Until 1868, Tokyo was known as Edo, meaning "Gateway to the Bay."In the early 1600s, the tide came practically to the foot of Edo Castle, where the Shogun lived. Over the years, as the city of Edo grew, more and more land was reclaimed from the bay. The history of urban development in Edo and Tokyo is a story of the city's expansion into the sea.
Even today, Tokyo Bay is being pushed back to create more land for urban development. At the epicenter of these efforts is Odaiba, reclaimed land that has been developed into a seaside urban center. Odaiba gets its name (which means "forts with cannon" from the six man-made islands built in the mid-1800s and mounted with cannon to defend the inner bay and the city from foreign gunboats. Today's Odaiba was formed by filling in the bay around these six islands.
The new transit system Yurikamome crosses Rainbow Bridge and links two different worlds the crowded, built-up district of Shimbashi on one side, and on the other, Odaiba, with its large expanse of newly reclaimed land and impressive modern business complexes, office towers and hotels. In Odaiba, the city is still growing.
The commercial complexes attract the biggest crowds. At Aquacity Odaiba you will find fashionable clothing stores, restaurants, pubs and cinemas. Palette Town features a concert hall and other attractions, so there is always something to see and do. You will want to ride the Ferris wheel, one of the world's largest. From the top, at 115 meters, there is a birds-eye view of much of Tokyo from the bay. There are other attractions as well, such as the Tokyo International Exhibition Center, known worldwide for its trade shows; and six museums to stimulate and satisfy your curiosity, including the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, and the Museum of Maritime Science.
After exploring the fast-developing Odaiba district, take the Rinkai line, and then transfer to the Yurakucho subway line. On the way toward the heart of Tokyo you will come to the first places reclaimed from the sea the islands of Tsukudajima and Tsukishima.
Tsukudajima was reclaimed from the tidal flats in the mid-1600s. Fishermen settled there and began providing fresh fish to Edo. "On the other side of the Tsukuda Ohashi Bridge lies Ginza, with its modern lifestyle. We like to say that, on this side, we're still living in the Taisho era (1912 to 1926)," says Miyata Matsunosuke, the owner of a well-established shop called Tenyasu, known for its tsukuda-ni food simmered in soy sauce. Fishing boats and old-fashioned pleasure boats still float in the anchorage, giving an idea of days gone by, when fishing here was an important industry.
In the early 20th century, the adjacent tidal flats were filled in to make another island, Tsukishima. The two islands are now joined together. From its early days to the end of World War II, Tsukishima was important to the Japanese economy because of its metal and machinery production. Today it is famous for its monja-yaki, a wheat-flour-and-water batter mixed with finely chopped vegetables and meat, then fried on a griddle. You will see one monja-yaki outlet after another on a street called Tsukishima Nishi Naka Dori. In 1954, only three places served monja-yaki here, but today there are 66. People come here to stroll on holidays, and often have to line up at a monja-yaki outlet waiting to be served.
Tsukudajima and Tsukishima are known for their old-fashioned street life. Old lanes remind us of Edo and its long, wooden nagaya apartment buildings. This part of Tokyo managed to escape damage during the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and World War II bombing.
When you leave the old residential area, you will come to high-rise condominiums rising imposingly towards the clouds. There, among the new buildings and modern lifestyles, the atmosphere is that of a friendly neighborhood.
Odaiba, the waterfront city, is still developing. Nearby, Tsukudajima and Tsukishima belong to the good old days. These two faces of Tokyo on the bay are always ready to intrigue visitors.