How 5 Tokyo Neighbourhoods were named
How 5 Tokyo Neighbourhoods were named
There are a bunch of iconic neighborhoods in Japan’s capital city. Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Asakusa and Akihabara are some of the most well known places worldwide and are visited by many tourists year round. Although many tourists may know of these places and have been to these places most people probably don’t know the origins of their name. So let’s get into how these popular areas of Tokyo got their name.
In 1991, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office relocated to Shinjuku and therefore became a central area of Tokyo. There are crowds of people in Shinjuku day and night and the largest number of passengers in the world use the JR Shinjuku station. There are lots of department stores, government offices, skyscraper towers, and great places to bar/restaurant hop. Kabukicho is one of the most popular places to bar hop as it is the largest entertainment district in Japan.
The Japanese character for Shinjuku is 新宿 and the first character of the two is shin which means new. And the second character is juku is a station town for travelers. In 1603, a new capital was established in Edo, which is the present day Tokyo, by the Tokugawa shogunate. And from Nihonbashi there were five highways that were designated as The Five Roads. One of these five roads was the Koshu Road and it went from Nihonbashi all the way to Kofu which is in Yamanashi Prefecture. The first station town that was on this road was Takaido, which is now Suginami, and it was much too far for pedestrians to walk to. Because of the distance, a new station town was established that was much closer. And because it was literally a new station town it was called Shinjuku.
For Shibuya, the real origin of the name is not really known but there are a few theories. The Japanese character for Shibuya is 渋谷 and the first kanji shibu means uneven or rough and the second kanji ya means valley. There are lots of roads and terrain in Shibuya that are like a shallow valley and it is believed that this is how it earned its name. Another theory is that it was named after the Shibuya River which used to flow through this area.
In Tokyo, Ginza is probably one of the most sophisticated areas. There are lots of expensive luxurious hotels and stores that line the streets and many people go to this area to buy brand name products. And in terms of real estate, Ginza is one of the most expensive in all of Japan. After the capital was established by the Edo shogunate in 1612, the silver coin mint was relocated from Sunpu (present day Shizuoka city) to Edo. Gin which is silver and za which means seat or sit was what the mint was called and since the area was filled with silver the name Ginza stuck.
Asakusa is most famous for the Sensoji Temple which is a must see if you are in Tokyo. This area has a great atmosphere and will definitely take you back in time. Like Shibuya, the exact origin of the name is not really known but the Kanji for Asakusa is 浅草 and the first character asa means shallow and the second kanji means grass. There is a theory that suggests that because the area is so close to the Tokyo Bay the plant life in the area was very scarce and therefore it was called Asakusa.
The last place on the list is Akihabara. This is where all the nerds are known to gather as it is a city packed with anime, manga, arcades, maid cafes and electronic stores. It is a place filled with otaku and cosplayers. The city is bright with neon lights at night and will definitely leave an impression on those who visit.
In 1870, there was a shrine dedicated to Akiba Daigongen deity and it was built in the hopes that the fires that spread throughout the city at the time would be prevented. The shrine became known as Akiba Shrine and soon after the area was called Akiba-hara and hara means field. A railway was extended to the Akiba-hara area in 1890 and therefore a new station was built. This new station was named Akihabara. The character for Akihabara is 秋葉原 and it was originally read as aki ba hara but because it can also be read as aki ha bara the latter name became more common to the Japanese people. However, the strange thing is that when people abbreviate Akihabara they actually abbreviate it as Akiba not Akiha.