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What does Hachikō mean?

In Japanese History on May 10, 2017 at 5:54 am

ハチ公
Hachikō (Lord 8, but more at “oh look at you, you widdle cutie wootie eight, you’re a good boy, aren’t you, yes you are, you’re a good boy”)

Akita_inu

First Time in Tōkyō?

You’re probably gonna go to Shibuya to see the famous intersection in front of the Hachikō Exit and you’ll probably take a picture – or try to – with the statue of the legendary dog for whom the exit is named. This is arguably the most famous meet up spot in Japan, and has a truly enduring image in Japanese pop culture. It comes up in TV and movies, and you’ll find casual references in books, news, and everyone’s travel photos.

Because there’s a lot of grammatic and semantic side notes, as always, I encourage you to check out all the footnote links to get the whole picture. You can easily jump to a footnote and back to the article, so… yeah.

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Let’s Look at the Kanji

ハチ
hachi

Actually, these aren’t kanji, they’re katakana. But they are a reference to 八 hachi, which means “the number eight.”


This kanji usually means public, but in medieval times was used for government officials.

So Who the Hell was Hachikō?

Today, he’s usually referred to as 忠犬ハチ公 Chūken Hachikō the Loyal Dog, and in Japan he’s the archetypal embodiment of canine loyalty. This famous dog has been depicted in three movies, three TV shows, two anime, and his actual voice is recorded on a children’s record released in 1934. However, his actual name wasn’t Hachikō, it was just Hachi. And if we’re going to be all technical, it should be written as Hachi-kō not Hachikō, because the -kō is a suffix. But more about that later.

ueno hidesaburo.jpg

Professor Ueno Hidesaburō wearing a cunty outfit.

Hachi was born in 秋田県 Akita-ken Akita Prefecture[i] on November 11th, 1923[ii]. He’s presumed to have been the eighth puppy to pop out of the proverbial oven in the litter[iii], and by early 1924 was sold to a man named 上野英三郎 Ueno Hidesaburō for 30 yen[iv]. Hidesaburō was a professor of Tōkyō Imperial University and the two lived at his home in former 東京市豊多摩郡渋谷 Tōkyō-shi Toyotama-gun Shibuya Machi Shibuya Town, Toyotama District, Tōkyō City[v]. Hachi was the professor’s 3rd dog and it’s said that one of the older dogs was particularly interested in helping nurture the young pup[vi]. Hachi, who quickly bonded with Hidesaburō, took a particular liking to his home’s 玄関 genkan entrance. Every morning when the professor walked from his home to 渋谷駅 Shibuya Eki Shibuya Station, he would follow the whole way to see him off. Then, he would wait patiently for Hidesaburō to come back from work at night and loyally escort him back to their home. Hachi and the professor enjoyed this daily routine, and the locals – knowing that he wasn’t a stray or abandoned dog[vii] – got used to seeing him at the station entrance every day, waiting for his master. What can I say? People love dogs.

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A Year of Bonding with Man’s Best Friend

Hachi escorted Hidesaburō to and from the station every day, and spent his afternoons playing with the locals in front of the station. Shop owners would feed the dog scraps until the professor returned to take his beloved puppy home. After a year of this daily routine, something happened on May 21, 1925. After a faculty meeting at Tōkyō Imperial University, Ueno Hidesaburō suddenly suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, collapsed, and died. He was only 53. Poor Hachi, who couldn’t have known what happened, waited patiently for his master.

According to legend, Hachi didn’t eat for about three days in anticipation of his owner’s return. They also say that all three of Hidesaburō’s dogs waited together at Shibuya Station[viii] on the night of his wake. Hachi passed into the possession of a few different households, but eventually found himself back in Shibuya with a family who let him come and go as he pleased. Naturally, he gravitated towards the station where there were people who knew him and loved him since he was a puppy. By 1927, he was a permanent fixture and when outsiders asked, “who is this cute dog?” the locals told them “this dog came here every day to see his master off to work and waited all day for his return.” Soon the story became “he’s still waiting for his master to come home.”

loyal hachiko.JPG

That’s the Legend, Here’s the Truth

That’s the story everyone knows today. The thing is, it’s only the Shibuya locals who knew about him. Sure, the shop owners saw him coming and going, but Hachi doesn’t appear in the historical record until a 1932 newspaper article introduced the so-called “loyal dog” to the whole country. The article waxed poetic about the dog’s loyalty – and in Imperial Japan, loyalty stories were hot. However, the article was written by the president of the 日本犬保存会 Nihonken Honzonkai Association for the Preservation of Japanese Dogs[ix] to bring attention to Hachi’s plight.

hachi8

btw, don’t even get me started on this photo…

Plight?

Though he was cared for by his last master, 小林菊三郎 Kobayashi Kikusaburō, to whose home he returned every night, it seems Hachi was less of a loyal dog waiting for Hidesaburō and more of a freeloading Party Dog™. The article said that kids had been teasing the dog in front of the station since Hidesaburō’s days, and many of the locals regarded him as an annoying, filthy stray who begged for food. The truth is, while maybe some Shibuya residents liked him, many did not. However, the article argued for compassion. After all, Hachi was a 日本犬 Nihonken native Japanese breed and he was “loyal” – great talking points that worked well in the increasingly militaristic atmosphere of 1930’s Imperial Japan.

This article actually locked down Hachi’s place in history and in our hearts. Sure, he may have been a filthy beggar dog running rampant the streets – friend to some, hated by others – but he metamorphosed into a symbol of canine loyalty and a source of cultural identity to Shibuya, a semi-rural area that was emerging into a distinct neighborhood at that time. In April 1934, a bronze statue of Hachi was placed in front of the station’s main entrance[x]. Hachi himself attended the unveiling ceremony to much fanfare. His popularity skyrocketed, but what happened next gave Hachi his place in history.

funeral 2

He Died

Hachi died in Shibuya on March 8, 1935. The やまと新聞 Yamato Shinbun Yamato Newspaper ran a national article about the dog, his loyalty, and included a touching photo of Hidesaburō’s wife and a handful of station attendants holding a funeral for Hachi. People donated about 25 funerary wreaths and 200 flower arrangements. Another 180 letters and telegrams also came in. It was a major event for the station and for the neighborhood. Hachi was then enshrined – and finally reunited with – his master at Hidesaburō’s grave in 青山霊園 Aoyama Reien Aoyama Cemetery. There’s just a small stone pole commemorating Hachi, but make no mistake about it: nobody visits Hidesaburō. Hachi is Top Dog at this graveyard[xi].

Additionally, Hidesaburō’s former employer, Tōkyō Imperial University, took it upon themselves to run an autopsy and taxidermically preserve Hachi, so you can actually go see him – yes, the real him – at the 国立科学博物館 Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsu-kan National Museum of Nature & Science in Ueno Park. The cause of death was determined to be a combination of cancer and heartworms. Poor doggy…

ieyasu-ko.png

Here you can see the suffix -kō attached to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s name

So, What’s Up with That Suffix?

Yeah, so I promised to explain the whole ~公 -kō part of ハチ公 Hachi-kō and get into why that -kō is a suffix and not actually part of the dog’s name. In order to describe this, let’s talk about levels of formality or register in the Japanese Language.

First year Japanese students generally learn about the concepts of 内 uchi inside group and 外 soto outside group. Your friends, family, and social peers are your inside group. Unknown people, elders, and social superiors are your outside group[xii]. Complicating this in-group/out-group dynamic are several levels of formality. Without making this a grammar lesson, I’m just gonna give you the TLDR version[xiii].

nelson muntz ha ha

BTW, I lied. The TLDR Version isn’t Short

In Modern Japanese, when addressing customers or a head of state, you use honorific language because these people most definitely are in your out-group and using casual language presumes a closeness that could be very off putting to many people[xiv]. Using presumptuous, casual words and phrases in inappropriate situations can be taken as “talking down” to someone[xv]. Take for example, the word お前 o-mae you. This is one of the most basic words for “you” and is often used by males who are extremely close and among siblings. In this case, the meaning is equal, friendly, honest. A father or teacher might address children with o-mae. In this case, the junior-superior relationship is implied. Guys traditionally referred to their girlfriends or wives as o-mae. In this case, affection is implied, as well as a masculine-feminine power dynamic[xvi]. Pets are often addressed with o-mae because they clearly fall in the junior status, but they’re also part of the in-group, so this is an example of both meanings. However, if you just refer to a random person on the street as o-mae, you may find yourself in a street fight.

In addition, when addressing and referring to people, the Japanese attach honorific suffixes to names. In a formal situation, you might address or refer to your customer as 渡辺様 Watanabe-sama Mr. or Mrs. Watanabe. If you have a good relationship with a Mr./Mrs. Watanabe who isn’t in the room, you’d probably use 渡辺さん Watanabe-san, which is essentially the default way to refer to a person. Let’s say this person’s name is 渡辺彩姫 Watanabe Saiki and she’s younger than you or just a close friend. You could address her as 彩姫 Saiki-chan or さいちゃん Sai-chan which is cute. With pets, you wouldn’t use -sama or -san except as a joke. Because it’s a pet and clearly the junior in the relationship, a non-Japanese speaker at that, you don’t need to attach any honorific suffix to its name. But many people will attach -chan specifically because it’s just cute to refer to your pet like it’s a person or a member of the family.

inu kubō.jpg

The kanji for kō was used in Pre-Modern Japan when referring to members of the samurai ruling class. You can find it in such terms as 公方 kubō, a term that changed a little over time, but by the Edo Period was synonymous with shōgun. The most famous kubō is probably the fifth shōgun 徳川綱吉 Tokugawa Tsunayoshi who is referred to as the 犬公方 Inu Kubō Dog Shōgun because of his edict protecting dogs. When addressing the shōgun directly, you wouldn’t use any words for “you” as that would be too direct and a massive breach of protocol[xvii]. You would refer to him as 上様 ue-sama your highness. You would use this term when talking about him with others, never using his name (ie; the third person). But when talking about past shōguns, you could use names. In fact, it would be really difficult to talk about history in general if you didn’t use a name, right?

But given all the apprehension hard wired into the Japanese language regarding names, in-groups and out-groups, and taboos about saying “you” or directly addressing people, a simple fix evolved over the years. That was -kō. If you visit a temple or shrine dedicated to any of the shōguns, as well as the daimyō, you’ll find their names written in the Edo Period convention using -kō. For example, 徳川家康公 Tokugawa Ieyasu-kō. When translating this title, you have two choices. One, just ignore it because there’s no equivalent in English and we wouldn’t say “Mr. Tokugawa Ieyasu” about an historical personage. Two, translate it as “Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu” which is my preferred modus operandi. In fact, if you look back at my series on the graves of the Tokugawa shōguns, you’ll see that’s exactly what I did.

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Shiba Tōshō-gū

So, in short, -kō was a suffix that showed deep affection or respect for elite members of the samurai ruling class, in particular, the shōguns and the daimyō. After the collapse of the Tokugawa Shōgunate in 1868 and the subsequent abolishment of the samurai, life in Imperial Japan underwent fantastic and far reaching changes. The switch from a highly stratified “feudal” society to a superficial western-style liberal democracy sent shockwaves through the Japanese language. There were paradigm shifts across the board, but most notably in the concepts of junior-senior relationships. The term o-mae, which I mentioned earlier, was once an honorific term[xviii]. Two other honorific terms for “you,” 手前 temae[xix] and 貴様 kisama[xx] also found themselves displaced over the years. In fact, if used inappropriately, these formerly polite words came to be deeply offensive and aggressive. The suffix -kō soon found itself falling by the wayside since you could say anything you wanted about the shōguns – they were gone and there was no fear of repercussion if your etiquette game was weak.

hachiko8.jpg

So How Does Hachi Become Hachi-kō?

Well, since I’ve already given you all the puzzle pieces, hopefully you’re starting to sort this out in your head. For people with a decent understanding of Japanese it should already be obvious, but I have a lot of readers who don’t read/speak Japanese so, let’s wrap this all up now, shall we?

We’ve seen that there are levels of familiarity and politeness in Japanese. We’ve also seen that there is some flexibility to change nuance using these registers in different contexts. Today, a dog named Hachi would probably just be called ハチ Hachi or ハチちゃん Hachi-chan[xxi]. In a ridiculous situation, you might call him 八様 Hachi-sama Honorable Hachi. However, in his own day the suffix -kō could be used in the same way as -sama. ハチ公 Hachi-kō Lord Hachi sounds funny and cute because clearly the dog wasn’t a daimyō or shōgun. On top of that, as I mentioned before, some old Edo Period honorific usage that was unnecessary in post-Tokugawa Japan shifted into completely opposite meanings. -Kō also became a suffix that, when used incorrectly, could be deeply offensive. In contrast to the original use as a term of deep reverence or affection, new words began to appear in Japanese like 先公 senkō shitty sensei (teacher), ポリ公 porikō fucking pig[xxii], and even racial slurs like アメ公 amekō fucking American.

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Hachi and Hidesaburō really existed. Their story became a legend in the Shibuya Station area. And, despite the legend, it seems that Hachi wasn’t liked by all at first, so, sure… maybe some people called him Hachi-kō as an insult, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s good to know all the nuance and the fluidity and flexibility of language that Japanese speakers are mindful of – particularly in Hachi’s time[xxiii]. That said, I like to think the suffix was given because, one, he was a dog (junior-superior relationship); two, he was part of the in-group of those who looked after him at the station; three, it’s just cute to refer to a dog as a feudal lord or a duke[xxiv].

stuffed hachiko.jpg

Hachi, stuffed and on display in Ueno.

Lastly, there is one more layer to this wildly nuanced story. Stray dogs and cats are generally referred to as 野良公 nora-kō lords of the fields/rice paddies. This kō includes every nuance included above. It’s derived from the fact that Japanese people traditionally didn’t let pets into the house[xxv] until quite recently. By modern standards, Hachi was someone’s pet, but he was also kinda left to his own devices – as any dog or cat left outside in his time would have been. This explains why Hidesaburō would have seen taking Hachi home or leaving him at Shibuya Station as totally normal. The dog could have fun with locals, but could also run around the river area and the agricultural fields in the area. When the dog came home, he wasn’t chilling out on the tatami floor doing tea ceremony with humans. He was sleeping at the entrance to the house… outside.

grave.jpg

Grave of Hidesaburō and Hachi in Aoyama Cemetery

And again, this -kō runs the gamut of nuance. It also puts Hachi’s life and the life of many pets in Pre-War Japan in a new light. The whole story is a great illustration of cultural and linguistic change over time. Next time you’re in Shibuya, take a minute to look at the statue of the loyal dog and realize how… well, realize anything you want to. I just live for how all this stuff comes together, and how messy and complicated it is. Trying to wrap your head around something as simple as a dog’s name can be so difficult, yet exploring it can be an edifying roller coaster ride.

I hope y’all had as much fun as I did with this one.

Love ya, mean it!

 

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Explore Edo-Tōkyō

Do You Even History Geek, Bro?

[i] He was actually a local breed called an 秋田犬 Akita Inu Akita Dog.
[ii] The records are good. We even know the name of his father and mother – 大子内 Ōshinai and 胡麻 Goma, respectively.
[iii] This is not at all unusual – even in the traditional naming of humans. Boys were often given names like 一郎 Ichirō first born son, 一 Hajime first; 二郎 Jirō or 次郎 Jirō second son and next son, respectively; 三郎 Saburō third born son, etc.
[iv] Which, if my math isn’t correct – which it could be – would be about 10,000 yen today ($100).
[v] Shibuya was pretty undeveloped at this time, except for the station area.
[vi] The other two dogs were ジョン Jon and エス S. Jon, a pointer, was the one who helped raise Hachi.
[vii] More about this later…
[viii] I’d like to point out, this story seems bullshit AF. There’s no account of Jon and S ever accompanying the professor to Shibuya Station, so it would be weird that they would go during a wake. Oh, and by the way, at a traditional Japanese wake of this time, Hidesaburō’s body would have lain in state at his home. If the dogs, or Hachi in particular, were so loyal, they’d probably recognize the corpse of their master.
[ix] This organization still exists today.
[x] During WWII, the original statue was melted down for the war effort. The current statue was erected in 1948 and was created by the son of the original sculptor.
[xi] Sorry, I’m groaning too. That was so bad. Sorry.
[xii] Interestingly, some women, particularly 30 and over, may often use polite Japanese with their husbands or when flirting because it’s seen as more feminine, playing up the traditional view of men and women occupying superior and junior positions in society.
[xiii] If you want to read about Japanese Grammar, here’s a link.
[xiv] This is called 馴れ馴れしい narenareshii which means “too close” and carries the nuance of “presumptuous.”
[xv] Interestingly, when people are in the same inside group or in a junior-senior relationship, often the angry party will revert to polite language – usually not too honorific, but just basic polite forms – when “dressing down” the offending party. A boss in a traditional Japanese company isn’t expected to use polite language to his subordinates. However, when he is angry at his workers, the boss or CEO may chew out an employee in polite language – a very scary situation because of the shocking role reversal. Furthermore, angry wives often chastise their husbands in polite language – another terrifying situation.
[xvi] Recently, this has changed and a lot of girls from thirty and below, use o-mae with their close friends, boyfriends, or husbands. This seems to be a byproduct of a flattening of Japanese society, particularly in regard to gender equality. It’s also fed by otaku culture which has led to many women taking on traditionally male vocabulary these days.
[xvii] Using names is still often preferable to directly referring to a person as “you.” An example: 昨日クラブに行ったよ。Kinō kurabu ni itta yo. Last night I went clubbing. え?さいちゃんが? E? Sai-chan ga? Wow, Sai-chan went? Sai-chan being a girl’s nickname, the sentence is weird in English and would be better translated as “Wow, you did?”
[xviii] It literally means “the honorable (person) in front (of me)” and was a way to avoid directly addressing a person.
[xix] Also, a way to avoid a person, it just means “(the person) right in front of me” and is now only used in fights.
[xx] The word literally means “your noble highness” and was a way to address a daimyō or high ranking aristocrat, but today is word used in manga and anime for fights. In modern usage, I don’t think people use this word in conversation. It’s just for otaku media.
[xxi] More likely はっちゃん Hacchan because it’s less wieldy, less formal, and just sounds cuter.
[xxii] In the meaning of police officer, the term is literally “poli(ce)” + “kō.” But just for your information, these terms are rarely used today. Old timers who remember WWII or the pre-Bubble Era will recognize the American slur, but most people under 30 probably wouldn’t recognize it. The word has vanished. The police slur is only known from ooooold yakuza movies and isn’t used anymore. The “bad teacher” term is well understood, but it has also died out. I most -kō words have all become 死語 shigo obsolete terms.
[xxiii] A fluidity and flexibility still present in modern usage.
[xxiv] And keep in mind, this was before WWII. The former court families from Kyōto and the former daimyō families were all given western style ranks under the peerage system, ie; they had barons, counts, and all kind of stupid aristocratic ranks. The title 公爵 kōshaku duke (yes, same kō) was a term you’d encounter frequently.
[xxv] This is a subject for another time, but fascinating.

Yamanote Line: Nishi-Nippori, Nippori, & Uguisudani

In Japanese History on June 14, 2016 at 4:05 am

西日暮里、日暮里、鶯谷
Nishi-Nippori, Nippori, Uguisudani

shitamachi yamanote line

Now we’re entering the most well known shitamachi (low city) area of Tōkyō.

So, yeah. It looks like we’re 10 articles deep into this series exploring Tōkyō via the 山手線 Yamanote-sen Yamanote Line and we’ve already covered 17 of the current 29 stations[i]. That’s pretty good. We’ve covered more than half the of loop in record time. We’re making much better time than my series on the 大江戸線 Ōedo-sen Ōedo Line[ii]. Today, let’s try to bang through 3 more neighborhoods and round that number up to 20 stations.

All right, buckle up and let’s do this!

Further Reading:

0000

Dōkan’yama – the hill and plains below are very much visible today.

西日暮里
Nishi-Nippori

Nishi-Nippori means West Nippori and it’s not a real place name. It’s just a train station name. Later I’ll talk about what Nippori means, but let’s talk about what the station gives you access to. First and foremost is an area called 道灌山 Dōkan’yama which literally means Dōkan Mountain. It’s allegedly the site of a 出城 dejiro satellite fort built by the warlord 太田道灌 Ōta Dōkan to protect 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle[iii]. The plateau still gives a commanding view over the valleys below and it’s clear why this location was important from a military standpoint. Its steep slopes were naturally defensible and you had a view of the entire Kantō Plain, Edo Bay, and Mt. Fuji.

1990 nippori fujimizaka.jpg

Mt. Fuji as viewed from Dōkan’yama in 1990.

By the Edo Period, Dōkan’yama had become a popular 花見 hanami cherry blossom viewing spot. Edoites could enjoy the same view of the Kantō Plain, Edo Bay, and Mt. Fuji – minus the fort and plus the cherry blossoms. Several 浮世絵 ukiyo-e woodblock prints document the beauty of the area[iv].

I’ve Covered All of this Before:

ueno toshogu

This area has deep ties to the Tokugawa Shōgun Family.

日暮里
Nippori

OK, I promised to tell you what Nippori means, but I kinda lied. The name is actually a bit of a mystery. You can read my original article about the etymology here. The name is most likely 当て字 ateji kanji used for its phonetic values rather than meaning. This hints at a particular ancient or possibly prehistoric name[v]. The oldest writing was 新堀 which just means “new moat” or “new canal,” the present writing is 日暮里 which means “village where you can spend the whole day.” This latter spelling became codified in the early Meiji Period and was more or less a marketing ploy. People had been visiting the area as tourists for almost a hundred years, the locals wanted to keep ‘em coming. In the days when you had to walk everywhere, the journey from central Edo to Nippori was basically a day trip – the equivalent of a modern Tōkyōite’s trip to Kamakura today[vi].

kannonji yanaka.jpg

Kannon-ji a temple whose chief priest was related to 2 of the 47 rōnin. The rōnin may have stayed here while plotting their revenge or while feigning ascetic practices (or both). At any rate, the most interesting thing about the area are the traditional Edo Period stone and mortar walls.

The area called Nippori is usually considered 下町 shitamachi low city by most Tōkyōites. It’s urban but residential, gritty, and really traditional and old fashioned. However, this image of shitamachi is relatively recent. In fact, it’s a post WWII view of the area.

nippori 1963.jpg

Nippori Station in 1963. You can see the area is still suburban, but the plains below Dōkan’yama are giving way to the urbanization that would forever change the nature of this section of Tōkyō.

As I said earlier, Dōkan’yama is a hilly plateau where a samurai warlord lived. That’s the very definition of the 山手 yamanote high city. That said, for much of its existence, this area was country during the Edo Period. Some samurai families lived on the hills and plateaux in the area. Some daimyō and rich people had second houses out here as well in the Edo Period. But the first real growth in the area was fueled by the establishment of 寛永寺 Kan’ei-ji Kan’ei Temple in 上野 Ueno with the express purpose of being a funerary temple of the Tokugawa Shōguns[vii]. After a series of fires and natural disasters during the rule of the 11th shōgun, 徳川家斉 Tokugawa Ienari, many temples and shrines were moved from central Edo out here to the suburbs. They had less chance of falling prey to conflagrations, the so-called 江戸の華 Edo no Hana “flowers of Edo.”[viii]

kaneiji

Kan’ei-ji, one of the funerary temples of the Tokugawa Shōguns. Because of wars, very little remains of this once vibrant and important religious center.

Nippori Station gives you direct access to 谷中霊園 Yanaka Rei’en Yanaka Cemetery. This is the largest necropolis in Tōkyō and is home to pre-Edo Period graves right up to present day. Although the cemetery is generally considered a single entity, it’s actually 2 separate cemeteries. On the Nippori side, it is a state maintained cemetery formerly owned by 天王寺 Ten’ō-ji Ten’ō Temple, on the Ueno side, it’s a privately owned graveyard overseen by Kan’ei-ji. The two sprawling cemeteries eventually blended into one[ix]. The differences between the properties aren’t marked, but are instantly visible if you have a keen eye for detail in Japanese cemeteries. You’ll see almost every type of Japanese grave from so many eras here. It might seem morbid, but actually, it’s one of the most peaceful and interesting places in Tōkyō. It’s fitted with playgrounds and picnic areas and has so many famous graves that it’s one of the main destinations for Japanese history lovers. It’s also my most requested tour – go figure!

Wanna Know More?

jizo

Taking the Yamanote Line this direction, we fall into increasingly religious lands culminating in the graves of the shōguns. But once we descend from the Ueno Plateau we will immediately find ourselves in a very different place.

鶯谷
Uguisudani

Uguisudani is a place name that means “nightingale valley” and evokes a bucolic image of the time when this was once a favorite destination of Edoites who wanted to enjoy the calls of birds. In fact, Uguisudani Station plays recordings of nightingales on the train platform. Although the name has long been preserved by locals, there isn’t an official postal code designated Uguisudani. There area is actually called 根岸 Negishi and Uguisudani is just the station name. The enjoyment of the natural and mellifluous songs of birds in a simpler time before TV and the constant barrage of 24/7 media is a poetic and beautiful image.

1917 uguisudani station

Uguisudani was so remote that it isn’t until 1917 that we get a photo of the are. You see the station (as in the modern town) on the low ground. The hill behind the station is the Ueno Plateau. Station was built in 1912, by the way.

The legend goes that a certain potter and ceramic artist from Kyōto named 尾形乾山 Ogata Kenzan visited the chief priests of nearby 寛永寺 Kan’ei-ji the Tokugawa Funerary Temple in the area[x]. Having heard from the priests that the nightingales of Edo sang in an uncouth accent or dialect, he brought nightingales from Kyōto that could “sing proper” and released them in the area. He hoped the birds would flourish and that their songs would bring peace of mind to the priests of Kan’ei-ji and the spirits of the departed shōguns that rested on the top of the Ueno Plateau.

uguisu

This is an uguisu (I’ve translated it as “nightingale” but it’s also translated as “Japanese bush warbler.” No matter what you call it, it’s a song bird and is considered a harbinger of spring. Uguisu are often mentioned in haiku or shown in art to depict the beginning of spring. Here one is shown resting among plum blossoms, another signal that spring is right around the corner. The two go hand in hand.

The 2 stories we have are part of the standard narrative and there’s not much we can say about how accurate they are, but they definitely seem to corroborate each other. Another etymology – much less well known – is also in circulation. Uguisudani is located in a strikingly noticeable valley beneath the Ueno Plateau where the shōguns were buried and where many samurai and daimyō lived. Many artists who preferred the Edo Period equivalent of the Bohemian life kept second homes in the 下町 shitamachi commoner district of present day Uguisudani[xi]. Because this was the periphery of the city and far from home, the low city catered to the more carnal desires of its moneyed inhabitants. If this theory is to be believed, there are 2 explanations being floated around. One, the reference to the beautiful song of the nightingale actually derives from the 喘ぎ声 aegigoe cries of pleasure of prostitutes heard throughout the neighborhood. Or two, the story of Kenzan bringing nightingales who could “sing proper” was a case of relocating prostitutes fluent in the Kyōto dialect and manners to the area to service the priests of Kan’ei-ji who just weren’t down with the unsophisticated Kantō girls of the Early Edo Period.

uguisudani sex industry.jpg

Say “Uguisudani” to any Tōkyōite and they’ll probably think this. But the truth is, the area has a very rich cultural history. PS: This isn’t an indorsement or anything of this business, it’s just a random Google search, ok?

I like the first explanation. People came here for bird watching. And indeed, people did come to this area for day trips to visit temples and shrines and to do 花見 hanami cherry blossom viewing. The bird watching thing makes sense. On the other hand, if you exit Uguisudani Station today, you are in the heart of a very notorious love hotel district replete with a vibrant and sometimes over the top sex industry. For a town that wasn’t a post town, it’s quite remarkable how much of a sex industry exists here.

No matter which etymology you believe[xii], the elevation and difference between the high city and low city is obvious. A walk through the maze that is Uguisudani speaks volumes about its low city heritage, but also its long standing reliance on the sex industry, and until recently the yakuza[xiii].

I love Uguisudani. It’s one of the last bastions of shitamachi culture. Sure, it’s clinging to the post-WWII Shōwa culture, but even that represents Edo’s commoner culture in so many ways. I try to come here as often as I can.

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[i] A third major hub station is planned and expected to be in preparation before the 2020 Tōkyō Olympics.
[ii] The term 大江戸 Ōedo means “the greater Edo area” and refers to the shōgun’s capital as well as the surrounding areas that absorbed its unique culture. Here’s my series on the Ōedo Line.
[iii] In Dōkan’s time, I wouldn’t use the term “castle.” It was basically a robust, fortified residence. The image of a typical Japanese castle didn’t come to Edo Castle until the arrival of the Tokugawa in about 1600.
[iv] I’m a huuuuuuuuge love of ukiyo-e, so please check out this book.
[v] Prehistoric just means before a reliable written history existed.
[vi] From Nihonbashi to Nippori would have taken an Edoite about 2-3 hours. Today it would be about 15 minutes by train. From Edo to Kamakura would have been a 2 day walk at bare minimum. However, today you could probably make the walk in 10 hours, but by train it’s roughly 45 minutes.
[vii] Its counterpart was 増上寺 Zōjō-ji Zōjō Temple in Shiba. Here’s my article on Shiba. (It’s old)
[viii] This might seem strange but fights among couples and neighborhood fires were called “Flowers of Edo.” Lovers’ quarrels were seen as unsightly and everyone ignored them so as to not get involved and then the couple would make up and “bloom again.” Likewise, the constant fires of the low city were seen as embarrassing but they saw quick rebuilding and investment in destroyed neighborhoods which also saw the areas “bloom again.”
[ix] After WWII, much of the land of the land surrounding the old Tokugawa mausolea was sold off as family burial plots to average citizens.
[x] At that time, roughly the Genroku Period, the chief priests of Kan’ei-ji were a branch of the imperial family in Kyōto. It’s implied that Kenzan’s visit to the area was due to his connections with the imperial court.
[xi] This practice was uncommon if you had the means. It was a way to escape the family and keep what we would call a “private studio” today. Likeminded artists, writers, and merchants would also be in the area and this was good for networking.
[xii] I’m not sure I’m convinced by any, to be honest.
[xiii] There used to be Taiwanese and Chinese prostitutes who were street walkers – totally illegal in Japan, but it was overlooked. In the build up to the 2020 Olympics, they’ve disappeared. There also used to be yakuza all over the place on the street corners and in the shops, but recently I haven’t seen them so… some of the really interesting vibrancy of Uguisudani may be temporarily fading.

Eikyuin

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on June 3, 2013 at 12:13 am

常憲院
Eikyūin  (Divine Prince of the Eternal Law)
五代将軍徳川綱吉公
5th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Tsunayoshi
Kan’ei-ji

The Dog Shogun, himself. Mr. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.

The Dog Shogun himself.
Mr. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.

I don’t know if this name was a sort of joke by the imperial court in Kyōto, an honest compliment, or just an obligatory flattery… or a combination of all three. But the 5th shōgun, Tsunayoshi’s legacy is a mixed bag of leadership and lunacy.

To the average Japanese he’s known as 犬将軍 inu shōgun the dog shōgun.
In his day, he was referred to by the less savory name of 犬公方 inu kubō, which has the same meaning.

His legacy hangs on an edict he promulgated called the 生類憐之令 Shōrui Awaremi no Rei Edict in Regards to the Compassion for All Living Things. Basically, the dude was a total religious freak. Because of the Buddhist belief in reincarnation, he felt compelled to protect all living creatures. Since he was born in the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese Zodiac, he was especially interested in protecting dogs. Tsunayoshi is a pretty interesting character, so if you want to read more about him, you can start HERE. I’m just going to talk about his funerary temple, so let’s get right into it[1].

They say he had a sanctuary for stray dogs in present day Nakano. Nakano Ward says this arial shot is of the place. OK, if you say so....

They say he had a sanctuary for stray dogs in present day Nakano.
Nakano Ward says this arial shot is where the former site was.
OK, if you say so….

If one were to judge the economic conditions of the Edo Shōgunate over time based on the funerary practices at Kan’ei-ji, one might come to the conclusion that the government was still in its heyday under Tsunayoshi’s reign and then we’d see a steep drop in quality by the time the next shōgun[2] was interred at Kan’ei-ji. It’s more nuanced than that, but I can say now that Tsunayoshi’s mausoleum was the last one built at Kan’ei-ji. Not the last used, but the last built. After his temple was built, the successive shōguns interred at Kan’ei-ji were enshrined together in Ietsuna’s and Tsunayoshi’s mausolea.

Structures of Eikyūin

Structure Name Description Condition Status
本殿
honden
the main hall destroyed

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

拝殿
haiden
the inner or private worship hall destroyed

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

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

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

渡廊
watarō
portico destroyed

透塀
sukibei
latticework fence that encloses a temple or shrine destroyed

仕切門
shikirimon
I’m not sure, but it’s a kind of gate… destroyed

鐘楼
shōrō
belfry, bell tower destroyed

勅額門
chokugaku
mon
imperial scroll gate; posthumous name of the deceased hand written by the emperor which marked the official entrance to the funerary temple decent condition usually open to the public
奥院宝塔
oku no in hōtō
the 2-story pagoda styled funerary urn that houses the remains of the deceased. decent condition off limits
奥院唐門
oku no in
karamon
so-called Chinese style gate that provided entry and exit to the tomb of the deceased. decent condition off limits
水盤舎
suibansha
water basins for ritual purification pretty freakin’ good condition, actually. generally off limits
石灯籠
ishidōrō
traditional stone lanterns so-so condition scattered here and there

The 5th shōgun Tsunayoshi’s grave suffered the same fate that his brother, Ietsuna’s, grave suffered (they were next door to each other). Also, like Ietsuna’s, a few portions of the temple were torn down in the annexation of much of Kan’ei-ji’s land by the Meiji government for the creation of Ueno Park. Bizarrely, from the Edo Period until the firebombing of Tōkyō, nobody took a single photograph or painted a single picture of the sites[3]. As a result, what you see here is basically what you get; a gate and a water basin.

The 奥院 oku no in or 霊屋 tamaya (inner sanctuary/graveyard) still exists but it is generally off limits. The wash basin mentioned above is also usually off limits.

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The Imperial Scroll Gate

Tsunayoshi's imperial scroll gate. (Notice there is no scroll....)

Tsunayoshi’s imperial scroll gate.
(Notice there is no scroll….)

A closer shot of the scroll gate... but why is there no scroll..................

A closer shot of the scroll gate.
(I read that the scrolls — actually plaques — of Tsunayoshi and Ietsuna survived the firebombing, but they were taken down so as not to be exposed to the elements. Not sure where they are, tho.)

The Wash Basin

You usually can't enter the cemetery, so this is what that the wash basin seems to most people.

You usually can’t enter the cemetery. Most visitors can just view it from afar.

The wash basin of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi

It appears to be in much better condition that the wash basin in Ietsuna’s mausoleum.

Check out that roof. Pretty freaking siiiiiiick, if you ask me.

Check out that roof. Pretty freaking siiiiiiick, if you ask me.

The Chinese Style Gate

Open chinese gate leading to the cemetery....

Open Chinese style gate leading to the cemetery….

Tsunayoshi's funerary urn

Tsunayoshi’s funerary urn

Tsunayoshi's grave after restoration in the 1950's.

Tsunayoshi’s grave after restoration in the 1950’s.

Stone Lanterns

stacks of stone monuments....

Stacks of stone lantern bases….
These are most likely from lanterns that were toppled by earthquakes, in particularly the Great Kanto Earthquake.

After Tsunayoshi’s enshrinement, burial methods at Kan’ei-ji changed dramatically.

Keep in mind, we’re now 5 shōguns into the Edo Bakufu and from here on out we will not see an individual funerary temple built there again[4]. After this, Kan’ei-ji burials consist of 合祀 gōshi group enshrinements. That means that Ietsuna and Tsunayoshi’s graves became the main Tokugawa cemeteries at Kan’ei-ji for the heads of the Tokugawa family (and occasionally their main wives). Siblings and concubines were buried at Kan’ei-ji, but most of those graves were in what is now called 谷中霊園 Yanaka Reien Yanaka Cemetery.

 

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Spoiler Alert!
I’ve already alluded to this, so I’ve already given way part of this, but other people enshrined in Tsunayoshi’s temple are:
  8th shōgun, Yoshimune
●  13th shōgun, Iesada & his main wife, Princess Atsu
●  Iemoto, the eldest son of the 11th shōgun, Ieharu (called the phantom 11th shōgun because his name had the kanji for “ie” but he was never installed as shōgun ‘cuz he sucked)[5]

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[1] As a side note, Ietsuna and Tsunayoshi were brothers. Easy to remember because of that “tsuna” thing.

[2] The 8th shōgun was Tokugawa Yoshimune, who is a beloved character for his austerity and his bad ass white horse on his TV show for old people, Abarenbō Shogun.

[3] I’m being facetious here, but seriously… why is there no photographic or artistic evidence of either site? It is mysterious as hell, if you think about it.

[4] 5 shōguns deep = 10 more shōguns to go. For all intents and purposes, we’re still very much in the early Edo Period.

[5] Just kidding, he died suddenly at the age of 17.

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