This week, we start a look at the history of the city of Tokyo. How did the frontier fishing village of Edo go from backwater nowhere to the heart of the nation in only a few short generations?

Sources

Mansfield, Stephen. Tokyo: A Biography.

Richie, Donald. Tokyo: A View of the City. 

Mansfield, Stephen. Tokyo: A Cultural History

Images

The Imperial Palace of Japan was originally Chiyoda Castle, home of the Tokugawa Shoguns. Its groundwork was laid 140 years before the arrival of the Tokugawa, by Ota Dokan, a retainer of a branch of the Uesugi clan.

Ota Dokan as depicted in a print by the late Edo woodblock artist Toyohara Chikanobu. Note Edo castle in the background.

A map of Chiyoda castle in 1636.

Edo as depicted by Hiroshige. Note the west-facing orientation towards Mt. Fuiji.

The Tsujun Bridge, an acqueduct in Kumamoto, Kyushu. It’s a good example of what the acqueduct construction of Edo would have looked like at its height.

The Tamagawa Acqueduct, depicted by Hiroshige.

A procession of firefighters (machibikeshi). C. early 1700s.

The Meireki Fire was the most devastating fire in Edo’s history — and would retain that title until the fires associated with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.