-･- From My Everyday Life to Japanese Culture -･- Why don't you see the real Japan, not the typical foreigners' version.
I stopped at an “izakaya” (Japanese style pub) run by my best friend and her mom last night. The photo shows its façade. The regular customers are people living in the neighborhood. I know many of them, and it’s one of the handful places where I can go get a drink alone.
The place is located at the east end of Bunkyo ward near Ueno and Asakusa. This town is called “shitamachi (下町)” and popular for visiters who explore it and enjoy atmosphere of a traditional Tokyo community.
The word shitamachi is explained as ‘a low-lying area of a city with small independent shops and factories, particularly the area of eastern dountown Tokyo near Tokyo Bay’ in a Japanese-English dictionary. Aha…. I’m surprised because I expected that it just said a dountown or an old town.
But, sorry. The difinition of shitamachi is different in MY dictinary.
As far as I'm concerned, it should inherit characteristics from a vigorous popular culture of “Edo” (Tokyo was called it in the Edo Priod: 1603?1868).
I call districts that meet the following conditions shitamachi.
1. A district was included in the “Edo Bugyo”(an executive and judiciary branch in the Priod) administrative area.
2. It was a tenement district where ordinary townspeople engage in trading, manufacturing, selling and service businesses lived in the Priod.
3. It is still residential district that has a community association.
(A professor who has a love of Edo history asked me the definition when we were talking about shitamachi one day. He nodded and was satisfied with my answer, so I think mine is not so bad.)
According to my criterion, shitamach is relatively-narrow and limited compared with the Japanese-English dictionary’s one. For example, some districts along Tokyo Bay are excluded because they are manmade land after the period. Also the outlying area of eastern Tokyo is excluded because it was a rural zone at that time.
The town where my friend’s place is located meets all conditions. I’d say in satisfactory districts like it we can get a sense of cultures, human events and people's relationships remaining from the Edo Priod. I know many Edo-style episodes of the regulars, and I’d like to write about them another time.
The local people there are really interesting, and talking with them is a kind of cross-cultural experiences even for me, a Japanese living in the other area called “yamanote” that contrasts strongly with shitamachi.