Visiting Tokyo in the Footsteps of Emperor Meiji 明治時代
When Edo Became Tokyo
In 1869, the young Emperor Meiji moved the capital of Japan from Kyoto to Edo, the former name of Tokyo, meaning capital of the East. Then began the Meiji era, the modernization of Japan. What remains of that era today?
A visitor in search of the traces left by the Emperor Meiji will need to first and foremost go to the funerary temple of the Emperor and his wife, the Meiji Jingu, situated near Harajuku. Although it was built after the death of the emperor in 1911 the temple is proof of the transformations that occurred: the sobriety of the buildings and solemnity of the place; it's not for nothing that the Meiji Shrine is considered the most majestic of Tokyo.
To really understand what was the Emperor Meiji's Tokyo, you will need to go elsewhere: Tokyo Station, which was restored recently, is still the best example of Meiji era architecture with its red brick copying Western stations. At one time all of the Marunouchi district was built on the same model. Not far away the district of Ginza was one of the first achievements of local planners. They transformed this area by building broad avenues and providing it with trams and department stores with the idea of making it the Champs Elysées of Asia. Evidence of this past, the Ginza Wako, with its clock tower, is one of the few buildings to have survived the WWII bombing.
North of the gardens of the Imperial Palace, the very curious visitor could also go to the other great Meiji temple, the temple of Yasukuni, supposed to honor the dead soldiers during the turbulent beginning of the restoration of the Emperor, but since then has become world famous for other reasons. This was the first monument made after the transfer of the capital.
WWII erased most of the other tracks, but by traveling to Yokohama we will have the opportunity to discover a fascinating aspect of this new Japan, that of the presence of the first Europeans. The port of Yokohama gives you a chance to visit the old neighborhood of the settlers and former British Consulate, surrounded by a very large number of Meiji and Taisho period buildings that gave the Yokohama waterfront a clean and quaint appearance for that time.
Outside Tokyo and the region other areas can also be visited, such as the Tomioka Silk Factory, the imperial villa of Numazu where resided Emperor Meiji on holiday or, more interestingly, the Meiji mura in Aichi Prefecture very close to Nagoya. This "Meiji village" houses old Tokyo buildings that were dismantled and moved to this theme park to give a faithful reconstruction of the Meiji and Taisho era. The place is regularly used for film shoots. A strange visit but one you would not want to miss.
Searching for Meiji Japan is also seeking the spirit of the time, which can be found by visiting these places . You will feel a sense of nostalgia from over two centuries.