From the station, Sanya is a three- or four-minute walk south, beyond the intersection known as Namidabashi, the “Bridge of Tears.” It was here, where a canal once flowed, that prisoners were brought to bid farewell to their loved ones before being taken off to the nearby execution ground at Kozukappara. A section of the road running north called the Old Streetcar Boulevard is still referred to as Kotsu Dori (“Street of Bones”), a reference to the rows of decapitated heads that were once displayed here.
Cursed from the outset, Sanya was established in the northeast of the city, an unlucky direction according to Chinese geomancy, and one that required a belt of well-placed temples to protect it from evil spirits and demons. Sanya carries the added stigma of being “poisoned ground,” its unconcealed concentration of social outcasts and their descendants an embarrassment to mainstream Japanese. The execution grounds that tainted the area are compounded in the modern age by the presence of what the Japanese call the “three foul smells” of sewage plants, leather tanneries and crematoriums. The area’s ritual impurity partly explains the distaste many Japanese feel, the stiffening one often senses at the mention of its name.