What was Edo like before Edo Period?
Many of you may think that Edo castle was built at that moment. However, it was not so. The first Bushi who owned the Edo castle was Edo Shigetsugu. Edo clan used to live and rule the area from the end of Heian period to the beginning of Kamakura period. After the ruin of Edo clan in 15th century, Ōta Dōkan constructed a larger castle, which was the basis of Tokugawa’s. Since there were both water and road routes to Kamakura, Edo was thought to be an important area to rule over the transportation.
However, the area around Edo was a morass, when Tokugawa Ieyasu received it from Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590 after Siege of Odawara (1590). I’m sure he was not so happy to have left Sunpu Castle for Edo.
For us it is quite unbelievable that Edo was a morass. Now I would like to imagine how Edo was like before Edo period. Of course, there was no camera, satellites nor Google map so I was not able to find any photos at that time. But I’ve found an interesting project called Earth Diver Map Bis. by the research group of Dr. Shinichi Nakazawa of Tama Art University and a researching team in Tokyo Metropolitan University. This project started after Dr. Nakazawa’s book “Earth Diver” was published, in which he developed his theory that the circumstances in Jōmon period are still giving a great influence over present-day Japan.
Jōmon period is the time in Prehistoric Japan from about 12,000 BC and in some cases cited as early as 14,500 BC to about 300 BC, when Japan was inhabited by a hunter-gatherer culture which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity. And at that time the sea level was higher than now.
This is the map of Edo area in Jōmon period, created in Earth Diver Project.
OMG… The most part of present Tokyo used to be under water in Jomon area and it was like Venezia in Italy!!
So, the first work that Ieyasu started was the land improvement. He made the wetland dug in order to construct rivers or canals which could let the water flow into the sea or reclaimed to make the field. Thanks to Ieyasu’s great job, Edo became a livable place. In another word, without a Hideyoshi’s malicious treatment of Ieyasu, there would be no skyscrapers in Tokyo.
Works of Dr. Shinichi Nakazawa
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