Regular Feature

Greetings from the Outskirts of Kyōto vol.41

INOUE Shōichi (Director-General)
April 11, 2024

There is a “Kyōto” bank in Bangkok, Thailand. A Chinese bank is doing business there under the name of “Kyōto.” Bangkok is the Thai capital; the king is resident there. The name “Kyōto” was added precisely because the bank operates in such a city.

The kanji for both kyō and to refer to the capital city and to the monarch’s residence. If you join them together, they come to mean “the capital of capitals.” The name “Kyōto” is thus inappropriate for what in Japan today is but one regional city among many. The city deserving of such a name is surely Tōkyō. After all, it performs the functions of a capital city, and the emperor is resident there.

But Japan’s capital styles itself “Tōkyō,” the “eastern capital.” This was out of respect for the old capital of Kyōto. They shifted the seat of government and the emperor, but they left the name in place. Such was the concern for the old capital. Tōkyō was content to be “eastern capital.”

But surely no Tōkyō resident today regards Tōkyō as the “eastern capital.” By way of proof, one might refer to the new city, Nishi Tōkyō. It was so named in 2001, the nuance of its name suggesting “west of the eastern capital.” No one thinks of Nishi Tōkyō as “west eastern capital”!