Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun in 1603, ushering a 200-year reign known as the Edo period—a time of peace and rapid economic growth known as the last period of traditional Japan. Here are some options for exploring this critically important period in Tokyo’s history.
Edo History in Tokyo
Tokyo started out as a fishing village called Edo. When Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the Shogunate here in 1603, the town began to thrive. During the 260-year Edo period, Tokyo enjoyed unprecedented economic and cultural growth, transforming into a city of more than a million people—one of the largest cities in the world—by the mid-18th century. It would later be renamed Tokyo and declared the capital of Japan.
Ways to Experience Edo Culture in Tokyo
Edo history and culture are on display throughout Tokyo if you know where to look.
- A good place to start is the Fukagawa Edo Museum, which offers an eloquent introduction to the rise and fall of the era.
- The historic Fukagawa neighborhood is home to the 300-year-old Fukagawa Fudoson Shrine and several workshops selling Edo glass and Edo-dyed cloth. Explore it on a walking or cycling tour.
- No visit to Tokyo would be complete without a stop at the Edo Castle, built in 1457 and occupied by the Tokugawa shoguns throughout their reign.
- A short day trip from Tokyo (and popular among families with kids), Edo Wonderland lets visitors become a citizen of Edo for the day. Walk through a recreated Edo-era town and interact with townspeople in period costume.
- Within a short distance of nearby Nikko National Park sits the Nikko Toshogo Shrine, a monumental mausoleum honoring the first Tokugawa shogun.