Tokyo History

History of Edo / Tokyo 江戸 東京 歴史

Overview of the history of Tokyo
Tokyo pre-history
Tokyo in history
Musashi history
Edo history
Ieyasu Tokugawa and Edo history
Edo's entry onto the national stage in history
William Adams in Edo history
The "Greengrocer Oshichi" Legend in Edo history
The Genroku Akō incident in Edo history
The Kyoho Reforms in Edo history
1772: an inauspicious year in Edo history
Edo and foreign contact in history
Edo and the history of the foreign contact debate - Commodore Perry
The First Sakuradamon Incident in Tokyo history
Tokyo history
Revolution in Tokyo history
Modernization in Tokyo history
Tokyo history in the Era of Popular Violence: early 20th century
Twentieth century Tokyo historical developments
Tokyo history in the lead up to World War Two
The Second Sakuradamon Incident in Tokyo history
Blood-Pledge Corps (or League of Blood) Incident in Tokyo history
15 May Incident in Tokyo history
February 26 Incident in Tokyo history
Pacific War Tokyo history
Post World War Two Tokyo history
Boom Town Tokyo history

Overview of the history of Tokyo

Tokyo history.

Tokyo has been the capital of Japan since only 1868. Tokyo's previous incarnation, a town called Edo, grew from an obscure fishing village of the 15th century to become the biggest city in the world by the 18th century.

Tokyo has been Japan's center of real political power since 1603 (when it became the seat of the military Shogun rulers) - long before it became the nation's official capital (i.e. home to the Emperor).

As the seat of Japan's early modern warlords - the "rulers behind the throne" - and as the present-day capital of Japan, Tokyo has been the stage on which Japan's internal power struggles, encounters with the outside world, defeats, and triumphs, have taken place for the past four centuries.

Besides being host to the machinations and fates of the great and powerful, Tokyo is also, of course, a city with a life and atmosphere of its own.

This time line of Tokyo's history will attempt to incorporate and convey the many influences: political, economic, social, and, not least, natural (mainly fire, earthquakes, and bad weather), that have shaped this great city throughout its past, and will continue to shape its future.

Tokyo pre-history

The oldest records of human habitation in what is now Tokyo are the shell mounds left by communities that were part of the Jomon culture, which is thought to have lasted from about 10,000BC to 300BC. Jomon means "cord-marked" and refers to the elaborate pottery left behind with its characteristic coiled cord print ornamentation.

The first such mounds investigated were those found in the Oi district of Tokyo's Shinagawa ward by the US zoologist Edward S. Morse in 1877. Simpler and lighter-colored pottery was discovered in the Yayoi area of Tokyo's Bunkyo ward. It is thought to be left by a later culture, named "Yayoi," after the area in Tokyo. However, Yayoi culture is thought to have actually originated in west Japan, displacing the Jomon in about 100BC to 100AD.

The various Yayoi culture villages that have been unearthed in the Kanto region (in eastern Japan) have all been in the present-day Tokyo area.

Tokyo in history

The earliest historical roots of what we now call Tokyo can be traced to the mid 7th century, known in Japan as the Asuka period. The Asuka period dates from 645 when there was a palace revolution, and extended until the end of the succeeding Nara period (710-794). In the Asuka period, the imperial court imposed on Japan the ritsuryo system, i.e. a criminal and administrative code of law, embodied in what was called the Taiho Code, inspired by that used by China's Tang Dynasty (618-907).

It is as part of the territory subject to the ritsuryo system that Edo/Tokyo makes its first appearance in historical sources.

Musashi history

At the time of ritsuryo in Japan, the area occupied by present day Tokyo formed part of the province of Musashi known for its copper mines.
(Musashi comprised the districts of Tama, Toshima, Ebara, Adachi, and Katsushika. Present day western Tokyo was part of Musashi's Tama district.)

Fuchu, now a city in the west of the Tokyo metropolitan area became the capital of Musashi in 645 - specifically the area near the present Okunitama Shrine.

The main temple for the province of Musashi was in present-day Kokubunji City, next to and just north-west of Fuchu City. The temple is thought to have been completed by the late 750s. (The oldest temple in Tokyo, however, is Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa district of Tokyo's Taito ward, established in 645.)

Edo history

Modern Tokyo has its direct roots in what began as the village of Edo in Musashi province.

The first mention in historical records of Edo is in the Azuma Kagami, an official history from the Kamakura period written in about 1300.

The name Edo is thought to date from the late Heian period (794-c.1189) or early Kamakura period (1185-1333) when Shigetsugu Edo founded the Edo clan and established his residence on the land that now forms the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo (which at that time was where the Sumida River entered Tokyo Bay).

After the demise of the Edo clan in the 15th century, O-ta Sukenaga, a samurai, poet, military tactician and, later, Buddhist monk (who adopted the name Dokan), designed and built a fortress on the site for his liege, Uesugi Sadamasa (1443-1494), work beginning on the walls and moats in 1457.

Edo Castle and Moat, Tokyo, Japan.
Edo Castle, Tokyo, now part of the Imperial Palace
Edo Castle, Tokyo.
Present day Edo Castle, now the Imperial Palace in Tokyo
Edo Castle moat, Tokyo.
Present day Edo Castle, now the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Ieyasu Tokugawa and Edo history

Edo's next appearance in Japanese history was in 1590 when the mightiest warlord at the time, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, offered his then-ally and underling, Tokugawa Ieyasu, eight provinces in Kanto, including Musashi, that Hideyoshi had just wrested from the Hojo clan. He offered them to Ieyasu in return for Ieyasu's five provinces in Mikawa (present day eastern Aichi prefecture).

Ieyasu accepted, moved to Musashi, and erected the elaborate Edo Castle between 1593 and 1636 to replace the smaller, simpler one built by Dokan.

Edo's entry onto the national stage in history

Ieyasu Tokugawa eventually turned on his one-time ally, and defeated Hideyoshi's son, Hideyori Toyotomi, in 1600 at the Battle of Sekigahara. Ieyasu thus became Shogun, i.e. Japan's military overlord, in 1603, and Edo became the administrative center of Japan.

The years from 1603 until the Tokugawa's downfall in 1868 are known in Japanese history as the Edo period, and the whole of Japan was controlled from Edo Castle. Japan's local chieftains, with their retinues, now became obliged to spend part of their time in Edo in obeisance to the Shogun, greatly stimulating the capital's economy and culture.

William Adams in Edo history

From the outset, the government in Edo featured the advisory services of William Adams: probably the first Englishman to ever come to Japan. Adams had come to Japan in 1600 on a ship that was on its last legs, and, was imprisoned for a while in Osaka Castle. Ieyasu, still a supporter, at this stage, of Hideyoshi, interviewed Adams many times and took a liking to him.

When Ieyasu set up his government in Edo, Adams was one of his foremost advisers - a trove of Western technological and political expertise - and was given free access to Ieyasu and Edo Castle.

Adams was forbidden by Ieyasu to return to England, but in return was given a new name, Miura Anjin, and even a small domain in Uraga, making him Japan's first and only foreign-born samurai. He was also made a hatamoto, or bannerman: a high-ranking position in the Shogun's court.

In 1601, Ieyasu Tokugawa initiated the Tokaido communications route consisting of 53 stations between Nihonbashi Bridge in Edo to Sanjo Ohashi Bridge in Kyoto, a total of 495.5 km (308 miles). By the time of the completion of Edo Castle in 1637 (or, according to some accounts, in 1626), Edo had a population of around 150,000.

The establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate (known in Japanese as the Bakufu regime) in Edo brought great prosperity to the city and saw a renaissance of the traditional Japanese arts. The demand for luxury goods mushroomed, giving rise to a new class of traders and craftsmen, and a whole new urban culture.

As a merchant city, Edo was soon richly served by the entertainments of sumo and kabuki, as well as by pleasure quarters.

Fires in 17th century Edo

On March 2, 1657, about two-thirds of Edo (including Edo Castle, completed only 20 years before) was destroyed in the Great Fire of Meireki, originating in the Hongo district in present-day Bunkyo ward (home now to the University of Tokyo), killing over 100,000 people. The reconstruction project of the next two years reorganized and rationalized the city to some extent, and ensured that its mercantile function remained strong.

The "Greengrocer Oshichi" Legend in Edo history

January 25, 1683 The Great Fire of Tenna saw Tokyo burn again, with an estimated 6,000 casualties. The Great Fire of Tenna gave rise to the incident by which Yaoya Oshichi ("Greengrocer Oshichi"), the daughter of an Edo greengrocer, became immortalized.

During the disaster, the 15-year-old Oshichi fell in love with a temple pageboy of Shosen-in Temple, her family temple in Hongo. Thinking another fire would reignite their love, she tried to start one the next year, 1684, and, convicted of arson, was burnt at the stake for her pains. Her story became a theme in Japanese bunraku puppet plays. Also, with Yaoya Oshichi having been born in the Chinese year of the fire horse, it became inauspicious to bear a child in that year.

October 9, 1698 Another fire, the Chokugaku Fire, burnt the Ueno, Asakusa, and Senju areas of the city, killing over 3,000 people and destroying many daimyo (regional feudal lord) mansions and temple complexes.

Two further conflagrations known as the Genroku Fires broke out in Edo in 1697 and then in 1698.

The Genroku Akō incident in Edo history

On April 21, 1701 Naganori Asano, a samurai lord, attacked the Shogun's master of protocol, Yoshinaka Kira, who had humiliated him, inside Edo Castle.

For the grave offense of using arms inside the Shogun's residence, Asano was made to commit ritual seppuku (harakiri). At the end of the following year, his 47 masterless retainers avenged their master's death by attacking and beheading Kira at his residence in Ryogoku on December 14, 1702. His head was presented to Asano's grave in Sengakuji Temple, in the Takanawa area of present day Minato ward. They then turned themselves in and were ordered to commit seppuku. This tale of loyalty became a classic known as Chushingura, better known in the English-speaking world as the 47 Samurai.

1707 During the last half of December, Mt. Fuji erupted several times in what was its last, and one of its most violent, eruptions. Edo only comes into the picture as having been covered in volcanic ash and scoria despite being 100 km (60 miles) away, demonstrating the fury of the eruption.

The Kyoho Reforms in Edo history

1716 The 8th Shogun, Yoshimune Tokugawa (1684-1751) instigated two decades of reorganization known as the Kyoho Reforms, intending to halt what was seen as the growing decadence and profligacy of pleasure-addicted (read "sumo and kabuki addicted") peace-time Edo.

Edo's city government was reformed, the price of rice stabilized by regulation, production of luxury goods prohibited, public spending slashed, merchant guilds created for the purposes of more stringent government control and taxation, more fireproof building materials and methods promoted, martial arts and falconry encouraged, the rules requiring provincial feudal lords to spend time in Edo relaxed, the ban on Western books (except those relating to Christianity) lifted, and the boundaries between castes reinforced.

1721 As part of the Kyoho Reforms, a suggestion box, the meyasubako, was placed at the entrance of Edo Castle for any member of the public to freely post suggestions, criticisms, or claims.

In 1722, as a result of the Kyoho Reforms' suggestion box, the Koishikawa Sanitorium was established on the site of the present Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens in Bunkyo ward, near Iidabashi station.

In 1736, Edo's economy had stagnated because of the deflationary Kyoho Reforms, specifically the forced stabilization of rice prices. Therefore, in 1736, Shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa ordered a reflationary reminting of the coinage, which brought both increased prosperity and price stability for about the next 80 years.

In 1771, the doctor, Toyo Yamawaki, carried out the first scientific autopsy in Japan on the body of a criminal executed at Edo's Kozukappara execution ground (in present day Arakawa ward), basing the procedure on the Dutch translation of the German Anatomische Tabellen. Surprised that it held true even for the Japanese physique, he proceeded to translate the book into Japanese.

1772: an inauspicious year in Edo history

April 1 1772 The Great Fire of Meiwa was a massive catastrophe that laid waste most of the city. A fierce storm on August 2 then brought flooding and crop destruction to the whole surrounding Kanto area, followed by a storm of equal ferocity on August 19 that destroyed about 4,000 dwellings in Edo.

1787 - 1793, the chief senior councilor of the Bakufu, Sadanobu Matsudaira, embarked on the Kansei Reforms that transformed Tokyo. Believing in financial stringency and moral rectitude, Matsudaira forgave a lot of lower samurai debt, freeing the lower samurai from the grip of the official merchants and brokers.

On the morals front, he clamped down on artistic expression, especially ukiyoe, punishing the most notable ukiyoe artists of the time: Utamaro, Toyokuni, and Shun-ei, with 50 days of having their hands manacled.

By the end of the 18th century, Tokyo had grown into a city of over 1 million people the biggest in the world.

Edo and foreign contact in history

The 1830s featured the beginning of the foreign contact that would help trigger momentous changes a few decades later. Most of it was through Tokyo, or its environs.

1830 The American, Nathaniel Savory, landed on Chichijima Island in the Bonin Islands (the Ogasawara Islands, in Japanese now part of Tokyo). He was the first person ever to live there, and founded a colony.

In 1837, Charles W. King, an American merchant in Canton, sailed a merchant ship into Edo's Uraga Channel (just outside present Tokyo Bay) - the first known Western ship ever to enter - with the ostensible aim of returning three shipwrecked Japanese sailors, and the ultimate aim of opening trade with Japan. His ship was attacked, and he sailed away.

In 1846, Commander James Biddle of the US Navy, on a mission from the US government, entered and anchored in Tokyo Bay with a request for a trade agreement, but was denied.

Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry.
Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry; photograph by Matthew Brady

Edo and the history of the foreign contact debate - Commodore Perry

The 1850s in Japan was a time of political crisis concerning the issue of whether the country should have relations with foreign powers, and, if so, what kind of relations. Being the center of political power, Edo was the main stage of this debate.

The key event of the 1850s was the landing on July 8, 1853, of US Navy Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry at Yokosuka - on the isthmus just south of Yokohama, and about 50 km (30 miles) south of Edo - with an armed squadron and a letter demanding the opening of Japan to trade and a promise to return.

True to his word, Commodore Perry returned in February 1854 with an even larger squadron and, on March 31, 1854, signed the Convention of Kanagawa with representatives of the Shogun, opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to United States trade, granting coaling rights for U.S. ships, guaranteeing the safety of shipwrecked American sailors, and establishing a permanent U.S. consul in Shimoda.

On July 29, 1858, the U.S. envoy, Townsend Harris, finally convinced Japan, which had stalled for two years, to sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan. This treaty built on Perry's by opening up six ports to foreign trade and allowing, among other things, American citizens to travel freely in Japan (and live in Edo), and establishing extraterritoriality for them.

It is the first of what later came to be known as the "unequal treaties" signed between Japan and other Western powers. It would also became the issue over which a civil war would erupt - between those Japanese who thought Japan should open to the West immediately, and those who thought it should wait.

On November 11, 1855, the Great Ansei Edo Earthquake - of magnitude 6.9 - struck Edo, causing almost 7,000 deaths and 3,000 injuries. It triggered a fire, the Great Fire of Ansei, that destroyed most of the city. The aftershocks from the quake continued for 20 days.

In 1858, Keio University, Japan's first institute of higher learning, opened in present-day Tokyo's Minato ward as a school for Dutch studies, founded by Yukichi Fukuzawa. It switched its focus to English studies in 1863.

The First Sakuradamon Incident in Tokyo history

On March 24, 1860, Ii Naosuke, chief adviser to the Shogun was assassinated by 17 young anti-foreign rebel samurai from Mito province in front of the Sakuradamon Gate of Edo Castle. Ii Naosuke had been the most influential Japanese politician to sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States. He favored opening Japan to the West and, with the Ansei Purge, had driven out from government all who disagreed with this policy. His assassination opened the floodgates of anti-Bakufu Emperor-centered loyalism across the country. (Ironically, Mito was one of the three domains from which members of the ruling Tokugawa clan were eligible to be selected as Shogun.)

In 1867, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, Japan's last shogun, surrendered power to the emperor and left Edo.

Revolution in Tokyo history

January 1868: Conflict between samurai from Satsuma province and the Bakufu forces. The outer works of Edo Castle are set fire to, and, in response, Bakufu forces destroy the Edo residence of the daimyo of Satsuma, also known as the Palace of Satsuma.

October 16 1868: Edo becomes the capital of Japan, and its name is changed to Tokyo.

1869 the Emperor moves to Tokyo from Kyoto, taking up residence in old Edo Castle, now the Imperial Palace.

June 1869 Yasukuni Shrine is built to honor the victims who fought for the restoration of the Emperor in the Boshin War, (i.e. the war that accompanied Japan's transformation from the feudal Shogunate to a modern Emperor-centered state at the beginning of the Meiji Period). The shrine is first known as Tokyo Shokonsha, which is changed to Yasukuni Shrine in 1879 as part of the campaign to promote State Shinto as a national(ist) religion.

Emperor Meiji.
The Emperor Meiji 1852-1912 moved from Kyoto to take up residence in his new "Eastern Capital" of Tokyo

Modernization in Tokyo history

1869 Tsukiji in present-day Chuo ward is officially designated an area for foreign residents, and remains so until 1899.

1869 Japan's first telecommunications line is opened between Tokyo and Yokohama, and the first steam locomotive starts running in 1872 from Shimbashi to Yokohama.

1871 Tokyo Prefecture is established with the abolition of the old feudal domains in favor of the prefectural system.

1872 Tokyo Prefecture expands to include what are now the 23 wards of Tokyo.

September 12, 1872 Japan's first railway line opens in Tokyo, between present-day Shiodome (then known as Shinbashi) and Sakuragicho (Yokohama). Begins operations on October 15.

1874 The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is established.

1881 Nippon Railway is founded: Japan's first private railway company.

1882, Japan's first zoological gardens are opened in Ueno.

July 28 1883 Nippon Railway opens Tokyo's first railway line, between Ueno and Kumagaya (in Saitama prefecture) - now part of the JR Takasaki Line.

November 1884 The Chichibu Incident: disaffected agrarian workers from the Chichibu region in Saitama, near Tokyo, suffering from the heavy tax burden of the new Meiji regime, as well as depressed agricultural prices, enter Tokyo and battle with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and the Imperial Japanese Army.

1885 Opening of the Shinagawa railway line between Shinagawa and Akabane, eventually to become the Yamanote Line.

1888 The Palace Castle (on the site of the present Imperial Palace) is built on the site of old Edo Castle, which had been destroyed by fire in 1873.

May 1 1889 Tokyo becomes a city, and is established with 15 wards. However, it does not maintain its own mayor or council, but is administered by the existing apparatus of Tokyo Prefecture.

September 1, 1891 Completion of railway line between Ueno and Aomori by the Nippon Railway Company.

1893 Three districts of the Tama region in Kanagawa Prefecture, west of Tokyo, are annexed by Tokyo.

1898 Tokyo begins electing its own mayor.

1903 Tokyo's first trams start running.

Tokyo history in the Era of Popular Violence: early 20th century

The Hibiya Incendiary Incident was the start of 13 years of popular rioting, known as the Era of Popular Violence, or minshuu sohjohki, nine major riots taking place in Tokyo over that period.

The Hibiya Incendiary Incident took place as follows. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth, signed on September 5 1905. Japan, as victor (the first Asian victor over a Western power in modern times), benefited greatly from the Treaty, but, because Japan was militarily overstretched in Manchuria, and economically overstretched from the war effort, it did not benefit to the extent of its initial demands.

This perceived "loss" sparked popular protest on the same day, and a collection of disaffected groups planned a protest in Tokyo's Hibiya Park. In response, the police locked the gates to the park and refused to admit the crowd of over 30,000 that had assembled. In response to that, the crowd went on the rampage through Tokyo for the next two days, damaging or destroying over 350 buildings, including the Prime Minister's residence and 70% of the city's police boxes.

The next few months saw similar, but generally not such violent, agitation in a number of other Japanese cities. This Hibiya Incendiary Incident led to the collapse of Prime Minister Katsura Taro's Cabinet on January 7 1906.

Twentieth century Tokyo historical developments

1909 Tokyo railways first electrified.

1914 Tokyo Station is completed in the Marunouchi district of Chiyoda ward, right in font of the Imperial Palace gardens. Construction had commenced in 1908. It was built in celebration of Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War. It was built as a three-storied structure, but rebuilt after World War II bombing with its present two stories.

August 12 1918 Rice Riots spread from western Japan to Tokyo. The spiraling price of rice in the inflationary boom after the First World War created enormous hardship for both the rural population, which received no more for the rice it produced than before, and for the urban population. The ensuing riots in protest were the most widespread in Japanese history.

September 29 1918 Prime Minister Terauchi and his Cabinet resigns to take responsibility for the situation that led to the Rice Riots.

1920 The Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is built in Shibuya ward, about 2 km (1 1/4 mile) south of Shinjuku station, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji (1853-1912) and his wife the Empress Shoken (1849-1914) and commemorating the Emperor's role in the Meiji Restoration of 1868. The original was destroyed in World War II, and rebuilt in 1958.

November 4, 1921 Prime Minister Takashi Hara is stabbed to death at the south gates of Tokyo Station by a right-wing railway worker.

September 1923, Tokyo is devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake, with a magnitude of between 7.9 and 8.4, and a duration of at least 4 minutes. There are over 100,000 casualties. Being lunchtime, flames from cooking caused fires everywhere. Winds from a typhoon fanned the fires into a fire storm. The worst incident was the incineration of over 30,000 people who had sought refuge on the Army Parade Ground in Sumida. Vigilante hysteria based on rumors of Koreans taking advantage of the confusion to loot, and even poison wells, caused the death of about 230 Koreans. It was suppressed by Army action.

Marunouchi area near Tokyo Station in flames 1923, Tokyo.
Marunouchi in flames after the Great Kanto Earthquake, Tokyo, 1923

1924 Ueno Park opens on the site of Kaneiji Temple in Taito ward on land gifted by the Emperor Taisho.

March 1925 The Tokyo Broadcasting Corporation (now known as NHK) makes the first radio broadcast.

1927 Japan's first subway line, the Ginza Line, is opened between Asakusa and Ueno

1928 the first general elections for the House of Representatives of the Diet (or Parliament) are held.

1930 Emperor Hirohito declares the post-earthquake rebuilding of Tokyo complete, at a special public ceremony.

November 14, 1930 Prime Minister Osachi Hamaguchi is shot and wounded in Tokyo Station by an ultra-nationalist.

1930 The Tsubame express train service began, reducing the time taken from Osaka to Tokyo to 8 hours (average speed 60.2 km/h, maximum speed 90 km/h).

In 1931 Tokyo Airport was completed at Haneda, and in 1941 the Port of Tokyo was opened.

By 1935, the resident population of Tokyo had grown to 6.36 million, comparable to the populations of New York and London.

The Second Sakuradamon Incident in Tokyo history

January 9, 1932, Korean nationalist Lee Bong-chang attempts to assassinate Emperor Hirohito by throwing a grenade as he left the Imperial Palace through the Sakuradamon Gate. The attempt was unsuccessful, but provided China with an opportunity to criticize Japan for its colonization of Korea.

Blood-Pledge Corps (or League of Blood) Incident in Tokyo history

9 February 1932 Former Finance Minister Inoue Junnosuke and, on 5 March, the Director-General of Mitsui, Dan Takuma, are shot and killed by members of the ultranationalist Blood-Pledge Corps (also translated as League of Blood). They were the first two of 20 assassinations of political and business leaders that the group planned, but were otherwise unable to carry out.

15 May Incident in Tokyo history

May 15 1932 Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai is assassinated in the Prime Minister's residence by 11 young disaffected Naval officers, as an attempt to complete the Blood-Pledge Corps' assassination campaign and spark a coup d'etat. The rebels were quickly defeated, and martial law was imposed over Tokyo until July 18.

July 1932 Tokyo absorbs several outlying districts, increasing its number of wards from 15 to 35. Now with a population of about 4.9 million, it becomes the second biggest city in the world.

1935 The old Nihonbashi fish market, destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake, relocates to Tsukiji and reopens.

Rebel troops during the February 26 Incident, Tokyo.
First Lieutenant Niu Yoshitada and his rebel troops during the February 26 Incident

February 26 Incident in Tokyo history

26-29 February 1936 About 1,400 troops seize key government buildings - the Diet Building, the headquarters of the Army Ministry, and the headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police - in an attempted coup d'etat. Prime Minister Keisuke Okada narrowly escapes death as the rebel officers kill his brother-in-law, mistaking him for Okada. It ends upon the direct orders of an angry Emperor Hirohito to attack the rebels.

Pacific War Tokyo history

18 April 1942 The Doolittle Raid, in which US Army planes bomb ten military and industrial targets in Tokyo the first air raid by the United States to attack a target on the main Japanese island of Honshu.

July 1 1943 Tokyo City merged with Tokyo Prefecture to form the Tokyo Metropolitan Government: officially part of the central government. The governor of Tokyo gained a place in the Cabinet, directly under the Prime Minister.

February-August 1945. US Air Force B-29 bombers destroy much of Tokyo, especially east of the Imperial Palace. Well over 100,000 people are killed, and many times that number wounded and/or made homeless. Most people killed were victims of the air raid of March 9th and 10th, a napalm firebomb attack (napalm's first ever notable use) said to have been the most destructive air raid in history.

September 2, 1945 Japan formally surrenders to the US on the USS Missouri moored in Tokyo Bay.

At the end of the war, Tokyo's population is now only approximately half that of 1940.

Aftermath of US air raids on Tokyo.
The charred remains of civilians killed in US air raids on Tokyo, 1945; photograph by Ishikawa Kouyou

Post World War Two Tokyo history

1947 Tokyo Metropolitan Government is separated from the central government, and the number of wards is reduced to 23.

December 23 1948 Hideki Tojo, wartime Premier of Japan; General Kenji Doihara, who had engineered the Mukden Incident in 1931; General Heitaro Kimura, former commander in Manchuria; General Iwane Matsui, responsible for the rape of Nanking; General Akira Muto, former chief of staff in the Philippines; ex-Premier (1936-37) Koki Hirota; and ex-War Minister Seishiro Itagaki are executed at Sugamo Prison in Ikebukuro (now the site of the Sunshine 60 shopping and entertainment building).

February 1 1953 The national broadcaster, NHK makes the first commercial TV broadcast in Tokyo (and Japan).

June 8, 1953 A US Air Force plane crashes on takeoff from Tachikawa Airfield killing 129 people, making it the biggest air disaster in history at the time.

1954 Tokyo's first subway train line, the Marunouchi Line, is opened between Ikebukuro and Ochanomizu.

July 8 1957 The Sunagawa Riots ensue when the US Air Force tries to extend its Tachikawa Airfield into the neighboring town of Sunagawa (now part of Tachikawa City) resulting in cancellation of the project.

1958 Tokyo Tower is completed.

Boom Town Tokyo history

September 10 1960 First color television broadcast in Tokyo (and Japan).

1961 Tokyo's third subway line, the Hibiya Line, opens between Minami-senju and Naka-okachimachi.

October 1 1964 The Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train line (planning for which began in 1940) opens, linking Tokyo to Osaka in just four hours instead of 6 hours 40 minutes.

October 10 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games open.

October 8 1967 A university student is killed in battles with the police at Bentenbashi, near Haneda Airport, protesting the visit of Prime Minister Eisaku Sato to South Vietnam.

1968 Completion of the rebuilding of the Imperial Palace, destroyed in World War II. Built by the Takenaka Corporation in reinforced concrete in a modernist style.

1968 The Bonin Islands (Ogasawara Islands in Japanese) are returned to Japan by the US Navy after post-World War II occupation, and become part of Tokyo.

October 21 1968 Battles take place outside Shinjuku Station between the police and protesters against the transportation of fuel for US forces by rail.

December 1968 Riots by students at Tokyo University, Japan's most prestigious university, force the cancellation of entrance examinations.

January 18-19 1969 Students of Tokyo University riot, occupy Yasuda Hall and fight with riot police.

October-November 1969 Clashes between troops and protesters against the Japan-US Security Alliance.

1971 Clashes in February, July and September between police and protesters against the confiscation of farmland for the construction of Narita International Airport.

November 1971 Mass riots against the Okinawa Reversion Agreement.

1977 The US Airforce returned Tachikawa Airfield to Japan.

1978 New Tokyo International Airport (present day Narita International Airport) opens in neighboring Chiba prefecture.

September 19 1984 The headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party are attacked with a flamethrower in protest against the construction of Narita International Airport.

1986 Land prices in Tokyo begin to rise rapidly.

1988 Tokyo Dome stadium opens.

1990 The collapse of the bubble economy sees land prices in Tokyo fall dramatically.

December 1990 Construction of the new Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, known as Tocho in Shinjuku is completed.

1993 Completion of the Rainbow Bridge: a 570-meter suspension bridge straddling northern Tokyo Bay and connecting Shibaura Wharf with Odaiba.

March 20 1995 Sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinrikyo cult. 12 people killed and hundreds sickened.

1999 Right-wing politician and author, Shintaro Ishihara elected governor of Tokyo.

July 2000 Mt. Oyama on Miyakejima Island (an island used as a penal colony during the Edo era) erupts, forcing the evacuation of all residents.

2000 The Oedo Subway Line opens.

March 2007 Tokyo 2016 Olympic Games Bid Committee established.

June 4 2008 Tokyo chosen as a finalist candidate host for the 2016 Olympics, along with Chicago, Rio De Janeiro and Madrid.

14 June 2008 Fukutoshin Subway line opens.

7 September 2013: Tokyo selected to host the 2020 Olympic Games

Related Articles on Tokyo

Tokyo guide

What's on in Tokyo

Facts about Tokyo


Book Hotel Accommodation in Tokyo Japan

Hotels in Tokyo - Booking.com
Hotels in Japan - Booking.com
Hotels in Tokyo - Agoda
Hotels in Yokohama - Agoda
Budget Hotels in Tokyo - Booking.com

Tokyo Tours & Experiences from Voyagin

Things To Do in Tokyo


Books on Tokyo Japan


Goods From Japan to your home or business.