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400th Anniversary of the Edo Shogunate (April 16, 2003)

Kanda Festival
The Kanda Festival is a traditional event held in May in alternate years. (Chiyoda Ward)
2003 marks exactly 400 years since Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) established the shogunate in Edo in 1603. Various events will be held throughout the year to celebrate the 400th anniversary of this important juncture in Japanese history. At a ceremony held at the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, Tokyo on January 8, Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara announced the commencement of the more than 400 events, big and small, that will be held during the year.

The Tokugawa shogunate of the Edo period maintained a stable government for 265 years until its collapse in 1868, at which point Edo became known as Tokyo. In the 130 years since then, Tokyo has found itself swept along by the events of world history and has experienced numerous ups and downs. The organizers of the anniversary celebrations point to the Edo period as a time in Japanese history when the country's unique culture and technologies developed to a high degree. They hope that the milestone will encourage people to look back at the Edo period and find inspiration for the modern-day task of revitalizing Tokyo.

Pioneers of Recycling
In the eighteenth century the population of Edo grew to over one million people, making it the world's largest city at the time. Thanks to political stability and industrial development, popular culture flourished during the Edo period, and a high general standard of living was maintained relative to other major cities in the world back then. In her book Edo jidai no isan (The Legacy of the Tokugawa Period), American historian Susan B. Hanley lauded Edo for its cultural maturity and asserted that if she had been born during that period, she would have wanted to live in Edo. According to Hanley, eighteenth-century Edo had a fully functioning water supply system that provided water to its people 24 hours a day and was more advanced than the facilities found in other major world cities at the time. The city also had an impressive system for recycling resources. Sewage and refuse from the city were used by farmers in surrounding areas as fertilizer, and schemes were established for reusing clothes, wastepaper, empty barrels, and old umbrellas. The twentieth century was characterized by mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal, all of which now threaten the global environment. From this perspective, there is much that we could learn from Edo about managing our resources.

It is also worthwhile to study how people of the Edo period spent their days. Edo-Tokyo Museum director Makoto Takeuchi says, "If you were to travel back in time to the Edo period, the first thing that might surprise you would probably be the leisurely pace of life. The flow of the changing seasons matched the rhythm of people's lifestyles, enabling what today might be termed a slow-paced life." As it is not possible to recreate this pace of life, most of the commemorative events will have a more dynamic flavor to them.

Learning from Edo
City-wide events celebrating the Edo shogunate's 400th anniversary are being organized by the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, while individual wards including Chiyoda Ward, Chuo Ward, and Taito Ward are also holding events in their districts. The common theme for all events is learning the wisdom of Edo and applying it to the building of tomorrow's cities.

Let us look at some of the events that are planned. The Edo-Tokyo Museum is joining in the anniversary celebrations by holding special exhibitions on such subjects as Tokugawa Ieyasu, Hiraga Gennai, and Tokyo lifestyles. From November 22 to 24, 2003, the Edo Tenka Matsuri will take place in and around Hibiya Park, where 10 floats and 10 miniature Shinto shrines will be assembled. In Tokyo's Chuo Ward, which during the Edo period was the center of commerce and was known as "the kitchen of Edo," a celebration titled 400 Years of Edo-Tokyo Food Culture will run throughout the year. Some 400 renowned local restaurants will participate, developing innovative menus and competing to create the tastiest dishes. And in the shopping area of Taito Ward, special lighting will be installed to create a mood reminiscent of the Edo period.

This great variety of events marking a milestone in the history of Japan's current capital is sure to educate, entertain, and inspire Tokyoites and visitors alike.

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Related Web Sites
Edo-Tokyo Museum
Tokyo Past and Present
Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Chiyoda Ward
Chuo Ward
Taito Ward
Edo Tenka Matsuri

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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