Tokyobling's Blog

Toranomon Tiger

Posted in Places by tokyobling on August 18, 2015

Tokyo has a lot of interesting place names and the study of them should be enough to keep a brigade of budding toponymists busy for the better part of a century. One of the first names most tourists notice is the Toranomon (虎ノ門) which literally translates as “The Tiger Gate”. But as is so often the case with interesting place names, this name has nothing to do with tigers although very much to do with gates. During the Edo Period there was a large castle, the Edo Castle, where the Imperial Palace is located today. The castle had 36 gates, and 12 of them were named after the traditional names for the directions onto which they opened (which also corresponds to the different hours of the clock and the years of the Chinese zodiac). One of them being Tiger, Tora (寅). The gate was located in an a place called Shibaimairimachi (or so I believe), but In the 1920s a popular and well used tram station was placed in where the gated had been, called Toranomon with the animal name rather than the zodiac name. The name stuck and in 1938 a Subway station was inaugurated with the same name. In 1949 the area around the tram station was named Toranomon and in 1952 the large parts of the city in that area were renamed Toranomon, numbered one to five. I think the name stuck because it is vaguely cool, the old Shibaimairimachi disappeared and even the much more attractively named Kamiyacho disappeared completely from the maps (the name remains only as subway station in Toranomon Gochome) in 1977. Why this happened is quite a mystery to me.

Today Toranomon is “the Showa style business district” of Tokyo. When Tokyoites think of men in suits doing important business and in large well known corporations they think of Toranomon. This mental image will soon disappear though, as the old style Toranomon was more or less rebuilt to a much more modern business area during 2011-2014. It is fun to watch old movies set in Tokyo and try to name all the locations, especially since Toranomon features in so many movies.

To commemorate the name change, the local neighborhood committee put up a bronze statue of a tiger in 1979, which is now a bit of a tourist attraction.

Another interesting piece of history is the 1923 assassination attempt on the then Crown Prince Regent, Hirohito (who would soon be crowned Emperor) which took place not far away by the usual kind of communist revolutionary ideologist. The attempt is now known as the Toranomon Incident. If you ever exit the Toranomon Subway station Exit 3, you can look at roughly 10 o’clock (ahead and slightly to the left) and imagine the pistol shot shattering the car window near the young Crown Prince at 10:45 in the morning, December 27th 1923.





3 Responses

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  1. marcusbird said, on August 18, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Love the photography man…. those matsuri shots you were just jaw droppingly amazing. I shoot on a 5d mark 3? You mind telling me what you shoot with? Super curious, thanks


  2. englandliebhaber-England lover said, on August 18, 2015 at 10:15 am

    stunning images


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