Tsukiji: The Former Foreign District
My book really has one main setting, which is in the small town of Kakunodate in Northern Japan. Most of it takes place here, where Naomi learns her Japanese heritage. However, it starts off in Tsukiji, which was the foreigners district in Tokyo prior to 1899.
Foreign settlements were established specifically for the Westerners and were in cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagasaki and Kobe. Tsukiji was on the outskirts of the city, build on reclaimed land with canals and bridges. It was built here because it safely removed from the center of the city in the event any anti-foreign violence erupted. Here in Tsukiji, many Western ways of life spread into the city and throughout the country, from fashion, to new forms of education and medicine, to the Western style hotels, like the Seiyoken. A few schools and hospitals were started here that continue today: St. Paul’s (or Rikkyo) University, the American School in Japan and St. Luke’s Hospital.
After 1899, foreigners were no longer confined to living in Tsukiji. The district was nearly completely destroyed by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and after it, government officials decided that relocating the city’s fishmongers to the former foreign district was a better idea. It’s now the internationally known Tsukiji Fish Market.
Tsukiji is the area where my MC Naomi grew up. Though she’s only there for the first chapter and a half of my novel, it still remains an important part of my character’s background.
For more information and some nifty old photographs of Tokyo’s foreign district as well as the famous hotel Seiyoken, head on over to the Old Tokyo page here and here.