The History of TokyoA long time ago, like many towns along the coast, Tokyo was a small fishing village, under the name Edo, which means “estuary”. It got more importance when Ota Dokan built what became known as Edo Castle, and what is now the Imperial Palace.
Ota Dokan or Ota Sukenaga was born in 1432 and died in 1486 (6 years before Columbus arrived in present-day America). He was a Samurai, a military tactician, and a poet . In 1478 he became a Buddhist priest and chose the name Ota Dokan.
Although much has changed part of the moat built by Dokan has been well-preserved. Instead of stone walls, the defense works around the 15th century castle were only grassy embankments, and the structures inside them were not grand. The initial enclosure which served as the castle's core area, the space which would have been Dōkan's hon-maru, was modestly sized; but the moats were extensive for that time period. These moats and their locations would figure prominently in the serial phases of construction and development which followed.
Dokan is also credited with diverting the Hira River east at Kanda-bashi to create the Nihonbashi River.
The first Shogun of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, turned Edo into the center of his military based government in 1603. His successors of the Tokugawa Shogunate developed Edo into a real city. Edo castle was extended and completed in 1637. However in 1657, the greater part of the Yoshiwara red-light district, Asakusa, as well as Edo Castle were destroyed in what is remembered now as the Great Meireki Fire. More than 100,000 people perished.
In order to keep themselves in power the Tokugawa Shoguns developed and implemented the Sankin-Kotai system. it is also known as the system of "alternate attendance". Although Tokugawa Japan was divided into many autonomous feudal domains, each lord was required to spend six months in Edo, leaving members of his family there as hostages when he returned to his domain. Every daimyo had to call on the Shogun at least 3 times a month and was kept busy with often useless ceremonial tasks at the court. Naturally, the more time daimyo had to spend on traveling back-and-forth between Edo and their domain, the less time they had to organize any rebellion, if they wanted to do so. Such a system brought all daimyo under the direct supervision of the Tokugawa bakufu. The daimyo had to pay for the construction and the up-keep of their yashiki (residence). These residences were expected to be luxurious and cost about half of the daimyo's income, keeping them impoverished enough to tighten control even further. Together with all other expenses many daimyos were on the verge of or actually bankrupt leaving them no other choice than to borrow from merchants, creating a new powerful, albeit it despised group in Japanese society.
It is said that the Tokugawa Iemitsu believed that this system could be implemented based on the actions of Todo Takatora, who was the architect of Ueno Toshogu. Todo was a daimyo, who was initially a vassal of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and he had participated in the campaign against Korea. When Tokugawa Ieyasu started his ascent to power, he decided to align himself to him just before the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, contributing to Ieyasu's goal of becoming the supreme leader of Japan. This loyalty was naturally rewarded and Todo became one of the trustees of Ieyasu's grandson, Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1627. The Sankin-Kotai system had not been implemented, but since Todo, who was not among the wealthiest daimyo, could maintain his far away domains, Iga and Ise of only 300,000 koku, while being in Edo most of the time, the Shonguns might have gotten the idea that other daimyos could do the same. This Sankin-Kotai system became the cornerstone of the Shogunate and it was vital to political stability in Japan for about two centuries till their downfall in 1868.
Although the Emperor stayed in Kyoto, the imperial capital, Edo as the de facto capital of greater Japan grew rapidly and so did its population. Records show that the total population was over 1 million round the 18th century, making it one of the biggest cities in the world, twice as big as London or Paris in the same period.
When the Tokugawa Shogunate was overthrown after having been in power for 263 years, the so-called Meiji Era started and the Emperor moved to Tokyo in the year 1869 , after all.