江戸 vs. 昭和 inconsistency

This is just a tiny inconsistency, but WK has “Showa era” as the primary answer for 昭和(しょうわ) yet won’t accept “Edo era” as the answer by default for 江戸(えど).

The trivial user-level fix is just to get in the habit of supplying single-word romaji answers for both (Edo, Showa), and to add a user-level synonym for “Edo era,” but I wish that WK would add a system-level synonym by default.

I dislike adding synonyms any more than necessary (I’ve found that WK does a good job of enforcing the “primary” nuance of a word, and often the synonym I want to add is slightly worse for improving my understanding).

I think the inconsistency is due to considering Edo mostly a place (WK accepts “Tokyo” as an answer which is arguably correct) and Showa mostly an era. But Edo is only historically a place (calling Tokyo “Edo” would be like calling Taiwan “Formosa”). I think the most common modern usage is in the 江戸時代(えどじだい) sense (referring to the period up until the Meiji restoration in 1868, the Edo AKA Tokugawa era).

It’s useful to know Edo was a place, though (unlike Showa) — particularly if you’re into samurai dramas — but I don’t think answering the bare word “Edo” really drills the “place” concept home for anyone regardless.


[By the way, anyone on this site really owes it to themselves to learn at least a little bit of Japanese history. The whole period leading up to the Meiji restoration and after is endlessly fascinating — Tom Cruise notwithstanding.]


I don’t think it would make sense to make “Edo period” the primary meaning of 江戸.
江戸 always means the city - either the historical Tokyo or Tokyo in general via analogy (e.g. 江戸っ子 can still mean someone born and raised in Tokyo, it doesn’t mean a child of the Edo period, it means a child of Edo the city) in the same way that former feudal domain names are still used in phrases referring to the modern region that no longer officially has that name (e.g. dialects, like 土佐弁, say).
It’s not an era name like 昭和 - 江戸時代 is just a time when 江戸 the city was important because the shogunate was headquartered there.

To put another way:
If an expression uses 江戸, they’re very very likely talking about Edo/Tokyo, probably historically but not necessarily.
If an expression uses 昭和, they’re very very likely talking about the time period from 1926-1989, or the emperor who reigned during that time.

江戸 on its own just means the place, not the period, I guess is what I mean.
It’s like - to use another example, you say “Leningrad” and I think of the city, - it doesn’t directly mean “the time period when Saint Petersburg was called Leningrad” you know?


Oh, I completely agree. But neither should “Tokyo” be the primary meaning, either.

I just want WK to accept “Edo era” as an answer, I don’t want it to be the primary answer.

To state it explicitly, I’d like:

江戸(えど) - Edo
Synonyms: Edo era, Tokyo

昭和(しょうわ) - Showa
Synonyms: Showa era, Shouwa, Showa emperor, Shouwa emperor

To be honest I don’t think it should be an official secondary meaning either - I’m pretty sure that if say, you said 江戸風, it would mean “in the style of Edo the place, in maybe an old-fashioned kind of way” whereas 昭和風 would be the style of that very specific time period.

Like - Edo existed before the Edo period. It’s not the same thing, and without 時代 tacked on the end I don’t think it would imply that particular period.

I think it would be okay to put a user-added synonym though!



I’ll have to ask a native speaker what comes first to mind when they hear “Edo”: a place or a time?

I do think that, conversationally, 江戸風(えどふう) and 江戸(えど)の both conjure a particular time as much as a place.

I agree that time is at least involved - I think in retrospect I should have focused most on the “Edo existed before the Edo period” point.

江戸 does conjure a historical impression I think, and the Edo period would of course be most prominent within that, I just don’t think it implies the boundedness the way that 昭和. To me it’s like “Old Tokyo” vs. “1926-1989.” and “… period” sounds to me personally like the latter.


I definitely have to agree with @rodan on this one. There are some eras like 昭和 and 大正 that work without adding 時代, but 江戸 would very likely refer to old Tokyo first and second to the era.

Here’s an article about the period: 江戸時代 - Wikipedia


Oooh. That’s much better than just “Tokyo” as a system-level synonym! :slight_smile:

I can understand the argument, but I think it comes down to there being no Emperor Edo.

But “era” has nothing to do with emperors or shogunates. I think replying “Edo era” is at least as valid as replying “Tokyo”!

Yes, Edo is very different than Showa, but I’m just talking about teaching people to read and understand the characters.

I think replying with the romaji for either doesn’t really prove you’ve learned any meaning whatsoever, whereas “Old Tokyo” or “Edo era” do prove you understand at least one meaning of the word.

I’d be totally cool with “Old Tokyo” being the primary meaning and えど the reading. But I’d still like it to accept “Edo era” by default.

I’ll bow to the prevailing sentiment though, and just add “Edo era” (and “Old Tokyo”!) as user synonyms, without making a formal request to add it.

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Yes, I think the “Tokyo” meaning should be replaced with “Old Tokyo”, because if one were to be a little more picky, they’re not the same thing.

I’d even go so far as to say it should be the primary meaning (far better than just “Edo”).

[but I still want an “edo era” synonym. :slight_smile: ]

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Since this is a separate thread already and has quite some interesting historical info, I will just do this:
@Mods could you have a look at the possibility of adding extra synonyms for the 江戸 vocabulary item? :slight_smile:


Nothing stopping you there.

But I wouldn’t add it for everyone.

Don’t people usually say “Edo period” anyway? The term era has a specific meaning in Japanese history.

Still wouldn’t add that as universal synonym either though.


I heard Japanese talking about either 江戸時代 or 江戸っ子 but never saying just 江戸.
While 昭和 is often used without 時代 meaning the period.
Adding “Old” to Tokyo also is not really correct I think, because the implication of being an 江戸っ子 is not that you are somehow old-fashioned.
In general my impression is that WK is quite on spot with meaning and nuances even if that means that it deviates sometimes from textbooks or the dictionary.
But I think that’s one of the biggest strengths of WK.


Agreed! (As I said, I don’t like to add user synonyms expressly for that reason.)

I’ve already capitulated. I trust the wisdom of all these replies.

I promise to only answer “edo” whenever quizzed on the “meaning” of these characters forever onward. It’s shorter to type, anyway. :grin:

And I further promise to feel guilty about the “edo era” user synonym I may or may not have added. :wink:

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“Period” and “era” are more or less synonyms in English. But in the context of Japanese history, 「時代」 and 「年号」 refer to two different things. One 時代 can have many 年号. There was an 「江戸時代」, but there has never been an 「江戸年号」. Therefore, there has never been an “Edo era”, only “Edo period”.


Makes sense, but it does seem slightly pedantic.

I’m not in any way implying that Edo implies a timespan or interval. I completely understand that it’s the name for what is now Tokyo, but it does imply a “period” or “past” connotation. The vocabulary word we are discussing is 江戸 not 江戸っ子 (a person from Tokyo).

Teaching a user that 江戸(えど) means “Edo” or “Tokyo” seems somehow less than ideal. The first is a tautology, the latter isn’t exactly correct.

Personally, I now think a primary meaning of “Old Tokyo,” “The place now called Tokyo,” or something of that ilk makes the most sense.

I only asked for “era” as a synonym because the entry for 昭和 (not 昭和時代) lists “Showa era” as primary and the bare word as a synonym. I fully understand the meaning of both vocabulary words, but during my review today I wasn’t sure if it would accept the bare word “Edo,” so I answered “Edo era” and was surprised when it was marked wrong.

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Yah, Wikipedia’s articles on the historical periods are 昭和, 大正, and 江戸時代. There’s no use for 昭和 outside of 昭和時代 (well, aside from it being the posthumous name of the emperor), so the 時代 is superfluous in that situation.

Well, WaniKani’s mostly here to teach the readings of the kanji, not Japanese history. The point is to establish that 江 and 戸 written in that order is read as えど.


I’m getting worse at capitulating (laugh).

By that logic, perhaps we should add romaji synonyms to every vocabulary item? :wink:

One of the main reason wanikani accepts “Showa era” for 昭和 though is because you’ll commonly see years written as e.g.
昭和2, 昭和20
and that’s the kind of era the Edo period isn’t - there’s no 江戸2, as different era names covered that whole period (and the rest of Japanese history), it’s just from what I’ve seen the era names pre-Meiji were a lot more complicated and less well known today, so usually those time periods are referred to by the blanket post-hoc periods.

And frankly, that we’re calling it the “Edo period” in English justifies defining 江戸 just as Edo - like it or not, 江戸 in English is Edo.
Similarly, I doubt the primary definition for 東京 on Wanikani is “the modern capital of Japan” or “New Edo” rather than “Tokyo” :slight_smile:

Definitely agree with the part in the first post about learning some history though! But I think the best way wanikani can do that is providing a clear description and hopefully inspiring someone to google Edo or Showa the way they might google what fugu looks like.