Nihonbashi, the bridge and the area, has been on this blog before, but there are still a bit to be told about this fascinating area in the middle of Tokyo that is more famous for its department stores than anything else these days. The real claim to fame for this area is the Point Zero of Japan! In 1603 when the first bridge was built on the orders of the Edo shogunate it was also decided that this would be the point zero of the new Japanese road system and of all maps and distance calculations of Japan. In Europe was say that all roads lead to Rome, in Japan they say that all roads lead to Nihonbashi! The present bridge was built in 1911 and the historical road marker was moved to the side of the bridge and is now marked by a monument (third photo). Can you spot the sign on the bridge with the three characters 日本橋 on the fourth picture? It is based on the actual handwriting of the last ever shogun of Japan, Yoshinobu Tokugawa (born in Mito, Ibarakai prefecture, 1827-1913) who only spent a few months as a shogun before the shogunate was discontinued, he never even lived in his own castle and spent the better part of his life as an honorary prince in Tokyo’s Bunyko ward with his many children. Apparently he was a rather good photographer. There’s a funny story how he lived in a quiet area in Sugamo but he was irritated by the noise of the new Yamanote line that was built very close to his house so in 1901 he moved to a much more quiet spot in what is now Kasuga Nichome. Some of his children and grandchildren later married into the royal family and the Tokugawa family is still very active as architects and businesspeople.
One of the classically Japanese things or concepts that you don’t see too often these days are armored samurai warriors on the streets of Tokyo! These men had just come from a firing a salute at the opening of the Nihonbashi 100 year Anniversary festival here in central Tokyo. In Japanese these suits of armor are called yoroi, and it’s easy to see where the influence for some of the armors worn in the Star Wars movies came from. The first photo is my favorite, you can see his match cord, use to ignite the powder that fires the rifle, is still lit and smoking! These matchlock rifles are called Tanegashima from the name of the island where they were first introduced in 1510 by ship wrecked Portuguese. Like in Europe, they changed the nature of war forever when it suddenly became much too dangerous for the rich and noble to fight among themselves: a peasant boy could be trained in a day to kill off a samurai or a knight who had spent a lifetime training and preparing his horse, sword and armor. As cool as these guys look, I’m glad we live in a more peaceful world now!
I still haven’t had time to finish editing all the photos I took at last year’s Nihonbashi 100 year anniversary festival in November last year but little by little I’m going through them. Here’s a few of one of my favorite costumes of all here in Japan, I don’t know what it is called but you sometimes see them in festivals even here in the greater Tokyo area. You might remember the similar costumes worn by the participants in the Kawagoe festival which I showed in this post from last year. I don’t know what it is I love about these costumes, but it’s probably a combination of the wonderful design and the colors and bold patterns! The makeup though, reminds me mostly of Kabuki actors!
It was a relatively warm spring day here in Tokyo yesterday and it made long for festival season to start up once again! Here are a few snapshots I took of the wonderful participants of the Nihonbashi 100 Year Anniversary festival last year. This part of the parade was the traditional festival wagons, with a bit unusual lions head shrine at the end! The kids pulling did a good job and even the smallest seemed to put their hearts in it. I took these photos with my favorite lens, the amazing 135mm f2.0 DC. Enjoy the weekend!