Walk in Tokyo: Exploring the Past and Discovering the Future Photograph collection of the cityscape and architecture in Tokyo
Discovery in Tokyo
A city you know.
Have you aware that some places you visited are hidden with interesting historical backgroun
It might be the hometown of a historic hero.
If you try to explore more, you might discover interesting history of those areas or buildings.
With the coming of Tokyo Olympic 2020, the city is developing faster with new buildings construction. Like the proverb “Exploring the Past and Discovering the Future”, it might be the time to re-study the history of the different areas in the city to get hints for the future.
Do you know that the Japanese word “Ginbura” means it is exciting to walk around Ginza?
Actually, this word was created by the historical great man in Meiji era.
So, do you know why it is exciting to walk around Ginza?
There are different versions for the original meaning of the word “Ginbura” such as “drinking Brazil coffee in Ginza" or "strolling around the streets of Ginza". Whatever it is, all means the exciting feeling when walking around Ginza streets.
The streets of Ginza were planned in an ordered way, one row by one row, and each street was named as per its order number for easy reference.
So, why was it so enjoyable even just wander around the Ginza streets in the past?
Actually, there was a story behind the formation of Ginza’s cityscape. I In order to strengthen the area from the prevention of fire disaster after the serious fire accident happened in February of Meiji Era Year 5, a plan named “Ginza Brick Street” was devised to rebuild the streets of Ginza. Although the area is no longer looks like the “Ginza Brick Street Plan” as it was destroyed during Kanto Earthquake, one might be surprised to know that this plan was proposed by Yuri Kousei (Ex-Tokyo Governor), Okuma Shigenobu (Ex-Prime Minister of Japan) and Inoue Kaoru (Ex-Ministers of Home Affairs) and officially carried out by Okuma and Inoue.
There were two key elements in the plan. One was the “Street Plan” and the other was the “Brick-made Building”. Although it is hard to know how long it took to complete the “Street Plan” with the limited information provided, it was surprisingly to know that the suggested plan and the decision was announced just 1 week after the occurrence of that fire accident. The width of streets planned in the past related to the formation of Ginza’s cityscape nowadays.
In Edo period, the width of streets were only around 13m-15m as it was mainly for people to walk. As compared with those in the world’s large cities like London and New York which was around 45m, the streets were quite narrow. This issue aroused a debate for the optimized street width at that moment. Although there was no supporting evidence for the ultimate optimized width of the street after the debate, it seemed that around 27m width was preferred.
s a result, the width of Harumi street was 18m (which was broadened after the Kanto Earthquake), the side streets (such as Matsuya Street, Maronie Street and Miyuki Street, etc) as well as the alley (such as Namiki Street, etc) was 5.5m that formed the street map today. Besides, some of the pedestrian roads were widened from the car roads in Edo era. (source: extracts from “A summary of the Ginza district planning project)
In other words, although the streets in Ginza is not as width as that of other larger cities in the world, the excitement of Ginza walk might be linked to the 27m road width of the“Ginza Brick Street” plan and the special feeling of Edo Era.
It is amazing that historical great man like Okuma and Inoue could devised the street plan swiftly within a week. They might be the real reason behind the creation of the Japanese word “Ginbura”.
The original plan for width of Showa Street was 108m after the big earthquake but turned to become 44m at the end.
Chuo Street is only 27m width now. If it was in 44m width like that of Showa street, there is no need to block the road for pedestrian-use in specified time period currently.
This is the guide map for the seven Polestar Buildings possessed by Hokushin Fudosan in Ginza which is displayed at the entrance of No 23 Polestar Building.
Photo of the No 4 Polestar Building
Photo of the chandelier in the entrance hall of No 5 Polestar Building
“Ginbura” along Namiki Street in Ginza
(Takiyama area in the past)
In Ginza, when “Ginbura” along Namiki street, not only shopping, but also the fun of exploring the history that you can enjoy. Interesting historical stories might be discovered.
During Edo period, this was only an residential area without any high-rise building.. Before the rebuild of No 22 Polestar Building, the old one was named “Takiyama-cho Building” which was same as the name of the place. And so the former name of the Ginza 6th Street was “Takiyama-cho of Kyobashi district”.
Besides, as the great poet “Ishikawa Takuboku” had been worked for 3 years in the company of Asahi Newspaper which located in Takiyama-cho during Meiji era, the company has erected a monument at the sidewalk of Ginza 6th Street in commemoration of his 60th death anniversary. It is now located near No 4 Polestar Building on Namiki Street.
Other than those who knew this and visit the monument for their own interest, most of the people might not be aware that there is such a meaningful historical monument erected there.
He was a genius poet but passed away in young age!
The great poet Ishikawa Takuboku, who passed away at an age of 26, seemed to be an impoverished man as reflected in his poems…
Actually, there is no evidence to prove whether Ishikawa Takuboku was poor or not. But if you searched on the web, you might discover his another image. If he were still alive, he might be the guest of those luxury Ginza Clubs? Was this the reason for the erection of his monument and do you think he would be pleased with this?
No 22 Polestar Building (Former name: Takiyama-cho Building)
No 1 Polestar Building
No 5 Polestar Building
The Ginza office of Advance City Planning Company in No 2 Polestar Building
No 23 Polestar Building
No 26 Polestar Building
AKASAKA AKASAKA MITSUKE
Let’s walk to understand the daily life of the historical great man Oka Echizen and Katsu Kaishu in Akasaka.
This area is full of historical stories! Do you know the name of Akasaka Mitsuke station is related to the historical sites of“Akasaka Mitsuke”? What is the meaning of “Mitsuke”? “Mitsuke” was the wall and the gate around the castle in late Edo Era and Meiji era which aimed to protect the castle from the invasion of enemy. This photo shows that only part of the walls and stones are reminded as a historical site in Akasaka nowadays.
“Mitsuke” was the wall and the gate around the castle in late Edo Era and Meiji era which aimed to protect the castle from the invasion of enemy. Nowadays, only part of the walls and stones are reminded in the site.
No 9 and No 10 Polestar Buildings are just nearby.
Akasaka was an area with many famous historical great men.
The origin of the name “Akasaka” was related to the historical great man - Oka Echizen?
Another great man Katsu Kaishu was also famous in Akasaka but why his grave was not in Akasaka?
The reason behind for the gathering of many historical great men in Akasaka was its closure to the Edo Castle area during the period of Tokugawa Shogunate. Among many historical great men, the following two were the most remarkable. Oka Echizen The old site of Akasaka Elementary School , used to be the villa of Oka Echizen who was a famous historical great man in Edo Period, was used as a shooting site of TV historical drama. As Oka Echizen was born in Kishu, this villa had once been named as “Kishu Villa”. Afterwards,, it was renamed as “Akasaka” which seemed to be related to its landscape that facing the slope of Akane Mountain. Nowadays, part of the Kishu villa’s site has been changed and become the State Guest House - Akasaka Palace. Katsu Kaishu (He used to live in Akasaka but his grave was not in there.) Other than Oka Echizen, Katsu Kaishu was also well-known in Akasaka. The residential relics of Katsu Kaishu, which was near Hikawa Shrine and used to be the Hikawa Primary School (it was closed after merging with Akasaka Primary School) is very famous. Katsu Kaishu was moved to Akasaka Machicho (Akasaka 3 chome nowadays) when he was age 24 and was poor in that moment. After 13 years, he moved to Asakasa Moto Hikawa (Akasaka 6 chome nowadays). He was very active during the period of the restoration of imperial rule. Afterwards, he moved to Shizuoka Prefecture with Tokugawa Yoshinobu and lived there for a while before he moved back to Akasaka again (the ex-location of Hikawa Primary School) to work for the Meiji government.. On the other hand, when he met Saigo Takamori in Ikekami Honmon-ji temple in Senzokuike, he liked the natural environment of the surrounding area of Senzokuike and so he built another villa there. As a result, his grave was built in this place instead of Akasaka. If you want to visit his grave and pray for him, please be reminded to go to Senzokuike instead.
The State Guest House - Akasaka Palace is located in part of previous Kishu Kaishu Villa site
This statue of Katsu Kaishu is located at Azuma-bashi Bridge of Sumida district in Tokyo.
Shibuya, changed from a desolated farm to a world’s tourist spot nowadays!
A hub for the young and tourists from around the world.
In 1525, Shibuya Uji was perished by Hojyo Ujitsuna.
Afterwards, Owada Tarodogen, the followers of Shibuya Uji who was perceived as a bandit, built the Dogen Hermitage along the slope and lived there. This is the origin for the name of “Shibuya”. Can it be imaged such a prosperous area used to be with a bandit zone in the past?
Famous novelist - Akutagawa Ryunosuke and scholar - Yanagita Kunio were studied in Shibuya and had created New Poet Association there. Another novelist Hayashi Fumiko even had her night shop there.
History of Shibuya Development
Once upon a time, Shibuya was just a desolated farm?!
During Edo period, Shibuya was just a farm village outside the boundary of Edo City.
With the growing of the city,, samurai had relocated their residence to Shibuya area. Gradually, the area shifted from a farm village to urbanization and industrialization in the eras of Meiji and Taisho.
Nowadays, it is hard to link the area with the image of a desolated farm that it used to be in the past. 。
There is a memorial monument on the Dogenzaka Road behind the monument of poet Yosano Akiko which near the west entrance of Shibuya Mark City.
(Humor photo) Even the cow is surprised with this world’s tourist spot – scramble-like traffic intersection.
This large traffic intersection looks like a human farm from the top perspective…？
The History of Ikebukuro Development
Ikebukuro was also a farm village in the past but much bleaker than Shibuya. But it was a lucky area for business!
One might be surprised Shibuya was a farm in the past. It might be more surprising that Ikebukuro, also a prosperous area, was a barren farm village with large area of grassland and few inhabitants before. It’s development was related to the appearance of a railway station.
After the world war, Ikebukuro was becoming the end stop of different railways. Together with the surging of black markets, more and more people were gathered in this area to do business and turned Ikebukuro into a booming area in Tokyo Japan nowadays.。
Similar to Shibuya, even with the background of a barren farm village, many historical culture relics could be discovered around Ikebukuro, including one of the important historical cultural properties - Jiyū Gakuen Myōnichikanwhich was designed by the famous American Architect Mr Frank Lloyd Wright,Ikebukuro Campus of Rikkyo University which is one of the historical architectural buildings, as well as Zoshigaya Cemetery, a place with graves of many famous figures in the past.
As Ikebukuro is a lucky area for business, large department stores like SEIBU, TOBU located their first stores there. At the same time, many shops also started their business in Ikebukuro.
The origin of the name IKEBUKURO
How could Ikebukuro to be changed to a successful business area from a barren farm village with pond?p>
Once upon a time, this was pond named “Maruike” in Ikebukuro. As its shape was similar to a bag, it was named as “bukuroike”. This was claimed as the origin of the name of Ikebukuro. Nowadays, although that pond is disappeared, the historical relic near Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Ikebukuro traced the past of Ikebukuro.
The historical relic is named as “Ikebukuro Historical Relic Park. But actually, it is not really that spacious as a park. There is no photo to show here but you can take a visit to this place where field and pond were used to be there in the past.
It takes around 9 minute-walk from Ikebukuro station to COCOFLAT Ikebukuro.
One of the important historical cultural properties -.Jiyū Gakuen Myōnichikan, designed by the famous American Architect Mr Frank Lloyd Wright, is opened for public visit or for holding a wedding ceremony.
Ikebukuro was claimed as a lucky area for business which attracted many brands/department stores had their first shops in the area.
Why did the dew of Dan-no-ura and the Heika Shrine disappear in Nihonbashi?
The development of Suitengu area was started 850 years ago.
In 1185, Emperor Antoku, the successor of Taira-no-kiyomori, had been disappeared with his monther’s Kenreimon house in the dew of sea wave during the battle with Genji in Dan-no-ura (Shimoseki city of Yamaguchi Prefecture) when he was age 8.
Afterwards, Arima Tadayori had built a grand shrine named Suitengu in the Senoshita area of Kurume City. However, as the 9th feudal lord Arima Yorinori could not visit the shrine under "Sankinkotai" system (a system that feudal lords in the Edo period were required to spend every other year to reside in Edo district), he made his worship in the Suitegu located in the Edo house of Minato district.
Then, in 1818, the Suitengu Shrine in that Edo house as well as the Edo house relocated to Akasaka in year 4 of Meiji and relocated again in the following year to the current location in Kakigara area of Chuo district.
Touring for the seven fortune gods in Nihonbashi?
Only 7 fortune gods in 8 shrines?
When matching the seven fortune gods with each shrine in the area, it is discovered that there is a total of eight shrines instead!
It might be confusing that Suitengu might not on the count as the word “shrine” is missing. However, even missing the word “shrine”, Suitengu is definitely a shrine.
Let’s matching the shrines with the gods as below: 1. Koami Shrine: God of Fukurokuju / 2. Ochanoki Shrine: God of Hoteison / 3. Suitengu Shrine: God of Bennzaiten / 4. Matsushima Shrine: God of Daikokuten / 5. Suehiro Shrine: God of Bisyamonten / 6. Kasamainari Shrine: God of Jurou / 7. Suginomori Shrine: God of Ebisu / 8: Takarada Ebisu Shrine: God of Ebisu
Actually, the god of Edisu is belonged to two shrines and that is the reason why there are 8 shrines for 7 gods. The god of Ebisu is the most popular one among the 7 gods because it is the only one that related to business and therefore there are 2 shrines for this god.
When touring for the seven gods, Takarada Ebisu Shrine might be neglected by the public and therefore it is also named as “Unmanned Shrine”. Meanwhile, Suitengu Shrine is the one you cannot miss!
Takarada Ebisu Shrine
“Shinjuku, was used to be a new relay station in the past.
Its history had hidden the rules of the area development.
In the following year of Keicyo year 8 (1603) when Shogunate started in Edo area, 5 streets including Tokai Street, Nakayama Street, Nikko Street, Okushu Street and Koshu Street, which extended from Nipponbashi, had been planned and built. There was a fixed number of relay stations in each street. However, for the Koshu Street, as the distance from Nipponbashi to the first relay station in Takaido was too long, travelers felt exhausted to reach the first relay station. In order to solve this problem, a new relay station was set in the mid-point of the street.
As this new relay station was set inside the residential site where originally owned by Mr Naito,(though it relinquished to Shogunate later), the origin name of the site was “Naito Shinjuku” which later changed to “Shinjuku”, a name that has been using till today.
Later, the area had been extended from Shinjuku station to the area of Yotsuya, Ushigome, and Yodobashi during Showa year 22 and formed the Shinjuku district nowadays.
Actually, before integration, the area of Yotsuya, Ushigome, and Yodobashi had its own unique characteristic that could be surmised from its name. For example, the name of Yotsuya was originated from its 4 tea houses in the area in the past, Ushigome used to be a farm with cows while Yodobashi was the bridge over a stagnated river. All these areas have become a prosperous business area today and it is hardly to link with their past desolated image .
The history of Shinjuku development had revealed that transport played an important role in an area development which became a basic rule for developing an area.
“Hundred famous scenes in Edo: Naito Shinjuku in Yotsuya”This bold art piece is the work of the famous Japanese ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige. It depicted the scene of the relay station in Naito Shinjuku from the side of a close-up horse's buttocks.
Although the traffic flow was few in Koshu Street among the five streets in the past, this art piece intended to show the crowded atmosphere in five streets.
(Source: National Diet Library Digital Collection)
A place with reasonable price that is good for families or groups to stay and travel around Shinjuku.
"COCO SHUKU Nakano"
Nakano district is commuter town in the city center where is convenient in both living and transportation. COCO SHUKU Nakano is located in Nakano district with only 2-minute walk from Shin-Nakano Station and just 3 stations to Shinjuku on the Marunouchi line of Tokyo Metro. It is reasonably priced with substantiality amenities which is comfortable for the stay of family or groups and convenient to travel around Shinjuku.
History of Roppongi and Azabu
What is the reason behind for having numerous historical temples in this area?
In Roppongi, apart from Tokyo Midtown, Roppongi Hills which built before Tokyo Midtown, is also well-known. The renowned Mori Garden is located in Roppongi Hills. The historical story behind Mori Garden was related to a bloody incident of Akou warriors. There was rumor that specters of those self-killed Akou warriors were around Mori Garden which created scary atmosphere in this garden. So, it might be better to turn the focus on other historical stories around Roppongi.
Do you know there is a place which is popular among young women? It is adjacent to the headquarters building of Hokushin Fudosan. It is the grave of Okita Souji inside the temple “Sensoji”, who was a famous sword master in late Tokugawa Shogunate.
However, the public is only allowed to worship the grave once a year. No inquiries related to the worship of Okita Souji’s grave is allowed by the temple due to some complicated reasons. For those who would like to know more about Okita Souji, it might be better to make enquiry to his fan club.
Besides, there are many shrines and temples around Roppongi and Azabu. It was related to the landscape and direction of the area in the past.
The south-facing highland that embracing the sea was the ideal landscape for enshrining gods. In addition, since Edo Shogunate, there was trend that Samurai houses were built in highland while merchants and craftsmen were inhibited in lowland. Gradually, temples with 1,000 years of history were mixed with later built temples. This is the reason why numerous temples gathered in this area.
Why the grave of Okita Souji is located in Nishi-Azabu?
Okia Souji, the captain of Shinsengumi, was born in Nishi-Azabu. There is a story behind his grave location!
From the old map of Edo period, it was discovered that the location of Okita Souji’s grave was related to the house of Abe Harimamori, who was the feudal lord of Shirakawa area. Okita Katsujiro, who was said to be the father of Okita Souji, was the retainer of Abe Harimamori and therefore Okita Souji was actually born in this house.
As temples around the street near Asahi TV had relationships with Abe family in the past, this is the reason why the grave of Okita Souji was arranged in the temple of Dannatera’s Senshoji.