Journal of Geography (Chigaku Zasshi)
Online ISSN : 1884-0884
Print ISSN : 0022-135X
ISSN-L : 0022-135X
Review Article
Discussions on the Religious Space of Edo City: The Landscape and Functions of Temples and Shrines
Keisuke MATSUI
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2014 Volume 123 Issue 4 Pages 451-471

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Abstract

 The distribution and landscape of temples and shrines and their functions in the City of Edo are examined, and urban structures constructed based on mystical and religious aspects of spatial design are evaluated.
 The five key findings of this study are:
 1. A city design modeled on Heiankyou (ancient Kyoto) was applied to the construction of the City of Edo, and was arranged according to four directions and their connections with gods. This model was meant to protect the City of Edo not only militarily, but also in magical and religious ways. In particular, large temples and chinju-sha shrines, which were strongly associated with the Tokugawa shogunate family, were placed to face northeast/southwest—directions regarded as being unlucky—as well as towards places of execution and the locations of red-light districts in areas bordering the city. This placement created an extraordinary atmosphere in the city. Tokugawa Ieyasu was awarded a posthumous shingo (literally, a Shinto deity) title, “Tosho Daigongen,” and was enshrined angled towards the North Star (i.e. Nikko) to protect the City of Edo. The attempt to harness these magical factors to protect and safeguard the City of Edo is one of its characteristics.
 2. Temples and shrines were under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo Period, and the Honmatsu-seido (government-enforced main-branch temple system) was established through the enactment of jiinhatto (laws for temples). In addition, members of the public were forcibly linked to temples and shrines through their status as danka (temple supporters) under the Terauke seido (a system that compelled the public to become Buddhists). Through this administration of religion, temples were integrated into a system for maintaining social order as a marginal role in the mechanism of the Tokugawa shogunate.
 3. The temple and shrine estates as a whole were almost the same size as the space allocated for the townspeople, and occupied a large proportion of the City of Edo in terms of land use. Shrines increased rapidly in number as the city's population increased. As a result, control measures were introduced to restrict the establishment of temples in the city's central area, where strong demand had led to a severe land shortage, and these temples were instead almost forcibly moved to the suburbs. This tendency became more evident in city planning after the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657; subsequently, new “towns of temples” were created in districts such as Asakusa, Shitata, and Mita.
 4. The rapid expansion of urban areas in the City of Edo led to religious facilities using their precincts as places to lease land and rent houses. As a result, new monzen-machi (temple towns) were created within the precincts of large temples, and some of these towns developed into entertainment districts, housing performing arts and drama facilities.
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© 2014 Tokyo Geographical Society
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