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When I stopped at Yotsuya (四ツ谷) Station this summer, I noticed a katakana tsu (ツ) in the station name.

Is there a reason why the katakana character is used (instead of a hiragana one)?

  • 1
    Background reading: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/2931 – Earthliŋ Jan 2 '16 at 10:18
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    It is 「四ツ谷」 only as a station name. As an official place/area name, it is「四谷」. Same goes for 阿佐ヶ谷 vs. 阿佐谷. I could post an answer if your question were regarding this phenomenon, but since it is about ツ vs. つ, I will just wait for an answer from one of the experts. – l'électeur Jan 4 '16 at 1:10
  • Also related: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/23428/… I have no idea why it is noted in hiragana/katakana but this a frequent occurrence with ッ and ヶ. – Urukann Jan 19 '16 at 2:14
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    溝ノ口・溝の口・溝口 is another example. All are read みぞのくち – paullb Mar 19 '16 at 8:32
  • Orthography can change over time. – nodakai Mar 19 '16 at 18:21
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Before the modern kana usage (現代仮名遣い) has permeated through the nation, it was very common for katakana ツ to be used after a numeral kanji.

Japanese traditional numerals are:

1 - ひとつ

2 - ふたつ

3 - みつ / みっつ

4 - よつ / よっつ

5 - いつつ

6 - むつ / むっつ

7 - ななつ

8 - やつ / やっつ

9 - ここのつ

10 - とお

And today, these are written 「一つ、二つ、三つ、四つ、五つ、六つ、七つ、八つ、九つ、十」 (generally in vertical writings) or 「1つ、2つ、3つ、4つ、5つ、6つ、7つ、8つ、9つ、10」 (generally in horizontal writings).

However, Japanese people who lived in the Edo period (1603 - 1868) wrote these traditional numerals usually using katakana ツ like so:

一ツ

二ツ

三ツ

四ツ

五ツ

六ツ

七ツ

八ツ

九ツ

There are numerous books published in the Edo period which can prove that the number-ツ notation was common. Here is an example.

『童子古状揃』 Image 128(Waseda University Library)

This image shows the last page of a textbook for children published in 1850. In the left page, there are two poems for fun. The first poem says:

はな[息]{いき}にて[時]{とき}をしる[哥]{うた}

六と四ツ八ツハ[鼻]{はな}いき右かよふ

五ツ九ツ七ツひだりぞ

And the second poem says:

[猫]{ねこ}の目にて[時]{とき}をしるうた

六ツやにつく 五七ハたやも

四ツ八ツハくさのたねなり 九ツハはり

The numerals express time in these poems. The tsu after the number kanji is always written by using ツ, not つ. This kind of ツ was rarely omitted in kana-kanji writings, so if a number kanji is not followed by ツ, the kanji is read differently. For example, the 五七 in the second poem would be read ごしち, not いつつななつ.

So, the number-ツ notation was Edo-period people’s general knowledge. Then, let’s see 四ツ谷.

It would presumably be natural for Edo-period people to place ツ between 四 and 谷.

In maps created in the Edo period, both 四ツ谷 and 四谷 are commonly used. However, relatively newer maps (created in 18th or later) and books introducing the famous sights tend to use 四ツ谷 more than 四谷.

For example, a map called 『江戸切絵図・四ツ谷絵図』 (published in 1849-1862) uses 四ッ谷 for the region name, and uses 四谷 for addresses.

『江戸切絵図・四ツ谷絵図』(National Diet Library Digital Collections)

Note that there are other maps using 四ツ谷 for addresses like 四ツ谷二丁目, 四ツ谷傳馬丁一丁目 etc., so it does not mean that whether to use 四ツ谷 or 四谷 depends on whether it’s a region name or an address name, at least in Edo-period cases. Today, 四ツ谷 is used for the station name and the so-called region name, and 四谷 is used for the official address name, though.

Here is another example, which is a Hiroshige’s ukiyoe picture published in 1857. It’s a part of 『名所江戸百景』 series.

『名所江戸百景・四ツ谷内藤新宿』(National Diet Library, Japan)

The region name written in the red square box in the ukiyoe picture is 「四ッ谷内藤新宿」. It’s using ッ.

And this is a Hiroshige II’s book introducing the sights of Edo including 四ツ谷 region.

『絵本江戸土産』Image 17 (Waseda University Library)

The title of the 四ツ谷 part in it is 「四ッ谷御門外」. It’s using ッ as well.

So, these kinds of Edo-period printed products seemed to spread 四ツ谷 more than 四谷, and the majority of Edo-period people seemed to accept the ツ usage and generally used 四ツ谷 or 四ッ谷.

I don’t know who decided to use 四ツ谷 for the station name, but I can imagine why the decider chose 四ツ谷 rather than 四谷. Because most of the Japanese people were familiar with 四ツ谷 and actually used 四ツ谷, more than 四谷, at that time. The original 四ツ谷 station was opened in 1894. It was before the modern kana usage (現代仮名遣い) has permeated, so.

During the Edo period, katakana was commonly added to some kind of kanji to specify how to read the kanji. Many kanji letters have several ways to be read. Edo-period people seemed to try to avoid misreading by using katakana helpers in kana-kanji writings.

For example, in a case, they wrote 下 in this way:

下モ

下 can be read した, しも, か, げ, etc. But in this case, the author wants the readers to read it しも.

In some Edo-period books, a region name 新橋 is written like this:

新ン橋

So this 新 is not read あらた, にい, or さら. The ン indicates that the 新 is read しん.

ツ following a numeral kanji might be this kind of helper katakana as well.

Anyway, this kind of helper katakana custom no longer exists today. They are just wrong in the modern kana usage world. But some expressions of them has been surviving in proper nouns, like 四ツ谷.

If you travel around Japan, you would see a lot of them (the old katakana usage in proper nouns) surviving, especially number-ツ-pattern ones. For example, 一ツ橋、二ツ池、三ツ峠、四ツ岳、五ツ橋、六ツ美、七ツ釜、八ツ橋、九ツ山、etc. Most of their traditional names were born before the modern kana usage spread. So they are genuine survivors. But, some of those names were created by today’s people to express retro nuance or something. 四ツ谷 is genuine.

By the way, this answer focuses on ツ following a numeral kanji. I think that ケ of 関ヶ原, ノ of 三ノ宮 or other expressions like these have different origins. So, please don’t apply this answer to all kinds of katakana-between-kanjis cases.

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I found a very long answer on Yahoo Chiebukuro:「東京の四ツ谷に勤務することになりました。疑問・・・」

which offers one theory that Yotsuya is originally an Ainu place name meaning "many valleys".

Whether Ainu or not, the "yomi" (pronunciation) came first, and then in the Meiji era the formal "hyouki" Kanji for public facilities were decided. As it happens, there are some minor variations in writing as described in this goo entry:

共同通信社から出ている記者ハンドブック(用字用語辞典)の
「紛らわしい地名」のところを見てみましたら

四谷=町名、小学校名、警察

四ッ谷=JR、地下鉄の駅名

と書かれていました。

So actually it appears there is NOT actually always a katakana ツ。
In fact, the subway 四谷三丁目 also does not have a katakana ツ, even the journalist handbook says it does.

コンガラガラ!

  • Even if yotsuya is ainu language, the meaning is 多い谷. The meaning does not change. – Takahiro Waki May 24 '16 at 19:58
  • If 四谷 is ainu language, 四つ has a meaning, it become surprizing fact that the meaning is 多い. – Takahiro Waki May 24 '16 at 20:09
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It is a difficult question for Japanese. Probably JR named their stations. In the Edo period, there were no ツ or ノ. But if there were no ツ or ノ, they would be read like 御茶水→おちゃみず, 四谷→よんたに or したに. So I think this is the reason why JR named them so.

It seems that while JR's station names did not change, place names changed 御茶ノ水→お茶の水, 四ツ谷→四つ谷→四谷, 青砥→青戸. There is a tendency for them to change to easier kanji as time passes.

Almost in old japanese, カタカナ are used. So the word 四谷 is old word, カタカナ is used.

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