Tokyo was inhabited as far back
as 30,000 BC, present day Tokyo
was established in the 12 th century
AD. It was founded as the village
of Edo by a local warlord named
after winning a civil war with the
imperial family. He wanted to establish
his capital away from the imperial
family who were based in Kyoto and
so chose the present location. This
initial period of Edo is known as
Period and lasted from 1192 to 1333.
saw the rise of military rule, or
shogunate , and the warrior
caste called the samurai .
The samurai were ruled
by a rigid code of honor and were
bound to their lords in loyalty
and would defend them till death.
If for some reason they were unable
to defend their lords, they would
redeem it by committing suicide.
To rebuff the lavish and luxurious
lifestyle of the court in Kyoto,
the samurai adopted a
simple life and took on the beliefs
of Zen Buddhism.
times that followed the Kamakura
Period saw bloody civil wars between
the feudal lords, or the daimyo
, as they had become powerful
and fought to gain supremacy over
lands. It wasn't until the second
half of the 16 th century that Tokugawa
Ieyasu, a shrewd daimyo ,
was able to eliminate most of his
rivals and seize control of Edo.
Tokugawa Ieyasu took control of
Edo, it was only a small town. In
1590, he acquired the provinces
surrounding Edo, which were then
nothing but marshlands. He corrected
them by reclaiming the land and
set out to make Edo a great city.
In 1600, Ieyasu won the last battle,
the Battle of Sekigahara. This made
him the most powerful man in the
country and gave virtual control
over the whole of Japan. He established
his rule, and with him started the
Tokugawa line of shoguns
that continued to rule the region
for 250 years. These 250 years are
what is known as the Edo Period.
the Edo Period (1603-1867),
Edo bloomed into a prosperous city.
It grew both economically and culturally
more m erchants
and craftsmen from all over Japan
came and settled in Edo. Cultural
like Kabuki and Ukiyo-e
bloomed and became very popular.
the 18 th century, Edo had a population
of over a million, where besides
the nobles and the daimyo ,
people were divided into four distinct
classes - samurai
farmers, craftsmen, and merchants.
Edo had now become one of the largest
cities in the world.
with the prosperity, Edo experienced
setbacks as well. During this Period,
there were 100 major fires, with
the most tragic being the Great
Fire of 1657. This fire, buffeted
by strong winds, spread through
the city and raged for 3 days. The
huge flames reduced three fourths
of the city to ruins, and more than
100,000 people lost their lives.
Still, Edo continued to rise from
ruins and prosper.
this whole period, Edo was closed
to the outside world. Fearing western
influence and the spread of Christianity,
the shogunate had forbidden
foreigners to enter Japan. Neither
could the Japanese leave the country.
For more than 200 years Japan lived
in isolation. But this isolation
did not hinder progress, and trade
and agriculture continued to improve.
The Edo Period was in fact the most
stable period in the history of
Japan, mainly due the philosophy
adopted by the shogunate .
The Tokugawa shogunate
had adopted the philosophy of Neo-Confucianism,
which stressed the importance of
morals and education. Thus education
also grew rapidly among the population,
especially the samurai as
with no more lands to conquer they
started concentrating on educating
themselves. New schools opened
that combined Shinto and Confucian
elements with the Western teachings.
New laws and governing rules were
developed and a new vision of society
always has its negative points as
well. Besides the regular natural
disasters that caused financial
problems for the government, the
social hierarchy also began collapsing.
The merchant class (the lowest class)
became extremely powerful and rich
while the samurai (the
highest and most respected class)
became dependent on them. Due to
political limitations, there was
displeasure among the masses. Foreign
intrusions further precipitated
the situation. United States, which
was expanding its own presence in
the region, began pressurizing Japan
to open up and establish diplomatic
relations with it. Japan resisted,
but in 1854, Commodore Matthew C.
Perry of the U.S. Navy succeeded
in forcing the shogun
to sign the
Treaty of Peace and Amity, and opening
two ports to American ships, thus
ending two centuries of isolation.
The following years saw further
treaties with the U.S., and finally
in 1868, the shogunate
came to an end and power was handed
over to the Imperial Family, who
all this time was residing in Kyoto.
Emperor Meiji, the emperor at that
time, moved his residence to Edo
and renamed the city “Tokyo”.
ensuing years (1868-1912) are known
as the Meiji Period ,
denoting the reign of Emperor Meiji.
The Meiji Period saw rapid progress
as the country was transformed from
a feudal society of samurai
and peasants to an industrialized
nation. The samurai were
stripped of their power, the daimyo
had to surrender their lands, a
constitution was drafted and a new
political setup of an elected government
was established. Foreign experts
were hired to help in the transformation
and western technology was borrowed
to start industries. As Neo-Confucianism
and Buddhism had become deep rooted
during the Edo Period, efforts were
made to re-establish the original
Shinto-based state. At the same
time Christianity was also legalized.
being the capital, saw the greatest
progress with the roads being paved,
western style brick and stone homes
replacing the traditional wooden
ones, western fashions and food
habits taking over most things Japanese.
In 1871, Tokyo Prefecture was established;
a Tokyo police department was set
up in 1874; and Ueno Zoo was opened
the time Emperor Meiji died in the
year 1912, Japan had transformed
itself into Asia's first industrialized
nation. After Emperor Meiji died,
his son Yoshihito
succeeded the throne. His period
is known as the Taisho Period.
(1912-1926) is mainly known for
its “Taisho democracy” because as
the new Emperor was in poor health,
the power shifted from the emperor
to the parliament. This shift didn't
prove to be smooth and there was
great political upheaval. The military
grew strong and Japan started showing
interests in China, Korea and Russia.
World War I saw some interests being
fulfilled as it fought with the
Allies. In 1919, Japan went to Versailles
for the peace conference which gave
it recognition as one of the most
powerful nations in the world. Later
in 1920, it joined the League of
too, Japan continued to progress.
The influence of the western culture
that had started during the Meiji
Era continued. The population of
Tokyo increased as more people came
to work in the city. A greater number
of people started leading consumer
lifestyles. Educational standards
improved and the performing arts
modernization had a great setback
– the Great
Kanto Earthquake. The Great Earthquake
devastated Tokyo. Fires caused by
the Earthquake, which raged for days,
burned down 440,000 houses and killed
more than 140,000 people. The damage
to the city
said to be 1.4 times the national
budget of that time. But spirits
amongst survivors ran high and reconstruction
of Tokyo quickly began. Soon thereafter,
in 1926, Emperor Taisho died and
Hirohito took over, and with him
began the Showa Period.
Showa Period (1926-1989)
corresponds to the reign of Emperor
Showa (Hirohito), the longest reign
of all Japanese emperors. The beginning
of this period saw the continuation
of the reconstruction of Tokyo,
along with some firsts – the first
subway line between Asakusa and
Ueno in 1927, the first general
elections for the Diet in 1928,
completion of Tokyo Airport at Haneda
in 1931, and the opening of Tokyo
Port in 1941. Along with the progress,
the population of Tokyo was also
increasing and by 1935, the number
of people in Tokyo had reached 6.36
progress wasn't all that Tokyo experienced
during this time. There was political
chaos as well. The rising threat
of communism gave rise to ultra-nationalism
and in 1937 Japan was plunged into
war with China. Then in 1941, the
Pacific War broke out and Japan
entered World War II by attacking
Pearl Harbor. These events had a
great impact on Tokyo. In order
to prosecute the war, the dual administrative
system of Tokyo, in which Tokyo
Prefecture and Tokyo City had separate
administrations, was abolished.
The two were merged into one and
the Metropolis of Tokyo was formed
War II brought great destruction
to Tokyo. In the final phase of
the war, Tokyo was bombed 102 times,
the heaviest air raid being on March
10, 1945. There was both material
damage and loss of life in the raids.
By the end of the war, the population
of Tokyo had fallen to 3.49 million,
almost half of what it was previously.
The end of the war also saw a tragic
new – for the first time in history,
Japan was occupied by a foreign
power, the U.S.
American occupation, which lasted
for seven years, brought about sweeping
democratic reforms. In 1947, a new
Constitution took effect and new
laws were promulgated; and in 1949
the 23-ward system was formed in
Tokyo. In 1952, Japan again became
a sovereign state. It continued
with the reforms and progress and
as a result, the 1950s saw great
recovery and growth. By the 1960s,
Japan had entered a period of high-level
economic growth, and as a result
people's lives also underwent great
transformations. In 1962, Tokyo's
population had reached 10 million.
In the 1970s and the 1980s, rapid
economic growth continued and Japan
became one of the largest economies
in the world and Tokyo emerged as
one of the world's major cities
advanced technology, information,
culture and fashion. Rapid progress
has its drawbacks, too, and Tokyo
was overcome with such problems
as pollution, traffic congestion,
and high land and stock prices.
By 1986, Japan entered into what
is known as “bubble economy”. In
1989, Emperor Hirohito died and
the Showa Period came to an end.
Hirohito's death, his son Akihito
succeeded the throne and with him
began the Heisei Period
(1989- ), the present
era. The beginning of Heisei Period
was in bad times and saw the culmination
of the economic growth. The “bubble
economy” burst. Banks went bankrupt
and the economy stagnated. Political
scandals brought about changes in
the government. Despite the hard
times, Japan tried to re-emerge
as a military power by pledging
billions of dollars to the Gulf
War in 1991 and sending soldiers
to Iraq as part of the Self-Defense
Forces in 2004.
economy of Japan started on the road
to recovery in 2002 and continues
to grow. Today, in the year 2007,
Japan's economy is the second largest
in the world, with Tokyo having the
largest GDP in the world for a city.