Kyoto/ Preservation/ Grid streets system

Kyoto/ Preservation/ Grid streets system
Yakushiji residence, Horikawa-dori
Yakushiji residence, Horikawa-dori
Yakushiji residence, Horikawa-dori

The grid system in Kyoto could in fact be dated back to the Heian period, when the orderly numbering system was initiated to organize the city into blocks and districts with the reinforcement of the capital city as the central authority and centre of the world. While the grid layout of the city is still obvious in the present, the remains of the rigid organization could probably attributed largely to the stratification and reconstruction work done by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in around 1590 during the Edo period that Kyoto became geographically more strictly divided according to social status.

I would like to illustrate streets in centre of Kyoto at the present state that possibly originated in the Heian era or being constructed under Toyotomi Hideyoshi in Edo time and undergo transformations in time. It is noted that few of the street names had been used throughout history and many of them could actually be related back to the past with their location and relatedness to the surrounding context.

The basic structure of Kyoto comprises three areas namely the Kita-oji, Nishi-oji and Higashi-oji in the northern, western and eastern part of the city correspondingly. Major avenues that run east-west in the south were mostly numbered- from the Ichijo (First Avenue) in the centre to Jujo (Tenth Avenue) in the southern part of the city.

Listed below are the streets that run north-south, arranged from West to East: (reference from the SamuraiWiki)

Hôrikawa-dôri (堀川通) During the Heian period, it was named Horikawa-oji and separated in east and west edging a river. The river served as a main waterway for commodities transportation. Alongside the Horikawa was a lumber market and residences of the merchants. Most area of the avenue is below ground now.

Aburanokôji-dôri (油小路通, lit. “oil street”) It is an original road from the Heian era that was used to be the longest street in Kyoto running north-south. It is renowned for its location at the original Honno-ji.

Ogawa-dôri (小川通, lit. “stream street”) It was a new street constructed in 1590.

Nishinotôin-dôri (西洞院通) It was called the Nishinotoin-oji in the Heian period, where it runs besides the Nishinotoin river. Some dye production work relied on the river while many of the dyers resided along this street.

Kamanza-dôri (釜座通, lit. “pot/cauldron guild street”) It was a new street constructed in 1590.

Shinmachi-dôri (新町通, lit. “new neighborhood street”) The street originated in the Heian period and known as the Machijiri-koji. It was a renowned place with markets and fairs. The renaming of the street happened after Hideyoshi’s reconstruction of Kyoto.

Koromonotana-dôri (衣棚通, lit. “clothes shelf street”) It was a new street constructed in 1590.

Muromachi-dôri (室町通) It was named as the Muromachi-koji by the Heian time. The street was the location of residence of the Ashikaga shogunate, thereby attributing to the name of the Muromachi period. It was a major merchant street and first subjected to reconstruction after wars.

Ryôgaemachi-dôri (両替町通, lit. “money-changers’ district street”) It was a new street constructed in 1590. It was a prime financial district during the Edo period, with the allocations of major financial organizations there.

Karasuma-dôri (烏丸通) The street was known as Karasumaru-koji during the Heian period. Many aristocratic mansions and commoners’ residences used to be there.

Kurumayachô-dôri (車屋町通, “cart shop neighborhood street”) It was a new street constructed in 1590.

Higashinotôin-dôri (東洞院通) During the Heian period, the street was known as Higashi-no-toin-oji. Toin was a term for the residences of former emperors. Numerous such residences situated along the street, including the Kaya-in, Takakura-in and Kazan-in, thus giving its name.

Ainomachi-dôri (間之町通, lit. “in-between-district street”) It was a new street constructed in 1590.

Takakura-dôri (高倉通) It was named Takakura-kôji during the Heian period, where its name originated from the Takakura Palace built on the street by Fujiwara no Yorimichi. Merchants, including oil sellers, pawnshops, and sake breweries were located at Takakura-koji during the medieval period. The street was rebuilt in 1590 after suffering from wars in the Sengoku period.

Sakaimachi-dôri (堺町通, lit. “boundary/border town street”) It signified the boundary between the city and the suburbia and constructed in 1590.

Yanagi-no-banba-dôri (柳馬場通, lit. “willow riding grounds street”) It was known as Madenokôji during the Heian period and being renamed after Hideyoshi’s work in 1590.

Tominokôji-dôri (富小路通) It was a new street constructed in 1590.

Fuyachô-dôri (麩屋町通, lit. “street of the neighborhood of fu shops”) It was known as Tominokôji in the Heian period. A number of mansions of the aristocrats were located at the site. It was reconstructed around 1590 and being renamed.

Gokômachi-dôri (御幸町通) It was a new street constructed in 1590.

Teramachi-dôri (寺町通, lit. “temple district street”) The street runs along the eastern part of the Imperial Palace grounds. It could be dated back to the Heian period and known as Higashi-kyôgoku-ôji.  During the city’s reconstruction in the 1590s, Hideyoshi designated the site for the relocation of many of the city’s temples. Large stretches of the street are still lined with temples at present.

Kawaramachi-dôri (河原町通) It is one of Kyoto’s main avenues running north-south. It was constructed roughly at the same time when the Takase Canal completed. The street was, in the Edo time, divided into the northern and southern sections, namely the Mikuruma-michi and the Suminokura-dori.

Kiyamachi-dôri (木屋町通, lit. “street of lumber shops district”) The street was built in early years of the Edo period along with the construction of the Takase Canal. The name of the street came from the use as a site for trading.

Pontochô (先斗町) It was an alley established in the late 17th century.

Although the grid configuration is not unique if we consider its wide imposition in places of the world, the long history of preservation and restoration of the streets and the keeping of coordination and naming system were indeed peculiar to Kyoto.  While the matrix is still so profound in the image of the city of Kyoto, it reflects a markedly reserved and traditional lifestyle within the context which defines the identity of the place.

Reference: Streets of Kyoto, The Samurai Archives SamuraiWiki



2 Comments on “Kyoto/ Preservation/ Grid streets system

  1. From the highly ordered grid organisation of street network of Kyoto, it is interesting to see that how this primary spatial order shapes the urban pattern under the imperial planning in Edo period. It is mentioned that ‘the geographical division more closely relates to the social status’ in the opening. I think the relaionship between social class and its distribution in the city would be an interesting topic for further exploration.

  2. The old street layout within the old city was eventually combined with the new city grid . It would be interesting to know how the dimensions of the old grid that was based on the old transportation and architectural scale adapt to the modern use and how they are connected to the new city grid developed in a modern scale, catering for the modern transportation and uses.

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