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Akasaka on the Rise

Akasaka (Red Rise) is a neighborhood of slopes, ridges, hills, and plateaus that have been slowly tamed over the centuries.

In modern Tokyo it is bounded by Imperial family residences in Akasaka Detached Palace to the north, national government buildings in Eidachou to the east, embassy and nightlife district of Roppongi to the south, and high-class shopping and massive cemetary in Aoyama to the west. Akasaka itself is a dense mix of expensive homes, small businesses, condominiums, apartments and office towers.

Akasaka took shape at the beginning of the Edo period, in the early 1600s. It sat just outside a western gate of Edo Castle's outer wall, across the outer moat. At first the area was the site of temples, the rural farming town of Hitotsugi-chou, and official retreats. Its placement on the Atsugi-Ooyama Highway and bucolic wild highlands also made it a prime location for daimyo estates. These led to commoners (artisans and merchants) and then castle workers taking up residence in the lowlands, and group housing for warriors in the remaining uplands.

Edo's history is not easy to see. Other than temples and shrines, there's nothing left of the historic townscape. For that matter, very little exists of the eighty years before the end of World War Two, during the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa Periods. The Great Kanto Eathquake of 1923 and the US firebombings of 1945 were the deciding factors, but in reality Akasaka was in large part used as military bases in the first half of the 1900s, already drastically changed from its Edo roots.

So we set out on our exploration of Akasaka's rises with a strong sense of fancy. We must think of ourselves in Edo. Imagine the oxcarts and heavy foot traffic heading up steep grades from the castle gates along the highway - in large part a Tokaido bypass - to the pilgramage destination of Ooyama and to far-off Shizuoka. Imagine the thickly wooded daimyo estates, with steps leading past their large, dark, wooden gates and mansions. In clusters and at intersections you find the dense tiled rooftops of longhouses and their low-ranking warrior residents. The bustle of old Hitotsugi-chou, now a shop district and home to not a few dealers in entertainment.

We're off to read the geography and the place names of Akasaka's varied terrain. This is a catalog of the named and memorialized rises on Akasaka's streets.

On Seattle Rises 2006 11 25
Reflections on living atop hills and inventing street rises....
Translation of the foreword and afterword to Tamori's 2004 book "An Introduction to the Aesthetics of Tokyo Street Rises" (タモリのTOKYO坂道美学入門)....
An annotated bibliography of books and sites related to the street rises of Tokyo's Akasaka neighborhood....
A new generation of hills in the Akasaka neighborhood await christening....
Nogi Rise 2006 10 21
Name: 乃木坂 のぎざか Nogi-zaka, Nogi Rise Location: 赤坂8丁目11番、9丁目6番の間 Between Akasaka 8-11 and 9-6...
New Rise 2006 10 21
Name: 新坂 しんざか Shin-zaka, New Rise Location: 赤坂7丁目4番、8丁目6番の間 Between Akasaka 7-4 and 8-6...
Name: 三谷坂 さんやざか San'ya-zaka, Three Valley Rise Location: 六本木1-2と赤坂1-14の間を南東に上る? 坂上正面にホテルオークラ? Between Roppongi 1-2 and Akasaka 1-14, up to the southeast? Hotel Okura is at the top of the hill?...
Name: 鼓坂 つづみざか Tsutzumi-zaka, Festival Drum Rise Location: 赤坂1-11から麗南坂教会前へ向けて南東に上る? From Akasaka 1-11, rising to the southeast to Reinanzaka Church?...
Fukuyoshi Rise 2006 10 20
Name: 福吉坂 ふくよしざか Fukuyoshi-zaka, Fukuyoshi Rise Location: 赤坂2丁目17番地と18番地、19番地や20番地の間。 Between Akasaka 2-17 and 2-18, 19, and 20....
Cypress Rise 2006 10 15
Name: 檜坂 ひのきざか Hinoki-zaka, Hinoki Cypress Rise Location: 赤坂6丁目19番、9丁目7番の間 Between Akasaka 6-19 and 9-7...
Name: 新榎坂 しんえのきざか Shin'enoki-zaka, New Hackberry Rise Location: 赤坂1丁目7番、11番の間  Between Akasaka 1-7 and 1-11...
Name: 鮫ヶ橋坂 さめがはしざか Samegahashi-zaka, Shark Bridge Rise Location: 元赤坂2丁目1番、千代田区の間 Between Moto Akasaka 2-1 and the border with Chiyoda Ward...
Anchin Rise 2006 10 14
Name: 安鎮坂 あんちんざか Anchin-zaka, Anchin Rise Location: 元赤坂2丁目1番、2丁目2番の間 Between Moto Akasaka 2-1 and 2-2...
Southern Rise 2006 10 14
Name: 南部坂 なんぶざか Nambu-zaka, Southern Rise Location: 赤坂2丁目22番、六本木2丁目1番の間 Between Akasaka 2-22 and Roppongi 2-1...
Stumble Rise 2006 10 14
Name: 転坂 ころびざか Korobi-zaka, Stumble Rise Location: 赤坂6丁目5番、6丁目9番の間 Between Akasaka 6-5 and 6-9...
Name: 弾正坂 だんじょうざか Danjyou-zaka, Sheriff Rise Location: 赤坂4丁目9番、4丁目18番の間 Between Akasaka 4-9 and 4-18...
Hackberry Rise 2006 10 07
Name: 榎坂 えのきざか Enoki-zaka, Hackberry Rise Location: 赤坂1丁目9番、10番の間 Between Akasaka 1-9 and 1-10...
Name: 霊南坂 れいなんざか Reinan-zaka, South Spirit Rise Location: 赤坂1丁目10番、虎の門2丁目10番の間 Between Akasaka 1-10 and Toranomon 2-10...
Inari Rise 2006 10 06
Name: 稲荷坂 いなりざか Inari-zaka, Inari Rise Location: 赤坂7丁目、5番、7丁目6番の間 Between Akasaka 7-5 and 7-6...
Cat Rise 2006 10 01
Name: 猫坂 ねこざか Neko-zaka, Cat Rise Location: 赤坂5丁目5番7号、5丁目5番26号の間 Between Akasaka 5-5-7 and 5-5-26...
Cherry Rise 2006 10 01
Name: 桜坂 さくらざか Sakura-zaka, Cherry Rise Location: 赤坂1丁目11番、1丁目12番の間  Between Akasaka 1-11 and 1-12...
Hikawa Rise 2006 09 30
Name: 氷川坂 ひかわざか Hikawa-zaka, Hikawa Rise Location: 赤坂6丁目8番、6丁目10番の間 Between Akasaka 6-8 and 6-10...
Cow Cry Rise 2006 09 30
Name: 牛鳴坂 うしなきざか Ushinaki-zaka, Cow Cry Rise Location: 赤坂4丁目1番、4丁目8番の間 Between Akasaka 4-1 and 4-8...
Tango Rise 2006 09 30
Name: 丹後坂 たんござか Tango-zaka, Tango Rise Location: 赤坂4丁目2番、4丁目5番の間 Between Akasaka 4-2 and 4-5...
Name: 円通寺坂 えんつうじざか Entsuuji-zaka, Entsuu Temple Rise Location: 赤坂4丁目13番、5丁目2番の間 Between Akasaka 4-13 and 5-2...
Kurogu Rise 2006 09 29
Name: 九郎九坂 くろぐざか Kurogu-zaka, Kurogu Rise Location: 元赤坂1丁目3番、1丁目4番の間 Between Moto-Akasaka 1-3 and 1-4...
Kii Country Rise 2006 09 29
Name: 紀伊国坂 きのくにざか Kinokunizaka, Kii Country Rise Location: 元赤坂 2-1、千代田区との境 Moto-Akasaka 2-1, on the border with Chiyoda Ward...
Old Hikawa Rise 2006 09 26
Name: 本氷川坂 もとひかわざか Moto Hikawa-zaka, Old Hikawa Rise Location: 赤坂6丁目10番、6丁目19番の間 Between Akasaka 6-10 and 6-19...
Three Bit Rise 2006 09 21
Name: 三分坂 さんぷんざか Sanpunzaka, Three Bit Rise Location: 赤坂5丁目5番、7丁目6番の間  Between Akasaka 5-5 and Akasaka 7-6...
Drug Mortar Rise 2006 09 21
Name: 薬研坂 やげんざか Yagenzaka, Drug Mortar Rise Location: 赤坂4丁目17番、7丁目1番の間 Between Akasaka 4-17 and 7-1...
Check out my book Lost Seattle for more explorations of history and urbanism.