Moving the SeaThe Tokugawa Shogunate (feudal regime) controlled Japan from 1603 ~ 1868. They centralized their government administration in Edo Castle. This period of Japanese history is now referred to as the Edo-era.
The Tokugawa shoguns spent huge sums of money reinforcing the castle. They built moats, walls, gates and defenses. They constructed vast new areas of artificial land — just to move the castle further from the sea. The Tokugawa Shoguns also built artificial islands in Tokyo Bay to defend the castle.
A Shogun Versus An EmperorJapan was thrown into disarray with the arrival of American frigates (Black Ships) in 1854. The Americans forced Japan to sign trade agreements. When news spread of the American's successful gunboat diplomacy in Japan — Europeans sent similar missions.
Japan was a large, wealthy nation. However, it had closed itself to the world for too long. Japan risked colonization by a foreign power if it didn't modernize and industrialize.
(image: the first gaijin to try sumo)
The sudden influx of trade (on unfair terms) wreaked havoc on Japan's economy. It soon became clear that the Tokugawa Shogunate wasn't prepared to meet these challenges.
A group of samurai who were dissatisfied with the Shogun's handling of the crisis led a campaign to put Japan's Emperor (Emperor Meiji) in power. A civil war followed (Boshin War 1868 ~ 1869). The supporters of the Emperor represented those who wanted to modernize, westernize and industrialize. The supporters of the Shogun represented those who wanted to maintain Japan's feudal society.
The Man Who Modernized JapanThe supporters of Emperor Meiji won the Boshin War (May 1869). Emperor Meiji became the leader of Japan. One of his first acts as leader was to move the capital of Japan from Kyoto to Tokyo. Edo Castle was renamed the Imperial Palace.
Under Meiji, Japan rapidly industrialized, modernized and militarized. Tokyo's population exploded as the new capital of a fast growing nation.
Edo Castle Burns DownA few short years after the Emperor moved into Edo Castle it burned to the ground (May 5, 1873).
Although some Edo-era structures survived the great fire ~ many were torn down to build a remodeled Imperial Palace.
The moats, great walls, bridges and defenses of today's Imperial Palace are remnants of Edo Castle. Much of modern Tokyo's landscape and features were also once part of the castle's reinforcements and support systems (e.g. Odaiba).
The Imperial Palace is still the center of Tokyo.