.
.
.
.


Compare this to the origin of Hibiya, which is most likely derived from a different method of growing and harvesting nori. (On a somewhat unrelated note, this brushwood kanji is the same character used for 柴犬 shibaken, the famous breed of Japanese dogs.)
Check out my article on Two Famous Murders to see a picture of nearby Mita/Azabu where you can clearly see “lush grass” growing.
Compare this to the origin of Shiodome, which has a salt production theory associated with it.
**** You already forgot what a sandō was?? FFS, have a look at the origin of Omotesandō.

%d bloggers like this: