Friday, September 26, 2008

Azabu Juban

Day 24 (-7) Drain access covers You may have seen my photos of these over the years, but I love the decoration of this mundane item. The photos I took initially were ones where the cover denotes some logo or historic aspect of the town. And each new city had a different one, my photo file grew. This one is in Shinagawa and denotes the local fire brigade which was at the street corner.

Azabu Juban is prime rental area with many embassies in the area, hence lots of foreign residents. They must be on living allowances I think to live there! Monasteries are traditional places of hospitality so it is not surprising that the first Europeans and Americans who came to Japan to establish diplomatic relations, were housed in temples. The first American Consul General Townsend Harris, took up residence in Zenoukuji temple in Azabu when the first diplomatic representatives moved to Edo (Tokyo).
1859 was not a nice time to be in Japan as a fore
igner. Because of the unequal treaties the foreign powers had used to break their way into the country, anti-foreign sentiment was running high. After arduous negotiations, the United States was the first country to establish such a treaty with Japan. Ironically, it was called the Treaty of Amity and Friendship. Under this treaty, Harris was allowed to settle in the Shogun’s capital, but the same Shogun was finally losing his grip on the country. Ronin, masterless samurai, would make sudden attacks on both the foreigners and representatives of the Bakufu government, and the atmosphere was tense.
When we were in Yokohama there as a lot about a young girl and "red shoes."
This statue in A
zabu-Jûban is modeled after a real girl named Kimi-chan, who was featured in a well known children’s song called “The Girl in Red Shoes.” In the song a young girl accompanies a foreigner by ship from Yokohama to America. The real Kimi-chan was supposed to have done the same—or so her mother thought. Kimi was adopted at the age of three by American missionary Charles Huit and his wife. Kimi’s mother, Kayo, had given her up for adoption to work in Hokkaido, believing she had done the best for her daughter. But Kimi-chan had a weak constitution and developed tuberculosis (which was incurable at the time) just before she was supposed to leave for America. Her adopted parents left her in a church orphanage in Azabu-Jûban, where Kimi passed away at the age of nine. Her mother found out later of her death. A sad story.
Azabu Juban's merchants, fiercely shitamachi (old downtown) in spirit, once banded together to protest the development of subway stops in their area
. Bowing to the inevitable, however, "the Juban" finally welcomed passengers from both the Oedo and Namboku lines. Foreign chain stores and sidewalk bars then sprang up, irrevocably altering the atmosphere. While some old establishments have closed, others have grown with the crowds. Mamegen, traditional soybean snacks since 1865, does a brisk trade. I could smell the aroma of okaki (deep-fried rice crackers) from a few shops away and saw they sold them fresh,piping hot, so I indulged with a crowd of elderly and young alike.
As well as many ol
d style shops there is a collection of statues along the street commissioned by the City to express its international affinities.

Here are the few I captured.

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