You'll never see this on a modern map of Kyoto
The Antiquarian Book Fair at Shimogamo Shrine is full of treasures… Unfortunately treasures cost a pretty penny and we forked out a few tens of thousands of yen to acquire this Bakumatsu period (1853-67) woodblock print map of Kyoto City:
Thankfully some things have not changed very much in 160 years. Daimonjiyama is still being lit as part of the Gozan-no-Okuribi every year:
But more than a few things no longer exist, like the row of temples that gave Teramachi Street (Temple Street) its name (left), or the 1801 replica of Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s Big Buddha that burnt down in 1973 (right):
The other major landmarks also show destruction and re-modelling on a large scale:
But look closer and you’ll see a few things that make this map truly worth our time:
There’s a line that looks like train tracks, but this is the late Edo period. The Tokaido train line would only be complete in 1889, and Kyoto’s first streetcards would only appear in 1895, so this is something else — the Odoi. Built in 1591-92, this low mud wall of about 9 metres wide (more from Judith Clancy here) surrounded Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s reconstructed Kyoto City and marked the limits of Rakuchu (central Kyoto).
A map of discrimination
What’s most striking about this map though, is that labels one area just outside the Odoi as Eta (エタ). Eta is a highly pejorative term once used to refer to people shunned for having had jobs that dealt with the pollution of death.
The Eta were descendants (or worked as) of butchers, hangmen, and leather tanners. These days nobody openly speaks about areas formerly occupied by Eta because these people are still marginalised and covertly discriminated against (read Living on the edge: Buraku in Kyoto, Japan).
The area marked out on the map as エタ, and the area next to it marked Sensa Eta センサエタ村 (non-tax-paying commoners and Eta) are now government housing projects and continue to have simple public bathhouses. A 2004 film, Pacchigi!, famously depicted the lives of those living in the area.
Both areas remain poor after 160 years.