-･- From My Everyday Life to Japanese Culture -･- Why don't you see the real Japan, not the typical foreigners' version.
I was born and raised in Azabu (麻布) called "yamano-te (山の手)" area.
In the previous post (“Definition of Shitamachi” , 2010.4.11), I wrote that talking with “shita-machi (下町)” people is a kind of cross-cultural experience for me. This is because that people are different between the two areas.
The photo taken from a building near Tokyo Dome covers the half of traditional yamano-te towns.
While ‘yama’ in yamano-te means a mountain in Japanese, ‘shita’ in shita-machi means the bottom or the lower part. It tells that the town of Edo (old Tokyo in the Edo era: 1603 to 1868) was topographically divided into highland and low-lying regions. In addition, these regions were roughly equivalent, respectively, to two accommodation sections: The highland region was “buke-chi (武家地)” where warriors lived, and the low-lying was “chonin-ku (町人区)” where ordinary townspeople lived.
From a historical angle, yama-no-te as former buke-chi is limited to central towns in the west part of the Imperial Palace, for example, Iidabashi (飯田橋), Ichigaya (市ヶ谷), Yotusya (四谷), Kojimachi (麹町), Nagatacho (永田町), Akasaka (赤坂) and Azabu.
In the Edo era there ware many samurai residences with large ground-floor areas in yama-no-te. After the Meiji era (1868 to 1912), national facilities, business buildings, mansion houses and embassies of Western countries were built on the sites of the residences. Then yamano-te has become center of the capital of modern Japan along with towns like Kasumigaseki (霞ヶ関: administrative district) and Marunouchi (丸の内: financial district). Broadly speaking, while local shita-machi people have tended to inherit Edo cultures of townspeople, new residents who moved in yama-no-te after Meiji era may have been strongly influenced by Japan's modernization (meant westernization).
I often hear it said that shita-machi people are humane, kind, strongly tied each other and open about their private life. In contrast, yama-no-te people are relatively individualistic, rational and keeping an arm's-length relationship with each other. Though personalities differ greatly in individuals rather than in resident areas, I feel overall differences of characteristics described above when I talk with the regular customers at my friend’s place in shita-machi.