Tokyo - Encyclopedia

GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

TOKYO (or ToKIO, formerly called Yedo), the capital of the empire of Japan, situated in 35° 41' N. and 139° 45' E., at the head of the bay of the same name on the south-east coast of the main island. The city stands on the banks of the river Sumida, which, although pretty wide, is unnavigable by vessels of large tonnage owing to its shallowness. Yokohama, with which Tokyo is connected by 18 m. of railway, is practically the port of the capital. Tokyo is the centre from which several railways radiate. The trains of the Tokai - do line, starting from the Shimbashi station, run westwards to Kobe, thence to Shimonoseki, at the western end of the main island, a distance of 700 m. The Uyeno station is the starting-point for trains to Aomori, a town 460 m. away, at the northern extremity of the island. In 1907 a central station was designed to be built south of the imperial palace.

The climate is mild and healthy, and for the greater part of the year very pleasant, the seasons of spring and autumn being more especially delightful.

The area of Tokyo is about 30 sq. m. Topographically it may be divided into two parts, upland and lowland (Yamanote and Shitamachi). There are hills varying in height from 50 to 130 ft. in the upland district; that is to say, the outskirts of the city from north to west. Lowland Tokyo, that part of the city covering the flats on both sides of the river Sumida, is intersected by a system of canals. The bridges over the Sumida, and those which span the canals, have always been distinctive features of Tokyo. The Nihon-bashi (Bridge of Japan), in the district of the same name, is by far the most famous. It is the point from which all distances in Japan are measured. The largest bridges are those named Azuma, Umaya, Ryogoku, Shin-o and Eitai over the Sumida.

The streets were formerly narrow and irregular, but the principal thoroughfares have been widened under the Street Improvement Act of 1888. Electric tramcars run throughout the city carrying passengers at a uniform rate of 4 sen, which means that it is possible to travel some 10 in. for one penny. The jinrikisha, drawn by one man or sometimes two men, which were formerly the chief means of passenger conveyance, have notably decreased in number since the introduction of the trams. Tokyo has often experienced earthquakes, and more than once has suffered from severe shocks, which have hitherto prevented the erection of very large buildings. The numerous residences of the daimyos were the chief characteristics of the old town, especially in the Kojimachi-ku. Many of these have been demolished and government offices erected on their sites; others have given place to new streets and houses. Nearly in the centre of Kojimachi-ku, on an eminence, surrounded by moats, stood the castle of Yedo, formerly the residence of the shoguns, which was burnt down in 1873. The imperial palace was subsequently erected on this site. The palace is half European and half Japanese in its style of architecture. The Niju-bashi is the main entrance. To the east and south of the palace the neighbourhood has undergone great changes in modern times. It was here, at the Sakurada Gate, that Ii Kamon-no-Kami, prime minister of the shogun's government; was assassinated by the anti-foreign party in 1860. On the site of his residence a little higher up to the right of the gate now stands the war office and the offices of the general staff. In another street, leading from the gate, are the foreign office, the supreme court, the local court and the departments of justice and the navy. The temporary buildings of the Imperial Diet, which first met in 1890, are also in this part of the capital. Adjoining the above-named buildings is the Hibiya Park, modelled on the European style, while retaining the special features of the Japanese gardeners' art. The parks have always afforded to the people their chief means of recreation. The largest and most beautiful are those in Shiba and Uyeno, formerly the mausolea of the shoguns. In Uyeno, too, are the Imperial Museum, the Imperial Library and the Zoological Gardens. The famous temple of Kwannon, the goddess of mercy, is in the Asakusa Park, in which a permanent fair is held; it is a great holiday resort of the citizens. In Kudanzaka Park is the Yasukuni Temple, popularly known by the name of Shokonsha, and consecrated to the spirits of departed heroes who fell in war. In the same ground is a. museum of arms, containing trophies of the wars with China and Russia.


For administrative purposes Tokyo is divided into fifteen districts or Ku, of which Kojimachi, Hongo, Koishikawa, Ushigome, Yotsuya, Akasaka, Azabu and Shiba are situated in the upland portion, while Kanda, Kiobashi, Nihonbashi, Shitaya, Asakusa, Honjo and Fukagawa are in the lowland. Suburban Tokyo is divided into eight districts or Gun, which, with the city proper, collectively form the Tokyo-Fu (prefecture), under the general control of one governor called Fu-Chiji. Questions affecting the interests of the whole Fu come before the Fu-kwai, or prefectural assembly, made up of representatives from both Ku and Gun, and a prefectural council, of which „the governor is president; while matters concerning the city alone are discussed by a Shi-kwai, or municipal assembly, and administered by a municipal council, of which the Shicho or mayor is president. There is a regular water supply worked by the municipality. The reservoir at Yodobashi is capable of supplying water (from the river Tama) to all parts at a pressure varying from 80 to too ft. Hydrants are fixed in all the streets for the use of the fire brigade, which has a well disciplined and efficient personnel, and does not lack opportunities for the exhibition of its skill in a town built largely of wood. The police force is another well-trained and successful service. Both police and fire brigade are under the command of a single Keishi-sokan (inspector-general). The postal arrangements are very satisfactory, frequent deliveries being made with the utmost despatch. The telephone system is extensive, including long-distance wires to Yokohama, Osaka and other large towns. A complete and successful system of education exists. There are many schools for advanced students devoted to the various branches of science, mechanics and art. The imperial university of Tokyo, which consists of the colleges of law, medicine, literature, science, engineering and agriculture, is the principal institution of learning in the empire. There are several daily newspapers as well as weekly and monthly publications of all kinds. In the lowland part of the city and in the suburbs there are many factories, their number having so much increased in recent years that Tokyo may now be described as an industrial town.


There are no reliable data as to the population of Yedo during the shogunate. Owing to the influx caused by the periodical visits of the daimyos (feudal lords) with their numerous attendants, it probably exceeded qmillion during the early part of the 19th century. The population was 857,780 in 1880; 1,207,341 in 1890; 1,339,726 in 18 95; 1 ,497,5 6 5 in 1900, and 1,969,833 in 1905.


No mention is made of Tokyo in Japanese history before the end of the 12th century. It appears to have assumed no importance till about 1457, when Ota Dokwan, a general in the service of Uyesugi Sadamasa, governor of Kamakura, built a castle here. About thirty years later the town fell into the hands of Hojo of Odawara, and on his overthrow by Hideyoshi and Iyeyasu, the castle was granted to the latter, who was the founder of the shogun house of Tokugawa. In 1590 Iyeyasu made his formal entry into the castle of Yedo, the extent of which he greatly enlarged. From this date the real importance of Yedo began. The family of the Tokugawas furnished the shoguns (or tycoons) of Japan for nearly three hundred years, and these resided during that period at Yedo. At the restoration in 1868 the shogunate was abolished, and the population of Yedo speedily decreased. A fresh vitality was imparted by the transfer of the court from Kioto, and the town then received its present name Tokyo (eastern capital). (G. U.)

Custom Search

Encyclopedia Alphabetically

A * B * C * D * E * F * G * H * I * J * K * L * M * N * O * P * Q * R * S * T * U * V * W * X * Y * Z

Advertise Here


- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.

This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2018 ITA all rights reserved.