History

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It’s probably Senso-ji Temple and the surrounding entertainment district
that come to mind first when you think of Asakusa,
but, Asakusa has a whole lot more to offer!

Feel free to send us your stories, memories and old pictures you have of Asakusa.Mail

According to the Edo-Tokyo Encyclopedia:

Asakusa was the name given to about half the eastern section of Taito Ward, or the area on the western side of the Sumida River, stretching from the Sumida to the east, the Kanda River to the south and the Omoi River (also known as Koma-arai River) to the north. The district was called Asakusa-ku from 1878 to 1947, when the name was changed to “Taito Ward.” There are several theories to explain the origin of the name “Asakusa.” One links the name with the Ainu word “atsuakusa,” which means “to cross the ocean.”Another theory associates the name with the Tibetian word “asha kusha,” which means “where the holy reside.” Perhaps the most widely-accepted explanation, however, is the description given in the Illustrated Guide of Old Edo (Edo Oko Zusetu):
“The area from Shitaya to this area is on the edge of the Musashino Plain, where the grass grows short. That’s how this area was named Asakusa (short grass).”

senso-ji_photo

In the Kamakura Period(1185−1333), Shogun Yoritomo Minamoto, unable to find the right craftsmen for the job, brought shrine builders from Asakusa to build the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura. Leading up to the dispatch of shrine builders, the boat traffic between Asakusa and Kamakura increased, resulting in a greater number of people moving through the area. By the end of the Muromachi Period (1333−1573), a barter market was being held regularly within the precincts of Senso−ji Temple.

The Edo Period(1603−1867) saw the capital experience extraordinary growth, eventually absorbing the area then known as Asakusa.

In 1590, Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa entered Edo and chose Sensoji Temple to serve as his prayer hall, offering 500−goku of land (sufficient to raise over 2,500 bushels of rice) to the temple. In 1636, the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, rebuilt Senso−ji’s main building, which had been burnt down in a fire in April of that year. However, it was destroyed again by fire six years later.
Iemitsu rebuilt the temple again between 1648 and 1649, creating a main building, a five−storied pagoda, and two gates, the Niomon and the Kaminarimon. In the early years of the Edo Period, a mizu−chaya, a tea and confectionery shop offering refreshment to worshipers visiting the temple, appeared in the precinct of Senso−ji Temple. In those days, a chaya was a place to rest, and it is said to have originated from the tea house.
Now, some background on street performances in the area.
There were two places where visitors could watch street performances in the precinct of Senso−ji−on Omotesando (currently Nakamise−dori) and a spot just outside the Niomon Gate, on the right side of the street.

During the Meiji Period, on January 15th, 1873, in Meiji period, Tokyo governor Ichio Okubo designated the following five places as parks and notified the ministry of state:

*Ueno Kanei−ji Temple
*Senso−ji Temple
*Shiba Zojo−ji Temple
*Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in Fukagawa
*Mt. Asuka

The precinct of Senso−ji was named Asakusa Park.
In January of 1884, it was zoned into six districts, with a seventh area added in September that year.

District 1:The area around Senso−ji’s main building−Asakusa Shrine/ Nitenmon Gate/ Niomon Gate/ Five−Storied Pagoda/ Awashima-do
District 2:Nakamise Street
District 3:The premises of the Denpo−in Temple, Senso−ji’s parent temple.
District 4:The forest and waterfront on the premises of Senso−ji, where Oike and Hyotan−ike ponds once existed.
District 5:The area called Okuyama in the north section of the park. Hanayashiki now stands within this district.
District 6(Rokku):The heart of the entertainment district is Cinema Street.
District 7:The area in the southeast section of the park. Currently 1−chome to 5−chome of Asakusa Umamichi−cho.

Later, District 6 (Rokku) grew into a popular place among Tokyoites.

In 1883, a rice field on the west side of Okuyama within the precincts of Senso−ji Temple was made into a pond. The soil scooped out of the rice field was used to create land along the southern and western shores of the pond and to build roads. The pond is also known as Hyotan−ike.
In 1887, a man−made replica of Mt. Fuji was built which allowed people to climb up using spiral paths and enjoy the view of Edo. Because it proved less popular than hoped, however, it was brought down three years later and replaced by the Japan Panorama Theater. In the same year, the Ryounkaku, the 12−story building which was the first in Japan to have an elevator, opened. Also called “Asakusa 12−kai,” it became a very popular spot and served as an Asakusa landmark until it was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake.

Rokku-street

Lined with nearly twenty stage, movie and rakugo theaters, the entertainment district of District Six, commonly known as Rokku, attracted a large number of people including soldiers, young laborers called “Decchi” and students on weekends.
One could enter a movie theater for only 7 sen, a third of the 20 sen that first−class movie theaters charged. It was a place where even the Decchis could afford to enjoy themselves all day long.
In 1903, the Denki−kan, the first kinetograph theater in Japan, opened. Until the mid 70’s, Asakusa was the place where a majority of Japan’s top entertainers cut their teeth before hitting stardom. After 1975, however, the famed theaters began to disappear one by one.

◆Sensoji Temple ◆Asakusa Shrine ◆Chronological Table
(Japanese Only)
◆Who's Who
(Japanese Only)

Photos:
Shinsen Tokyo Meisho Zukai−Taito City Library (published in approx. 1907)
/ Tokyo Meisho Gajo (published at the end of Meiji Period)
/ Dai−Tokyo Shashin−cho (published in 1930).

  • 浅草土産プレゼント浅草土産プレゼント
  • 時代屋ワンコインガイド時代屋ワンコインガイド
  • 変身遊び変身遊び
  • 今日の花嫁今日の花嫁
  • 人力車といえば浅草時代屋人力車といえば浅草時代屋
  • 時代屋メディア・芸能情報時代屋メディア・芸能情報
  • すみだいーとこすみだいーとこ