Japan Tour 4: Tokyo and Nikko
I lived in Tokyo for almost eight years (1990-1998) at Yokota Air Force Base. I'd better not talk too much about that, or I might have to shoot you. Anyway, during that time, I visited various parts of Tokyo as day trips, so these pictures date from different times except for the Nikko pictures.
As mentioned in Tour 1, the Kansai plain, that includes Tokyo and Yokohama can outproduce any other area in Japan in terms of food production. Therefore, it makes logical sense to put the capital here. However, Tokyo lagged behind the more cultured Western part of the country due to (1) its harsher climate (2) its further distance from cultured nations such as China and Korea. Tokyo finally emerged as the strongest part of Japan under Iaesu Tokugawa. He served Hideyoshi Toyotomi (see Tour 3: Osaka, Kobe, and Okayama) as first his ally and later his second-in-command but always retained personal control of the rich Kanto Plain. Finally, after his victory over the Toyotomis, he moved the capital of the shogunate, but not the emperor (who still remained an honored prisoner in Kyoto), to Edo, his personal capital. People typically think of the Tokugawa era as a backward time in Japanese history. The Tokugawas virtually banned all trade with the rest of the world as well as making firearms illegal. They only allowed foreigners entry into Japan through Nagasaki. The Japanese themselves, however, don't always see the Tokugawa era as that bad. A more balanced appraisal sees this time as "Feudalism done right." The shoguns, for example, avoided the perils of Civil War through several smart measures, the ban on firearms certainly one of the smartest. They ruled through feudal lords, but required that the family of each lord stay in Edo as hostages whenever the noble returned to the countryside, which cut down on rebellion. The local samurai, cultured as their predecessors in Heian (see Tour 1: Nara and Kyoto) kept tight order in the provinces, particularly in terms of numbers because rampant over-population could ruin a country of Japan's limited resources. The Tokugawas kept Japan stable, if backward, which may explain the slew of Samurai movies that rival American Westerns in their attempts to recreate a favorite past. The arrival of the American fleet doomed the Tokugawas. The reformers, nobles to a one, effectively made their new government a Constitutional monarchy and encouraged the worship of emperor. By no means, however, did they intend to let the "god" rule. Instead, he became a celebrated, worshipped prisoner in Edo, which they renamed "Toyko," ("east capital") instead of Kyoto. It tells you something about the samurai class that in a generation (1853-1870s) they converted from cultured warriors to aggressive businessmen capable of launching a modern industrial state. Their beliefs in loyalty, hard-work, and education, continue to color Japan's business "warrior" ethic today. So Tokyo isn't all that different from Edo.
After the Tokugawa conquest, Iaesu's descendants wanted to honor his memory. Therefore, they built a large site dedicated to him. In a way, it pastiches all of the Japanese landmarks of the past and adds a new level of glitter and show typically absent from Japanese monuments. If you've taken all the previous tours, nothing will surprize you about this site, except the apparently conscious attempt to invoke the past for a political purpose.
The style of this pagoda obviously relates to that of the Nara pagoda's in Tour 1: Nara and Kyoto but with more baroque decoration and panache.
The symbol of the Tokugawas, the three monkeys: "see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil." This motto well suits a shogunate family that filled its castle with creaky boards to hinder potential assassins.
Rich people stay at this nearbye inn but not poor government servants like me. I had to take the train back to my cheap, government-supplied housing.
Related Japanese Tours:
Back to Tour 3: Osaka, Kobe, and Okayama
On to Tour 5: Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, and Shikoku
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