Honjo and Motomachi

Honjo 本所 / ほんじょ

Sumida (墨田区, Sumida-ku, "Field of Ink")
The ward was founded on March 15, 1947.
It was previously the (ordinary) wards Honjo and Mukojima. Mukojima, formed in 1932, contained the former town of Sumida, which along with the river gave the ward its name.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

The area used to be called Fukagawa in the Edo period.
Matsuo Basho lived in Fukagawa.

- Bashō-An, Bashoo-an 芭蕉庵 Basho-An in Fukagawa 深川 -
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


- quote -
On the east bank of the Sumida River, a short distance north of Ryogoku bridge and directly across the river from Asakusa, lies the quiet working-class neighborhood of Honjo. The Honjo neighborhood is one of the most recently built shitamachi (downtown) districts, and was not officially considered a part of Edo until 1719, after the Ryogoku bridge had been built and small craftsmen and labourers began to move into the area in fairly large numbers. Originally, the area was the site of a few "second houses" or shimo-yashiki maintained by some of the leading daimyo as places where they could go occasionally to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, or where guests and retainers from the provinces could stay when they came to town. Even now, much of the area is still dotted with shimo-yashiki, as well as many shrines and temples. As a result, the area is greener and more open than other blue-collar areas of the city.

All the same, the majority of the people living in Honjo nowadays are craftsmen and labourers. Because the district is in a convenient location between the lumber yards of Kiba and the homes of lower-ranking samurai in Kanda and Surugadai, Honjo has attracted a lot of woodworkers and carpenters who have built their lumber yards and crafts halls along the major canals through this neighborhood. Their workshops are probably among the best-known of the crafts districts in this area. After the Ryogoku bridge was built, more and more people moved into the area. Some were craftsmen, others were small food merchants or boat pilots who make their living by ferrying goods and people from the rich farmland east of the river to the downtown areas of Edo.

Because it is relatively green and open, but is not too far from the center of Edo, Honjo has also become a popular recreation district for the working classes. The restaurants and chaya (teahouses) in this area are not quite as popular and as crowded as the ones in Ryogoku, nearby, but they tend to attract slightly wealthier customers. Many of the most famous ryori-chaya (literally "food teahouses") are located in Honjo. People often travel several hours from distant suburbs in order to eat at these restaurants, which serve sumptuous meals with as many as six or seven courses. The bakufu government tries to discourage people from spending too much money on expensive clothes and entertainment -especially the samurai, who get paid by the government. There are strict rules on the number of courses in a meal that each class of people are supposed to eat. For example, simple laborers are never supposed to have more than one type of soup and three types of side dish with their rice. Such a meal is called ichiju-sansai (one soup, three vegetables). However, in practice most restaurants that are away from the center of the city will turn a blind eye to a person's class as long as they have enough money to pay for the meal. Besides, there are also plenty of less expensive and less fancy chaya in the area as well.

To the north and east of Honjo, a vast, low-lying area of marshes and rice fields crisscrossed by several large rivers and hundreds of man-made waterways stretches away into the distance. Small villages dot the area, but much of it is still wild and unsettled. In fact, the rural nature of the landscape just outside the town area of Honjo is part of its charm. In the evening, you can often hear the yapping of kitusne (foxes) and tanuki (racoon dogs) coming from the nearby woods and marshes. In Japanese legends, both of these animals are believed to be very clever tricksters who can change their shape to fool humans. Many of the stories about the Honjo area involve people who are tricked by kitusne and tanuki.

On the fringe of these vast stretches of farmland, in the green and pleasant districts neighboring Honjo, are many famous sightseeing spots that are popular with samurai and townspeople alike. Immediately to the east of the main residential area, a five or ten minute boat ride down Tatekawa canal, is the Kameido Tenjin shrine. This shrine is dedicated to the god of knowledge, and many students come here to pray before taking their exams. However, that is not the main attraction of the temple. On the banks of a large reflecting pond in front of the temple are hundreds of wisteria vines, which have been carefully tended over hundreds of years, growing on trellises that hang over the still green water of the pond. In late May, when the wisteria are in full bloom, the entire area is a sea of purple blossoms. The long, dangling wisteria blooms reflected in the greenish water make a very picturesque topic for artists; some of the most famous ukiyoe prints depict the gardens at Kameido Tenjin. Incidentally, Kameido literally means "turtle well". As the name suggests, the pond at Kameido Tenjin is filled with hundreds of turtles, though the temple has been around for so long that no one is sure whether the temple was named after the turtles in this pond, or whether the pond was built to match the name of the temple.

To the north of Honjo is an area known as Mukojima. The name literally means "the island on the other side". It probably got this name because, if you look across the Sumida river from the temples at Asakusa, this low hill on the east bank of the river really does look like an island, rising out of the rivers and marshes. Mukojima is another popular sightseeing area. The eighth shogun, Yoshimune, is well known for his efforts to create nice parks and recreation areas for the citizens of the city. He was responsible for planting many groves of cherry trees in various parts of Edo, to provide places where the city dwellers could go for picnics. One of the largest of these cherry groves is in Mukojima. In early April, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the whole hillside looks like a huge ball of cotton candy. The quiet, grassy fields of Mukojima are suddenly filled with a crowd of sightseeers from the city wandering among the trees or sitting in groups on large rush mats, enjoying a picnic lunch or drinking and singing songs to pass the afternoon.
- source : www.us-japan.org/edomatsu -


. 江戸 Edo - 妖怪 Yokai monsters, 幽霊 Yurei ghosts .
- Introduction -

Honjo Nana Fushigi 本所七不思議 - Seven Wonders of Honjo
The themes vary according to the sources:

Oitekebori, Oiteke-bori 置いてけ堀 / 置行堀 "leave it behind - canal"
baka bayashi 馬鹿囃子 (tanuki bayashi 狸囃子)
okuri choochin 送り提灯 "sending-off lantern"
ochiba shinai shii no ki 落葉しない椎の木 pasania tree without falling leaves
Tsugaru no taiko 津軽の太鼓 "Big Drum from Tsugaru"
kiezu andoo 消えずの行灯 - reference -
ashi-arai yashiki 足洗い屋敷 "Foot-washing mansion"

- - - kataba no ashi, kataha no ashi 片葉の葦 One-sided Reed
Tanukibayashi 狸囃子 The Procession of the Tanuki (bakabayashi)
akari nashi soba 燈無蕎麦 The Unlit Soba Shop

江戸 本所の七不思議 Edo Honojo no Nana Fushigi

The Seven Wonders of Honjo
Zack Davisson
Several of the ghost legends of Honjo were collected together and called the Honjo Nanafushigi (本所七不思議), the Seven Wonders of Honjo. The number seven is purely nominal; as in many places in the world, the number seven carries mystical significance and when you are telling ghost stories the “seven wonders” sounds scarier than the “nine wonders” or “eight wonders.”

Read the stories here:
• The “Leave it Behind” Straggler– 置行堀(Oite Kebori)
• The Sending-Off Lantern 送り提灯(Okuri Chochin)
• The “Following Wooden Clappers” 送り拍子木(Okuri Hyoshigi)
• The Unlit Soba Shop 燈無蕎麦 (Akarinashi Soba)
• The Foot Washing Mansion 足洗邸 (Ashiarai Yashiki)
• The One-sided Reed 片葉の葦 (Kataba no Ashi)
• The Chinkapin of Unfallen Leaves 落葉なき椎 (Ochiba Naki Shii)
• The Procession of the Tanuki 狸囃子(Tanuki Bayashi)
• The Taiko of Tsugaru 津軽の太鼓 (Tsugaru no Taiko)

source : hyakumonogatari.com

Translated Japanese Ghost Stories and
Tales of the Weird and the Strange


. Edo Nana Fushigi 江戸七不思議 The Seven Wonders of Edo  .


"Water Specter in Edo-Seven Wonders of Honjo"
Yasuko Yokoyama

In the Edo era, people often talked about mysterious stories of Honjo area. Those stories had been referred to as "seven wonders in Honjo" at that time. This report focused on the formation of the story and its changes based on the characteristics of Honjo.

Already in the Middle Ages, seven mysterious stories were often summarized as "Seven Wonders". However, because Edo was a new city, seven wonders story did not exist in the early Edo era. In the mid-Edo period, the intellectuals in Edo began to collect mysteries close to their daily lives, which were recorded as seven wonders of Edo. Besides Honjo, Fukagawa, Senju, Bancho and Azabu had seven wonders stories. Seven wonders of Honjo were recorded in the essay of "Kasshi Yawa" by Seizan Matsuura, and became one of the popular themes of literature; for example, included in the "Nanafushigi Katsushika tan (seven wonders in Katsushika)" edited by second-generation Tanehiko Ryutei. Depending on the document, contents of seven wonders differ, besides "Oitekebori" and "Kataha no Yashi (ashi)".

Influenced by civilisation and enlightment, mysteries were not seriously believed in the Meiji era; however seven wonders of Honjo remained to be a local legend. The story was recorded in maps and topographies and often used to explain desolate scene of old Honjo area in literary works. Ryunosuke Akutagawa who had been brought up in Ryogoku, described that he believed seven wonders of Honjo in his work, "Shonen".

The story has often become the subject of public entertainment; professional storyteller, Hakuchi Matsubahashi used the theme, Goro Kadono made film, "Kaidan Honjo Nanafushigi (Scary Story, Seven Wonders of Honjo)" in the 32nd year of Showa, etc.

Since the short story, "Oitekebori" was written by Kido Okamoto in the Taisho era, various period novels were created on seven wonders of Honjo. One of the representative examples is "Honjo Fukagawa Fushigi Zoshi" by Miyuki Miyabe published in the 3rd year of the Heisei era. The book was remade into a TV drama, which lead to get the seven wonders story well known.
Recently, the shopping mall of Kinchicho has revitalized town using "Oitekebari" as key word. The seven wonders of Honjo has been cherished as the local cultural property. The consciousness of the local level may serve to the famousness compared to other seven wonder stories in Edo.

" Reading Waterfront Space in Edo"
source : eco-history.ws.hosei.ac.jp


Oitekebori, Oiteke-bori 置いてけ堀 / 置行堀 / 置いてけぼり "leave it behind - canal"

This canal is near Kinshicho 錦糸町 hamlet.
The fishermen heard this sound and threw their catch back in the water or left their baskets just standing there.
One legend advises to throw three fish back into the canal. If you do not do so, you will get lost on your way back home and wander around the whole night.

One legend tells of a 河童 Kappa, who took the catch.
It even got its own statue in the 錦糸堀公園 Kinshibori Park.

It is said that the special kind of fish, kibachi ギバチ / 義蜂, Pseudobagrus tokiensis, that lives in this canal themselves make a special sound that could be interpreted as "oite ike oite ike".
And the one's who took the fish were most probably the clever cats who lived around there.


baka bayashi 馬鹿囃子 (tanuki bayashi 狸囃子) Tanuki procession

Tanuki-bayashi (狸囃子) is a strange phenonenon of sound, told about in legends across Japan. In the middle of night, they are musical sounds like flutes or drums heard out of nowhere.

In the Edo period, in Honjo, Sumida, Tokyo, they are also called baka-bayashi (馬鹿囃子), and as a ghost story that takes place in Honjo, they are counted as one of the Seven Mysteries of Honjo. When one thinks that one has heard the sound of an orchestra, even if one tries to walk towards where the sound is coming from, the sound goes further away as if it were trying to flee, so that it would be impossible to know the source of the sound. If dawn comes while one is following the sound, it is said that one would notice that one is in a place one has never seen before. Matsuura Seizan, the lord of the Hirado Domain, also encountered this strange phenomenon, and order people to find the source of the sound, but the sound disappeared near Warigesui, so that it was not possible to continue following it. Just like its name, it is said to be the work of a tanuki, and searches for tanuki were also conducted around locations where the sound was heard, but no traces of tanuki were able to be found either.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

source : 松徳硝子 Shotoku Glass
guinomi cups with the seven wonders of Honjo

. WKD : Tanuki 狸 the Badger of Japan .

. baka uma-shika 馬鹿 と伝説 Legends about the Baka Yokai .


kataba no ashi, kataha no ashi 片葉の葦 One-sided Reed

Utagawa Kuniteru 歌川国輝

This comes with a murder story.

- quote -
There was a villain named Tomedo whose heart was wicked. He attempted to seduce a young widow named Oyoshi, who held an amulet in the shape of a shogi chess piece that he desired. When she refused him, he became enraged and killed her, pruning off her left leg and arm as if she were a bonsai tree and throwing them into a ditch.
- source : Zack Davisson -

The whole area of Honjo had been a swamp and many bones of people who died in the many fires of Edo had been thrown in here. It made Honjo a spooky place to the simple mind of the poor Edo population.

But reeds with leaves on only one side are common in areas with strong wind which regularly only blows from one direction.
They are known in other parts of Japan too.

Fukushima 鹿島町 Kashima
. Yoshitsune 義経 and his horse Tayuguro 太夫黒 .

Miyagi 宮城県 - 亘理町 Watari
. 鎌倉権五郎景政 Kamakura Gongorō Kagemasa .


Until our day, the local merchants profit from these stories.
Here are some waffles with the seven wonder themes.

CLICK for more photos !


- - - - - Honjo, 本所, not to mix with - - - - -

Honchoo, Honchō, Motomachi 本町 Honcho, Motomachi 

Itabashi ward, Tokyo 板橋区


- - - - - H A I K U - - - - -

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

Honchoo ya Ebisu no meshi no yoko-gasumi

Old Quarter--
food for the God of Wealth
in mist

On the 20th day of Tenth Month (old calendar), a festival was held in honor of Ebisu, god of wealth. In the haiku, food offerings to the god meet a bank of mist.
The "Old Quarter" Honchoo was in the Nihonbashi section of Edo, today's Tokyo.
Tr. and comment by David Lanoue

. Ebisu and related KIGO  

. Edo Nana Fushigi 江戸七不思議 The Seven Wonders of Edo  .


- #edobakufu #honjo #sumidagawa -

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