Tokyo and the Imperial Palace
Since the Imperial Palace is nearly always closed, every
photographer stands here, or on the right side of the
bridge, trying for shot of the palace segment that is visible,
above a system of moats dating back to when they
protected the Shogun's huge castle. The historic buildings
were all destroyed by allied bombing in World War II.
A close-up of the 1968 palace built for Emperor Hirohito in a
traditional style. Tokyo, then called Edo, belonged to the
Tokugawa Shoguns, who ruled Japan from this site for over
250 years. The official capital remained at Kyoto, where the
figurehead Emperors lived.
Japan's long "period of seclusion" from the outside world
under the Shoguns started to crumble in 1853, when American
warships opened up trade by threat of force. The last Shogun,
was defenseless against the modern world, finally resigning in
1868, handing all power to the Emperor.
Emperor Meiji took over the Shogun's castle in Edo, renamed
Tokyo, which became Japan's new capital. The Meiji
Restoration was a period in which Japan rapidly modernized,
catching up with Europe militarily. This policy of copying
Imperial Germany and, to a lesser degree, the British Empire,
turned Japan into an aggressor state, invading its neighbors,
and forming an alliance with Hitler, leading to Japan's
ultimate defeat and devastation in World War II.
Samurai, who held high rank during the Tokugawa Shogunate,
were irrelevant and useless under the Meiji. They staged a
revolt, but were crushed by modern weaponry. Now samurai
armor and swords are on display at most castles and the Tokyo
National Museum, where this fierce warrior resides.