If you know about the time when Tokyo was called "Edo" sightseeing will be much more fun. We will introduce you to the charm of Edo, which flourished thanks to the people who lived there.
Samurai residences in Edo
More than 150 years ago, the town of Edo was the center of politics and culture of Japan just like Tokyo nowadays. The place where the Imperial Palace is now, used to be the place where Edo Castle of the Tokugawa shogun (de facto military ruler of Japan) was built. It was surrounded by the residences of the samurai. The gate of the University of Tokyo which is the top educational institution of Japan is called Akamon (lit: red gate) used to be the gate of the daimyo's (feudal lord) mansion. Such remains of the buildings of Edo can still be seen in the city.
A period when the common people were the central players
In Japan, the upper class society such as the nobles used to be the key figures, but the characteristic of the Edo culture was that the townspeople were the key figures. When the shogun established the Edo shogunate in 1603, Japan which used to be in constant war welcomed its first long-term age of peace. While living in peace, festivals developed and so the people's livelihood improved. The world famous ukiyo-e and kabuki are also cultural assets established in the Edo period (1600/1603 - 1868). Regarding the food culture, representatives of Japanese cuisine such as "sushi" and "tempura" made their entrance.
The people's life in Edo
The townspeople lived in a single storey apartment-like house which was called nagaya (lit: long house). The voices inside the house went through to every neighbor so there was no privacy at all but, the people who lived in the same nagaya were like family. They lived their lives by helping each other. It may be said that such cooperational spirit is inherited in the spirit of Japanese people today.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum
You can learn more about the old days of Tokyo at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, next to the Ryogkoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena where sumo matches are held. Inside reconstructed maquettes of Edo and Tokyo and an abundance of other material are displayed. You can get t know about the crowded neighborhood of Nihombashi where the center of Edo used to be and while gazing at the full-sized models of the nagaya of the old days which are hard to imagine today, you can learn how the people used to live together in style with an abundance of empathy towards one another. You can also take commemorative photos at the area where the scenery of Edo is reproduced.
Source: Edo-Tokyo Museum
Fukagawa Edo Museum
In the old days, the common people of Edo used to wake up by the rooster crowing. By day, the people lived by hearing the voices of coming and going travelling vendors and after sundown they watched the red sky. The "Fukagawa Edo Museum" nearby Kiyosumi Garden is a place where you can become submerged in the atmosphere of 170 years ago. The old days are completely reproduced from the nagaya, the greengrocer, the view from the wooden turrets from where the fire fighters held guard, to the daily necessities inside the houses where people in Edo used to live. Since even the people's daily lives in Fukagawa are reproduced using sound effects and lighting, you will definitely feel as if you are travelling back in time.
Source: Fukagawa Edo Museum
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