The history of Tokyo

Tokyo’s history dates back about 400 years. Originally called Edo, the city began to flourish after Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. The center of politics and culture in Japan, Edo grew into a large city with a population of over a million inhabitants. mid 18th century. During all this time, the Emperor resided in Kyoto, which was the formal capital of the nation. The Edo Period lasted for almost 260 years until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the Tokugawa Shogunate ended and imperial rule was restored. The emperor moved to Edo, which was renamed Tokyo. Thus, Tokyo became the capital of Japan.

The history of Tokyo
Akasaka in meiji era

Meiji era

During the Meiji era (1868-1912), Japan began its eager assimilation of Western civilization. Buildings made of stone and brick were constructed on the sites of the mansions of the feudal lords and the main roads were paved with round stones. In 1869, Japan’s first telecommunications line between Tokyo and Yokohama was opened. The first steam locomotive started operating in 1872 from Shimbashi to Yokohama.

Western hairstyles replaced the traditional bun worn by men and bowler hats, high collars, and boisterous skirts were the rage. In 1882 Japan’s first zoological gardens were opened in Ueno. In 1885 the cabinet system of government was adopted and Ito Hirobumi became the first prime minister of Japan. With the promulgation of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan in 1889, the political system of a modern state was established.

The history of Tokyo

Taisho era

During the Taisho era (1912-1926), the number of people working in cities increased, and a growing proportion of citizens began to lead consumer lifestyles. Educational standards improved and the number of girls studying in high schools increased. The performing arts like theater and opera flourished.

The Kanto earthquake

In September 1923, Tokyo was devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake. The fires caused by the earthquake burned the center of the city. More than 140,000 people were reported dead or missing and 300,000 houses were destroyed. After the disaster, a plan to rebuild the city was formulated, but because projected costs exceeded the national budget, only a small part was carried out.

Showa era

The Showa era (1926-1989) began shortly after the Great Kanto Earthquake, in a state of sadness. Still, Japan’s first subway line was opened between Asakusa and Ueno in 1927. In 1928 the 16 general elections for the House of Representatives of the Diet were held for the first time after the enactment of universal male suffrage. In 1931, the Tokyo airport was completed in Haneda. In 1941 the port of Tokyo was opened. By 1935, the resident population of Tokyo had increased to 6.36 million, comparable to the populations of New York and London.

Nevertheless, the war of the pacific, which erupted in 1941, had a great impact in Tokyo. The dual administrative system of Tokyo-fu (prefecture) and Tokyo-shi (city) was abolished for wartime efficiency, and the prefecture and city merged to form the metropolis of Tokyo in 1943. The metropolitan administrative system was thus established and a governor was appointed.

In the final phase of the war, Tokyo was bombed 102 times. The heaviest air attack was on March 10, 1945, in which there was great loss of life and material damage. The war came to an end on September 2, 1945, when the Japanese government and military representatives signed the Instrument of Surrender. Much of Tokyo had been devastated by bombing and by October 1945 the population had fallen to 3.49 million, half its level in 1940.

In May 1947 the new Constitution of Japan and the Law of Local Self-Government came into force and Seiichiro Yasui was elected the first Governor of Tokyo by popular vote under the new system. In August of that year, the current system of special protection 23 began in the metropolis of Tokyo.

The 1950s were a time of gradual recovery for the nation. Television broadcasting began in 1953, and Japan joined the United Nations in 1956. The economic recovery was helped in particular by the boom in special acquisitions that emerged from the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950.

This led to Japan’s entry into a period of rapid economic growth in the 1960s. Due to technological innovations and the introduction of new industries and technologies, this period saw the beginning of the mass production of synthetic fibers and household appliances such as televisions, refrigerators and washing machines. As a result, the daily lives of Tokyo residents underwent a considerable transformation. In 1962, the population of Tokyo broke the 10 million mark. In 1964, the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo, the Shinkansen (“Bullet Train”) line began operating, and the Metropolitan Expressway was opened, which forms the basis of Tokyo’s current prosperity.

As we entered the 1970s, the strain of rapid economic growth became apparent as the country was beset by environmental problems such as air and river pollution, as well as high noise levels.

The 1973 oil crisis ended many years of rapid economic growth.

The history of Tokyo
Tokyo at night

In the 1980s, Tokyo made great strides in economic growth as a result of its increasingly global economic activity and the rise of the information society. Tokyo became one of the world’s busiest major cities, with attractions such as cutting-edge technology, information, culture and fashion, as well as a high level of public safety. Starting in 1986, land prices and stocks spiraled up, a phenomenon known as the “bubble economy.”

Japan experienced tremendous growth under the bubble economy, but with the burst of the bubble in the early 1990s, falling tax revenues caused by the prolonged economic depression led to a critical state in metropolitan finances. However, Tokyo was able to overcome this financial crisis through two successive fiscal reconstruction programs. The population also began to return to Tokyo, and in 1997, immigration overtook emigration for the first time in 12 years. In 2001, Tokyo’s population reached 12 million and surpassed 13 million in 2010.

The history of Tokyo

The East Japan Earthquake

In March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck the Tohoku region, and Tokyo was also severely affected. Using the experiences gained from this disaster, Tokyo is dedicating efforts to further strengthen its crisis management system.

In September 2013, Tokyo was selected to host its second Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. To make the 2020 Games the best and leave valuable legacies for the future, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is working to advance both tangible initiatives as intangibles, including infrastructure updates, measures for the environment and the promotion of culture.

The history of Tokyo

The population of Tokyo is projected to start to decline once it reaches its peak in 2020. Also taking into account changes in the structure of society, such as the aging of the population, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is pushing towards its target to become the best city in the world where a balance is achieved between economic wealth and quality of life and anyone can fully enjoy life.