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.

The Japanese National Anthem

Kimigayo(His Majesty's Reign*

Latin Transliteration

Kimi gayo wa
Chiyo ni yachiyo ni
Sazare ishi no
Iwao to nari te
Koke no musu made


Thousands of years of happy reign be thine;
Rule on, my lord, till what are pebbles now
By age united to mighty rocks shall grow
Who's venerable sides the moss doth line.

*The playing of this anthem has become the subject of some controversy since it seems to suggest worship of the emperor and the related militarism that led to World War II. I compromise here by only playing it on the Tokyo (Edo) page.

Tokyo (Edo)

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.


Elvis impersonators often peform here,
Harajuku Park, on Saturdays mornings.

The Tokyo anthropological museum.

The Tama River runs not far from my apartment.

This shows typical Japanese apartment buildings.

Typical low-level homes dot the tracks.

The sun sets near Fussa City, my suburb.

Another view shows that typically the Japanese
don't build too high for fear of earthquakes.

The fountain in central Ueno, a suburb.

Don't you love these concept pictures?

President Grant once visited this
park after the Mejii Restoration.

During April, after the cold but before the humidity, the cherry blossoms come out, and everyone goes to see them. The "sakura" bloom and die with the rain, a persistent symbol of human life in Japanese poetry.

Everyone climbs a mountain or so in Japan Mount
Takao supposedly ranks as the third highest.

Okay, I also climbed Mt. Fuji, but I
don't have the pictures to prove it.

This shows the view from the top.

Japanese girls seldom wear kimonos these
days except for ceremonial occasions.


This famous bridge predates the site.

This shows the Japanese talent
for blending art and nature.

A statue of one of the site's governors greets visitors.

The local Tokugawa magnate lived in this villa.

The Entrance Hall easily impresses.

This offers another view of the main shrine.

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.

Yet another set of lanterns.

Again note the relative ornateness.

The Tokugawas left no burial stone unturned.
Here, a local shrine also honors the man.

Ceremonial drums.

Okay, they still haven't convinced me yet.

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

Other Links:
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