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A Minute History Of Tokyo

Was Founded ‘Cause:

Uesugi Mochitomo ordered the construction of Edo castle in 1457 on the site of what is now Tokyo. For hundreds of years the town was known as Edo. You can still visit the castle today!

Tokyo Rakbo Edo

Early History:

Edo underwent massive development in the 1600s and became the town from which Eastern Japan was ruled. Though the castles’ construction wasn’t fully completed until 1637, a thriving town rose around it. Over the next 250 years it (tell us the name of the town if it’s different than Tokyo.) functioned under the Japanese feudal system, with shoguns leading and the samurai rising to be a distinguished class of warriors. By 1721 it had become the world’s largest city, with a population of 1.1 million! In 1868 however, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, the last shogun, surrendered power after a military defeat by provincial lords seeking to restore an Emperor.

Interesting Story:

In the shogun’s palace in 1701, Asano Nagaroni,  lord of Ako Domain, cut the highest-ranking master of protocol (Kira Yoshinaka) with his sword. He was immediately forced to commit seppuku (a ritual suicide) for his crime. The following year, however, Asano’s 47 retainers avenged their master’s death by attacking and beheading Kira Yoshinaka at his residence. Their incredible loyalty has been imortalised as the Chushingura story.

 Recent history:

Tokyo Rakbo city

The beginning of the oligarchy of the Emperor Meiji commenced the Meiji Restoration. Edo was renamed Tokyo (meaning Eastern Capital) – it was also generally considered to be the new capital of the country, since traditionally the capital is where the Emperor lives. The feudal system then gave way to the prefectural system and the Tokyo Prefecture was established, making Tokyo a Constitutional Monarchy.

Tokyo also experienced the industrial revolution, with a network of trains being built in the late 1800s and its first subway opening in 1927. Tokyo has also always suffered from damaging earthquakes – the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923 killed about 70,000 people – but the city has since built all of its infrastructure to be earthquake-resistant.

Modern Times:

Tokyo was heavily bombed in WW2 and was occupied by the Allies in the later years of the war, being temporarily controlled by Allied forces. Since then, Tokyo has experienced a rapid technological and economic expansion and continues to be a thriving tourist hub. This expansion slowed down when the boom ended in the 1990s and the Tõhuku earthquake tradegy having damaging effects on the economy.

The current Governor of Tokyo is Yuriko Koike, the first woman to be in that position. Today, the city continues to be famed for its modernity, unbelievably efficient and precise subway system, and unique, colourful culture.

Profile photo of Laura Hamblin

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Laura Hamblin

Currently living in Perth, Australia, Laura is a law student, environmentalist and lover of photography. She has been to 22 countries but is constantly looking to add more to her list.


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