Koto English-speaking Volunteer Guide Association
Free English guided walking tours in Koto-ku, Tokyo
March 12, 2023
Open terrace along Sumida River
December 21, 2022
Japanese yellow rose and Stature of Ota Dokan (山吹の花と太田道灌像)
I had two memories.
One of those was a story in medieval period: One Samurai had rain on his way back from his father's home. He didn’t have a raincoat,蓑（みの）,so he stopped at a farmers house and asked to borrow it. A woman came out from the house and gave him a small branch of Japanese yellow rose(山吹の花). Then, she sang him Waka, Classic Japanese poem,「七重、八重、花は咲けども山吹の実の（みの）1つだに無きぞ悲しき」. The samurai didn’t understand its meaning, so his subordinate taught him the meaning. “She would like to lend you a raincoat, but she is poor, what she can do is only give a branch of Japanese yellow rose”. The samurai was ashamed of his lack of knowledge. Then he started to learn Classic Japanese poem.
I read this story in my young age. Back then, I was impressed by her action and poem, “what a elegant lady she was！". But, I was not interested in the Samurai at all.
Another memory was a samurai stature.
Before The Tokyo Metropolitan Government office was moved to Sinjuku, the offices were located near to JR,Yurakucho station. City workers had opportunity to go there with documents in urgent time. I saw one samurai stature that was standing in front of the first building of the Government office. “Who is he ? ”. Again, I had no interest in that Samurai.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridges.
Recently, I had chance to learn Koto-ku history through some books. Onagigawa river was constructed to transport salt from Gyotoku in Chiba prefecture, to Edo, now Tokyo. It was first work by Tokugawa Ieyasu(徳川家康), first governor in Edo period (※1603～1867). He is an icon who built Edo Castle and continued 260 years peaceful era.
But, in the moment, I found one samurai name in a small space in the book. His name is Ota Dokan(太田道灌) who built Edo Castle in the latter period of Muromachi period (※1336～1549). Original main castle and 2 another buildings of Edo Castle were built by him. Furthermore, small ports were constructed near the castle and the economy was flourishing. He was a clever person with the pen and sword. He had loyalty to his master and expanded their territory. Unfortunately, he was assassinated by a plot because allied armies feared his ability. He was also good at literature, “A story of the Japanese yellow rose ” was introduced in the same page in the book.
At that moment, two memories were connected in my mind. The samurai, who was given a Japanese yellow rose, and the stature of Samurai, was Ota Dokan. Then I thought "Where did the stature go?"
I opened my PC, and found that it has been setting in the Glass Building of the Tokyo Forum, former site of the Tokyo Government office. Surprisingly, I also found a lot of his statures in Kanto area. I know Tokugawa Ieyasu is a prominent person. But I believe Ota Dokan was also honored by many people. Otherwise there aren’t so many statures.
I found a feeling of satisfaction and relief in my mind.
※depens on data
Oh! What is that?
Something red and white over there rightward. (The lefttward red box is a mailbox.)
Let’s take a closer look.
It has a red ribbon. What is it?
It has two red eyes and two antlers. Yes, it’s a reindeer!
By the reindeer, the tree has a wreath.
These photos are taken at Toyosu quarter in Koto City. Actually, Toyosu volunteer group tend this flowerbed. If you visit here, you can enjoy beautiful and colorful flowers every time in the year.
November 5, 2022
Prelude to Oku no Hosomichi
Everything has its beginning and end.
The same is true of the Japanese master of haiku in the Edo period that spanned over two hundred and fifty years from early 1600. A haiku in Japanese, written in five-seven-five form, is composed of 17 syllables. Today, it is increasingly popular around the world. A classical Japanese haiku should include a seasonal term.
Matsuo Basho had set out northward on a hundred-fifty-day long journey from Fukagawa in 1689, according to published records by his and others. He was 46 at the time.
After selling his humble reed-thatched cottage near the Sumida River, the great haiku poet temporarily stayed at the villa owned by Sugiyama Sanpu, one of his disciples in the city of Edo (present Tokyo).
Sanpu, a wealthy fish wholesaler and one of the talented disciples, supported financially his master who had lived in Fukagawa for 14 years. At present, a bronze statue of Basho in travel attire in those days stands at the site called “Saito-an, the place where Basho had departed from.
After wrapping up the 2,400-kilometers’ (1,500 miles) travels, it took five years for the haiku master to finish off “Oku no Hosomichi” (The Narrow Road to Oku). Some scholars say that Oku in this context means deep north, but others state that the traveling by the great poet was intended to go deeply into the world of haiku, or both.
In 1694、Basho passed away at age of fifty-one in Osaka.
The Saito-an is five minutes’ walk from the A-1 exit of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa subway station in the capital’s Koto City. Elsewhere nearby, there are several interesting spots to visit connected with the haiku poet.
Go to the Basho Museum website at; https://www.kcf.or.jp/basho/
September 18, 2022
Taste of Autumn：Chestnut rice
Autumn is often referred to as "autumn of appetite" or "autumn of harvest" because of the variety of foods that are harvested in the season and the enjoyment of eating them.
Sanma (saury), written in Chinese characters as "autumn sword fish," is a typical autumn delicacy, shaped like a long, thin sword.
Vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and mushrooms, as well as fruits such as grapes and pears, are also harvested in abundance during this season. Rice is also harvested at this time of year. The new rice, called "shinmai," is shiny, sweet, and very tasty.
Among them, my favorite autumn delicacy is chestnuts. Japanese chestnuts are sweet and delicious, and can be boiled and eaten as they are, or used as ingredients for various sweets.
Today, I would like to share with you a chestnut rice dish that my family looks forward to every year.
It is very easy to make. All you have to do is peel thick chestnuts and cook them with an appropriate amount of salt. After cooking, sprinkle a pinch of sesame seeds and enjoy. Since the seasoning is simple, you can taste the flavor of the chestnuts themselves.
There are various types of chestnut rice depending on the household. It can be eaten at bento shops and Japanese restaurants, or you can buy products for chestnut rice that have been peeled and seasoned. If you have a chance, please try it. （by Kaori）
May 19, 2022
Why huge Yokozuna Monument is here?
It weighs 20 tons with its height of 285 centimeters, width 288 and depth 51. ‘yokozuna rikishi hi’ is inscribed in the center of the monument in thick Japanese characters.
On the back of the stone are inscribed the ring names of successive Yokozunas, sumo grand champions.
Sumo has a very long history in Japan. In mythical era, two strongest men had a battle and Nominosukune won. Then he was enshrined as a god of sumo. In 9th to 12th century sumo ceremony was held as a ritual at the imperial court. From around 16th century warlords employed strong sumo wrestlers and enjoyed watching their bouts.
But there were other sumo wrestlers who were dismissed by their lords, or strong farmers, firemen, etc. They had sumo bouts at a crossroads or on unoccupied grounds surrounded by spectators. Even spectators could participate in the bout without prior reservations. Spectators sat or stood around the sumo ground and bet money on their favorite wrestlers. As there weren’t strict rules of wins and losses at that time, fighting occurred frequently as to the result of the match, causing injuries among wrestlers and spectators.
The then government warried about those troubles and repeatedly banned the sumo bouts.
After Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine burned down by fire in 1682, they planned to hold a fundraising sumo tournament at the venue to rebuild their shrine and asked permission from the Edo government. The petition was granted in 1684. Because lordless or jobless wrestlers must make a living, otherwise they might disturb social order. Or because if entertainment-hungry people would throng to see the sumo tournament, then the Shrine area would prosper and be developed, which was a reclaimed land with a sparce population but rather near to the center of Edo city across the Sumida River.
Officially licensed grand sumo tournaments were held four times a year, two in Edo, one in Kyoto and one in Osaka. In between 1684 and 1801, Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine held about 50 fund raising sumo tournaments before the venue was moved to Ryogoku Ekoin Temple.
It is said that, at this time, strict sumo rules were made such as the size of the ring, sumo wrestlers ranking list on one sheet of paper or winning techniques.
At that time the highest sumo rank was Oozeki. Yokozuna was rather an honorary rank although he must be strong enough.
First ‘yokozuna,’ a horizontal rope much like a sacred festoon in front of a Shinto shrine, was awarded to Tanikaze Kajinosuke, then to Onogawa Kisaburo.
The awarding ceremony was held at Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine.
In Edo period (-1867), twelve sumo wrestlers were awarded Yokozuna titles.
In Meiji period (1868-1912), Jinmaku Kyugoro, the last Yokozuna in Edo period, planned to erect a monument to commemorate the great achievements of successive Yokozunas. After seven years of his effort, he could collect contribution from every field of life, and finally materialized his plan.
In 1900, a huge Yokozuna monument was erected in the back yard of the main building of Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine.
For the first time in sumo history, the number of generations were assigned to each Yokozuna.
Before deciding who was the first, second, third, or who really existed, or who was qualified as a Yokazuna, Jinmaku widely sought information about former Yokozunas.
The generation number is still inherited today. The latest Yokozuna, Terunofuji, is 73rd.
Please come and see the huge Yokozuna monument at Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine. There is also Ozeki Monument in the precinct nearby.
For more information, please refer to our blogs, Ceremony to join list of greatest sumo wrestlers at Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine, June 9, 2017 and ‘A History of Sumo’ Tour on June 24th, June 13, 2017
Note: Today Yokozuna is the highest sumo rank and Ozeki is the next.
By Hiroshi Nishitani
April 27, 2022
KEV’s first virtual tour
We received the email from an Indonesian school teacher to ask us whether we conduct virtual tours for her students last December. Since her elementary school students have studied from home via video due to the prolonged pandemic, she hoped they could experience Japanese culture and views virtually.
She found some people who visited Japan appreciating our KEV on the internet. That’s why she contacted us.
Actually, we had no experience of virtual tours, so we immediately discussed our possibility for them. We were also thinking about the need to interact with foreign people because we couldn’t welcome any inbound tourists for about 2 years since the spring of 2020. Eventually, we decided to launch our first virtual tour and organize the project team in our association at the end of last year.
The 7 members who love novel things gathered around and had several meetings both in person and video-meeting to create our first virtual tour. We made the tour plan where we’d like to tell the students about Japanese seasonal events and introduce our popular destinations such as Tomioka-Hachimangu shrine and Sunamachi shopping street. Then, we suggested our plan to Indonesian teachers and discussed it by email and a zoom meeting. Some of our members went around to film those destinations. Also, locals and local government staff cooperated with us about our activities.
We really enjoyed exchanging opinions actively with members and interacting with the friendly teachers.
And, finally we conducted our virtual tour on March 11th! The students, ranging from first graders to sixth graders, were very adorable. We all enjoyed the tour with several questions like “I like sushi.”, “I like Japanese tea.”, “I want to eat Tai-yaki. (a fish-shaped pancake)” and so on. They were really cute!
|Nakano speaks to students. Other members watching their images|
Through this experience, we realized that we could talk with each other and make foreign friends in spite of the pandemic. Thank you for your suggestion for the virtual tour. Some day after the pandemic, we will welcome you in person in Japan!