Awoken from sleep
of a peaceful quiet world
by Jokisen tea;
with only four cups of it
one can’t sleep even at night.
This poem pokes fun at the confusion and peril during the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. While this translation refers to a popular green tea with lots of caffeine, there are certain pivot words that have dual meaning. Taihei(tranquil or peaceful) can refer to the “Pacific Ocean”; jōkisen(brand name of tea) also means “steam-powered ships”; and shihai (four cups) also means “four vessels”. The poem, therefore, has a hidden meaning:
The steam-powered ships
break the halcyon slumber
of the Pacific;
a mere four boats are enough
to make us lose sleep at night.
This translation refers to the four black ships or Kurofune that Commodore Perry sailed into the bay at Edo(Old Tokyo) and effectively ending Japan’s isolation period with the west. Commodore Perry pretty much gave the shōgunate an ultimatum: Open up your country, or I’ll force you open with our superior technology. He told them to take a year to think about it. Then he would come back.
With the arrival of Commodore Perry and his ships, The Mississippi, Plymouth, Saratoga, and Susquehanna, the Tokugawa shogunate was thrown into chaos and confusion. The shogunate didn’t have large warships to protect themselves from attack, so the idea of placing daiba (artillery batteries) in the bay was born. Of the 11 originally planned, only six were actually built off the shore of Shinagawa. Also called Shingawa Hōdai(Shingawa Forts), the Shingawa Daiba proved effective. When Commodore Perry returned to Japan, he tried to disembark at Edo, but was turned away by the modern gunnery installed in the forts. The shōgunate negotiators told him to take his fleet to Yokohama, as they had agreed to open the port of Yokohama for the resumption of negotiations. Although they served their initial purpose, the batteries were more or less untested, and were eventually abandoned.
As we make our way back to present day, the original six batteries lasted until the mid 1960’s. They were used for everything from port facilities to a land fills, but in the end, four were removed as part of maintenance of Tokyo Bay, and only the two best preserved, No. 3 Battery and No. 6 Battery, were designated national historic sites.
The No. 3 Battery was completed in 1854, almost a year after Commodore Perry’s arrival at Edo. It was damaged by the Great Kanto earthquake, but was repaired. In 1928 it was refurbished and opened as a park. At the time it was an unconnected island, but in 1979 the then-called landfill no. 13 (now Minato-ku Daiba, Shinagawa-ku Higashi-Yashio and Koto-ku Aomi districts), was made to connect with the old Dai-san Daiba through land reclamation. The reclamation makes it easy to visit Daibakōen (Daiba Park) when visiting Odaiba. it’s a great place to relax, unwind, and it has great views of Tokyo Bay and the rest of the Harbor.
No. 3 Battery is surrounded by a 15′ to 20′ stone wall with an embankment on top of it. On the park’s north side are the vestiges of a harbor made of stones, a reminder of the past. In the center of the fort is a barracks called Daiba Shubitai no Kyukeijo (Daiba garrison resting area), but only the foundation stones of the barracks remain. In addition, there are the remains of an explosives warehouse and an ammunition storehouse, both essential to its defense.
After being declared national historic sites in 1926, and No. 3 Battery being opened to the public as Daiba Park in 1928, No. 6 Battery is still unconnected to the main island and entry is prohibited. So it has become a treasury of plants and wild birds, and is said to have great scientific value. If you climb onto the embankment of Daiba Park, you can get an excellent view of the No. 6 Battery as well as the sprawling Tokyo Bay.
Halfway through construction of the No. 4 Battery, a fire broke out and was never completed. The landfill area ended up being re-purposed as a dock for the shōgunate. Today, it is part of Ten’ōzu Isle(Tennozu Isle). The area is commemorated by the name Shī Fōto (Sea Fort). And the stone walls that were part of the original fort have been recycled to make up the Ten’ōzu Isle Boardwalk.
Gone are the brass cannons and barracks filled with warriors, replaced with shopping centers, parks, and places built for our amusement. While most of the Shingawa Daiba have succumbed to modernization, There are still remnants that remain as a reminder of a time long past. Daiba Park is just one of them!
1. While the park is always open, it’s best viewed during the day. I would suggest exploring the Daiba during the afternoon and then go check out the rest of Odaiba at night. It’s spectacular! Although, you can get some great views of rainbow bridge at night too!
2. A great time to visit is in March. Many of the trees in the park are Oshima Cherry Trees, which bloom in March. They create a blanket of white all around the park!
3. The area is well serviced by public transport, with both the Shuto Express way and the Yurikamone transit system linking central Tokyo via the Rainbow Bridge. There are also various ferry services and buses linking the surrounding area. The cheaper Rinkai subway line also serves Odaiba, but I recommend using the Yurikamone for the views off the Rainbow Bridge.
4. Daiba Park has many places to eat and see around it, so you won’t be without something to do. Above all, have fun, take lots of picture, and make awesome memories!
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