This week: Tokyo

Reprint of map of Edo (Tokyo) 1843. Image: Wikimedia Commonos/Sugawaraya.

All eyes were on Tokyo this summer, as the world’s most populous metropolitan area (home to an astonishing 37 million people) finally played host to the postponed 2020 Olympic Games. With its gleaming skyscrapers and ultramodern stadia, the Japanese capital made a suitably impressive backdrop for the planet’s biggest sporting event.

Tokyo has not always looked so grand, however. It was only during the 17th century that the coastal community then known as Edo became a prominent political centre, and only in 1868 that it was renamed Tokyo (literally ‘Eastern Capital’) to reflect its status as the country’s new seat of imperial power.

As we discover this week on The Past, excavations at numerous sites ahead of this year’s Olympics are now helping to provide us with a deeper understanding of Tokyo’s spectacular journey from fishing village to global megacity. In the latest issue of our sister magazine Current World Archaeology, Simon Kaner reflects on what archaeologists have discovered about activity in the area before and after its transformation into the great metropolis we know today.

Elsewhere on The Past, you’ll also find us delving into the CWA archives in search of more insight into Japanese archaeology: in a special issue, we looked at how the country’s ancient heritage was affected when the worst earthquake to hit Japan in 1,000 years was followed by a deadly tsunami; and we returned to the country’s Pacific coast ten years on to report on recovery efforts and some of the remarkable discoveries made during the rebuilding process. Separately, we also travelled further back in time in search of Japan’s ancient and mysterious Jomon Culture.

And finally, if all that simply leaves you wanting more, why not have a go at our latest quiz, which this week is themed around Japanese history and culture. Good luck, and we hope you enjoy The Past!

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