Brief History of Tokyo Summarized
A review of the brief history of Tokyo, as a summary.
The beginnings of Tokyo
People have been living in the region for more than 12,000 years. The earliest inhabitants of present-day Tokyo lived along the Sumidagawa (Sumida River), according to archaeological evidence.
The swamp along the river was an ideal place for these people. The richness of the soil along the banks of the river meant that there was a wide variety of flora and fauna on which they could live.
As time passed, people began to settle permanently and rice farms became a new feature of the landscape.
The wet farming technique used, in which the fields are flooded at harvest time, was introduced to Japan from Korea and reflects the high levels of cultural exchange between the two countries as early as 300 BC.
Military power center
Between 1467 and 1477, the Japanese feudal powers participated in the Onin War. Although the civil war technically ended in 1477, it marked the beginning of the Warring States period, which lasted nearly two centuries. During this time, various daimyos (feudal lords) fought for political power.
In 1603, Emperor Go-Yozei granted Tokugawa Ieyasu the title of shogun, making him the de facto leader of Japan. In the shogunate model, the emperors were the spiritual leaders who appointed the shogun, but it was the latter who had military and political control.
As shogun, Tokugawa was in charge of making sure that none of the other daimyos gained too much land or political power, thus ensuring the safety of the imperial throne.
In addition to the title, the Tokugawa was granted the rights to the land of Edo, making the city the secondary capital of Kyoto, where Emperor Go-Yozei resided. The settlement of the Tokugawa shogunate in the city also marks the beginning of the Edo period of Japanese history.
First fire brigades
Edo’s population grew exponentially in the 18th century – in 1721 it was the largest metropolis in the world with just over a million inhabitants. Since the houses were made of wood and the fire was used for heating and cooking, accidental conflagrations were inevitable.
In 1657, the Great Fire of Meireki razed about 70 percent of the city. Said to have been started by a priest who burned a cursed kimono – three girls had owned the kimono and subsequently died before wearing it – the devastation caused the expansion of the hikeshi, a proto-fire brigade.
Although the hikeshi had been instituted nearly two decades before the Great Fire consumed Edo, their sole purpose was to protect the city’s castle and food stores.
In the 18th century, a new branch of the hikeshi was created to protect working-class homes throughout Edo. Every year, Tokyo continues to hold an event called Dezomeshiki to honor the history and demonstrate the techniques of the hikeshi.
Edo becomes Tokyo
After more than two and a half centuries of rule under the Tokugawa shogunate, the last shogun resigned, marking the end of feudal rule in Japan. The Meiji Emperor did not appoint a new military leader and instead moved his residence to Edo. Upon his arrival in 1868, the city was renamed Tokyo, meaning Capital of the East.
The Meiji Emperor’s move to Tokyo marked the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, in which the emperor restored political and military power to the imperial throne. It also marked a period when Japan began to Westernize its practices to compete with the growth of European and American empires.
Under the rule of the Meiji Emperor, the Japanese economy industrialized, becoming a formidable global force when it joined the Axis powers in World War II.
After World War II, Sony ushered in an era of technology for war-torn Tokyo.
Although Tokyo was untouched by the nuclear bombs dropped by US forces in August 1945, the capital was still reeling from the effects of the war.
In 1946, Masaru Ibuka founded Sony, where he used his experience as a war technology engineer to help repair Japan’s communications infrastructure.
Sony worked on tape recording devices for government and home use to begin with, but it was the invention of the WALKMAN that made the company truly revolutionary. Initially created by Ibuka so that he could listen to operas on long-haul flights, when the Walkman was released in 1979, it changed the way people listened to music forever.
Although the Walkman has been superseded, Sony is still a tech giant and helped put Tokyo on the map as a city of technological innovation.
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