Tokyo is not the capital of Japan? So what is the capital of Japan

Mark wiens


Tokyo, together with Shanghai, New York, London and Paris, is one of the world's five largest cities. With a population of nearly 15 million, Tokyo is the world's financial powerhouse, as well as a leader in fashion and topics. So when asked where the capital of Japan is, most people would probably answer "Tokyo." In particular, where the emperor traditionally lives, is the seat of the central government, or the capital, right?

But in reality, Tokyo is not a perfectly defined capital in the legal sense. The reason for this is back to the beginning.

The ancient capital of Japan on the move

In ancient times, the capital of Japan moved frequently. There are different theories about why this happened, but one theory is that the social mood of the time was that women would still live in their parents' home after marriage, and even if they had children, they would raise them in their parents' home. Generally speaking, a husband does not live with his wife, and if he wants the family to be together, he must visit his father-in-law's home. This system was called the "visiting marriage system", and it was applied to everyone from the common people to the princes and nobles. As a result, the crown prince also lives with his mother from childhood, and when he grows up and becomes the emperor, the Waigong family where he grew up will become the capital.

As a result, several cities in Japan, including Nara, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Shiga, were temporarily located as the capital of Japan. Hyogo Prefecture, for example, is home to the World Heritage site Himeji Castle. During the reign of Emperor Ande in 1180 AD, the imperial Palace was set for the site and planned as the capital, which is related to Kiyosumi Hira, Emperor Ande's grandfather and one of Japan's most famous military generals.

But the Japanese capital most familiar to the public with its sense of history remains Kyoto. The capital of Kyoto dates back to Emperor Hwan Wu's relocation in 794 AD, when it was called "Heian Kyo". The overall urban construction here is based on feng shui theory and references to the Tang Dynasty's Chang 'an and Luoyang as blueprints. For the next 400 years, it was the center of the emperor's power and the hub of political, economic and cultural development until the shogunate took power in 1192. This period centered on Heungyeong is called the Heungyeong Period in history.

From Kyoto to Edo

At the end of the Heian period, real power also began to be controlled by the shogunate, with the emperor as the nominal head of state and Kyoto as the symbolic capital. This was not changed until Emperor Meiji moved to Tokyo in 1868.

Tokyo, formerly known as Edo, is located in Kanto and is also the center of the Japanese islands. Therefore, it had a favorable geographical position for development and developed rapidly in the late Heian Period. In 1585, Toyotomi Hideyoshi conquered the world and divided the vassals. At that time, Tokugawa Ieyasu was sealed to the Kanto region, so Edo was used as a base for development.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi left a huge power after his death, but also triggered a group of male hegemony, the final winner is Tokugawa Ieyasu. In 1603, he was appointed by the emperor to be the Grand General of the Emperor, and he began to take power in effect, and the status of Edo rose accordingly. Through the development and construction of successive generals, it gradually became a rival city to Kyoto. And in the Tokugawa family rule period, also based on the "Edo era".

In 1853, American warships appeared in the port of Uraga, forcing the Tokugawa shogunate to open its doors. This history of the famous "black ship incident", so that Japan produced a tremendous change. Since the authority of the shogunate was in decline during this period, the local vassals joined forces with the revolutionaries to push for the "big government reversion", which was to return the actual control of the shogunate to the emperor. Emperor Meiji, who succeeded him in 1868, was able to declare the end of the shogunate era and formally take over the REINS of state power. The last general, Tokugawa Keiki, also surrendered Edo and power without resistance to avoid civil war, which is known as bloodless Kaesong in history.

Vague and ambiguous "capital"

However, the Kanto region, where Edo is located, was not only dominated by the old power of the shogunate, but also a hub of politics and economy. In order to remove any remaining influence, the emperor immediately changed the name of Edo to "Tokyo" and moved the imperial family and government offices there, making Tokyo the de facto capital. But the emperor's base at that time was still, in a sense, Kyoto. And not to disappoint traditionalists. When the emperor comes to Tokyo, he says this is "koyuki," which means to stay temporarily. And because the emperor travels back and forth between Kyoto and Tokyo to accommodate residents on both sides, it is not particularly clear which is the real capital, in order to achieve harmony in the blurred space. The decision to set the capital has been put on hold.

With the Meiji Restoration, Japan quickly transformed into a modern country, and Tokyo also developed into the largest metropolis in Asia. But even so, there is still no legal provision or legal basis to establish that "Tokyo is the capital of Japan". In 1950, the Capital Construction Law was enacted to establish Tokyo as the capital city, but it lasted only six years before being repealed. The subsequent Act on Capital Area Restoration designated Tokyo and its surrounding areas as the capital area, the center of politics, economy, and culture in Japan.

There is no legal definition, but Tokyo's status as the capital is indisputable. It is home not only to the central government but also to foreign embassies. Traditionally, the emperor must take the throne in Kyoto, but both Heisei and Reiwa took place in Tokyo. It is also a sign that Tokyo has become a literal capital, and an implicit imperial statement. Whether the name is correct, it does not harm its practical significance and status.

Indeed, in the eyes of the law, Japan has no capital.

This capital thing, does it have to be a law?

There are nearly 200 countries in the world, and we can go over their constitutions and laws. You'll find that most countries don't have a capital in their constitution. Some countries do not even have a formal constitution or a law to determine the location of the capital.

For example, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and other countries, do not specify the location of the capital in the constitution. Are you going to question that Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, etc. are not the capitals of these countries?

So the saying that Japan doesn't have a capital is just a play on words. In the absence of a law, in fact, a country's capital is wherever its central government is. Apparently, Tokyo fits the definition of a capital, as the "conventional" capital of Japan.

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