Top 10 Most Important Historical Facts About Tokyo, Japan
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Top 10 Most Important Historical Facts About Tokyo, Japan

The Japanese capital city of Tokyo has had a long and sometimes turbulent past. The defining moments in the cityÂ’s history are a combination of events created by both man and nature resulting in some violent and on occasion troubling times for the past residents of what is today one of the worldÂ’s largest cities as well as being the worldÂ’s largest metropolitan area in terms of its population.

The oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo is Senso-ji, it dates from around the year 645 long before the city was itself established. The first settlement on the site of todayÂ’s city of Tokyo was a village known as Edo, dating from the Kamakura period ruling from 1185 until 1333. Edo Castle was built in 1457, it is also known as Chiyoda Castle due to it being located in the area of the city of that name. The Tokugawa shogun was established there and it remained the residence of the shogun and the military force protecting him during this period of military rule in Japan. After the Meiji Restoration and Japan becoming under the leadership of its emperor the structure became the Imperial Palace. Some of the moats, ramparts and walls of the original castle still survive although at one time it was much more extensive including large garden areas.

The Edo period, also known as Edo jidai began in the year 1603 with Tokugawa Ieyasu becoming shogun. It was a period of continuous growth with interruptions by fires, floods and earthquakes. The outer enclosures of Edo Castle were completed during this period in 1606. Fires were a regular occurrence, one in 1657, known as the Great Fire of Meireki was responsible for destroying large areas of the city. In 1668 another devastating fire burned for 45 days. Edo was the largest city in the world, with a population of 1.1 million in 1721. The Great Meiwa Fire in 1772 claimed an estimated 6,000 victims. In the mid 19th century with an increase in political activity the last shogun of Japan, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, handed over his power in 1867 to the emperor. The new emperor arrived in the city the following year and the castle then became the Imperial Palace.

The Meiji Restoration began on the 17th of July 1868 when the newly installed Emperor Meiji renamed Edo as Tokyo. He claimed the city was an important centre for the economy of Japan. The status as capital was never officially transferred to Tokyo from the former capital of Kyoto and this title remains ambiguous even today to some residents of the former ruling city.

The Hibiya Incendiary Incident began on the 5th of September 1905 as a protest against the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth which ended the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese War. The city wide riot was after the Japanese army and navy had inflicted defeat upon their Russian enemies but the economy of the nation could no longer maintain the required war effort. A rally began in Hibiya Park in the centre of Tokyo over what was thought to be the humiliating terms of the peace treaty, among the protests were the gains made territorially by the Japanese forces being handed back to Russia and no war repatriation given to the Japanese by the government of Russia. As the rally began the police had barricaded the park gates in an effort to ban the protest, a crowd of around 30,000 then began to riot and marched on the Imperial Palace, the mob caused damage across the city for the next two days. Over 350 buildings were destroyed or severely damaged including that of the Home MinisterÂ’s residence. 70% of TokyoÂ’s police boxes were also destroyed with 17 people killed in the violence and over 450 injured. There were also 100Â’s of arrests as violence spread to other cities across Japan. It began a period of 13 years of violent protests across Japan with nine separate riots in Tokyo alone and ended in 1918 with the Rice Riots.

Hara Takashi was the 19th Prime Minister of Japan; he became the first commoner to be appointed to that position in the country’s history.  He was stabbed to death on the 4th of November 1921 by a railroad worker at Tokyo Station. His assassin Kon’ichi Nakaoka was later released from prison after serving less than 13 years for murder.

The 1923 Great Kanto earthquake struck JapanÂ’s main island of Honshu just before midday local time on the 1st of September of that year. It killed an estimated 70,000 people in Tokyo and was the deadliest earthquake in the countryÂ’s history until it was surpassed in 2011 by the Tohoku earthquake that inflicted serious damage and casualty figures further north than the capital. The 1923 tremor lasted between 4 and 10 minutes and measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.

The Ginza Line became the first line of the Tokyo Metro when it opened on the 30th of December 1927 between the stations of Ueno and Asakusa. On its opening it was dubbed the first underground railway in the Orient. Extensions to the line were completed in 1934 with the opening to Shinbashi.  Tokyo’s metro now contains several lines reaching across the city and by 2008 it had over 400km of lines in use.

During the Second World War the city was first bombed by American forces in the Doolittle raid in 1942, three years later it was on the receiving end of further heavy bombing with large areas of the city being raised to the ground by bombing and fires resulting from this action.

In 1962, Tokyo became the largest city in the world when it became the first city to record a population in excess of ten million people.

Tokyo was again on the front pages of world news after a sarin gas attack by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult caused the deaths of 13 commuters with another 54 suffering serious injuries and almost 1000 suffering from the effects of the poisonous gas. The attack on the 20th of March 1995 was a co-ordinated one on five trains below ground on the cityÂ’s metro system. Some estimates claim that the numbers of those injured was far higher than the official figures given as many of those affected have shown a reluctance to identify themselves.

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Comments (6)

Your travel guide is most helpful Thank you. I will come back with a vote.

An interesting read, thanks for the info John!

John, your articles never cease to amaze me and teach me something with each read!!! Excellent, voted!!! xoxoxo

Well done travel guide and done with completeness too.thank you.

Insightful glimpse into the history of an amazing nation. Voted.

Interesting historical information. Thanks for sharing.