Although the site of Tokyo has been inhabited since prehistoric times, the first recorded mention of a settlement is a twelfth-century reference to an obscure village called Edo, meaning "Gate of the Inlet," situated where the Sumida River empties into Tokyo Bay. The temple at Asakusa, east of Ueno station and near the Sumida, dates from perhaps the late seventh century, though the present-day structures have been built since World War II. A provincial general erected a fortified castle at Edo around 1457, but the village remained insignificant until Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616) took it over in 1590. Edo was made the capital of the shogunate in 1603 and remained so until 1868, though for the time being the court aristocracy remained in Kyoto, which retained its cultural preeminence throughout the early Tokugawa period.

Edo grew rapidly through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and appears to have become the largest city on the planet by the end of the 1700s. Edo also overtook Kyoto to become the center of national culture, as theater (in particular, kabuki) reached a high level of sophistication during this time. The growth of the city was also accompanied by difficulties, such as the fire of 1657, in which two-thirds of the city was destroyed, and more than 100,000 people died.

In 1868, the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, the name of Edo was changed to Tokyo, meaning "Eastern capital," when the imperial court was moved there following the fall of the shogunate. Tokyo's population fell during

The Imperial Palace. ()
the political unrest of the times, but it recovered and surpassed two million by the end of Meiji period. In 1872, a devastating fire ravaged the city and inflicted heavy damage on the Ginza and Maronouchi districts, which were subsequently rebuilt with Western-style brick structures. The rebuilding program reflected a larger trend in the nation, an effort to catch up with other nations in the world, in the process of which Japan and its capital were increasingly receptive to Western influences. By the end of the Emperor Meiji's reign, Japan was allied with England and had been victorious in war against China and Russia.

Tokyo has not only been prone to fires, the city's most common disaster historically, but has also suffered from earthquakes. The great 1923 earthquake, which destroyed most of the city, was the worst disaster in modern Japanese history. Reconstruction took seven years and included more than 200,000 new buildings, seven reinforced concrete bridges on the Sumida River, and a number of parks, in one of which the Hall of the Nameless Dead was constructed as a memorial to the estimated 30,000 casualties in Tokyo alone.

Tokyo also incurred heavy damage from Allied bombings in World War II, when U.S. Air Force raids reduced large sections of the city to rubble. After Japan's surrender, U.S. troops occupied Tokyo until April 1952. The decade following 1954 was a time of rapid expansion and renovation, culminating in Tokyo's hosting of the summer Olympics in 1964. Tokyo observed its 500th anniversary in 1957. Since then Tokyo's growth has continued unabated, keeping pace with its increasing stature as one of the most important cities in the world.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Atlanta Cairo Rome Beijing
(United States) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 28,025,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded c. 1150 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $185 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $105 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $26 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $316 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 31 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 10,220,512 1,159,450 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1874 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.