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Edo Period Tokyo Special Feature

Japan’s capital city of Tokyo was originally known as Edo, in a period running from about 400 years ago to 135 years ago. In this special feature, we have gathered a collection of products that retain the spirit and/or techniques of the Edo period.

The Edo world of Tokyo’s 400 year-old past

What comes to mind when you think of Japan? Things like samurai, ukiyo-e, ninja, kimono, or kabuki…? Most of these things are traditional products of the arts and traditions of the Edo period. This time we will take you on a trip from modern Tokyo back to the Edo of centuries past in order to introduce you to goods which show off the exotic qualities of that ancient era.

  • Spring: Relaxing among the cherry blossom trees, from Edo to the modern day

    Spring: Relaxing among the cherry blossom trees, from Edo to the modern day

    Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, was originally a pastime of the upper class. With the Edo period it also slowly evolved into something that the common people could enjoy as well. The modern areas of Ueno, Sumidazutsumi, Asukayama and the Gotenyama area of Shinagawa were some of the most famous sightseeing spots. The cherry blossoms at that time were called wild cherry blossoms, which bloomed in such a way that their cherry blossoms and leaves were mixed. The appearance in full bloom of the modern cherry blossoms, such as the Yoshino cherry tree, has changed quite a bit from the cherry blossom trees of old.

  • Summer: Seeing Japan's beloved fireworks festivals, which began in the Edo period

    Summer: Seeing Japan’s beloved fireworks festivals, which began in the Edo period

    In July and August, a great number of fireworks festivals are held across Japan. As for annual fireworks festivals held in Tokyo, the most well-known one is the Sumida Fireworks Festival. In the Edo period, the Sumida Fireworks Festival was the genesis of the modern idea of the Japanese fireworks festival, with this event spreading all across Japan from where it was first held. Even now, when the fireworks go off at these festivals, you can hear people shouting ‘Tamaya’ or ‘Kagiya’, which are the names of the stores that manufactured those fireworks. There is a great competitive spirit between these fireworks businesses, so they show their passion for their products by calling out the store names.

  • Autumn: Enjoying watching the changing autumn leaves

    Autumn: Enjoying watching the changing autumn leaves

    Kaianji Temple in Shinagawa and Shotoji Temple in Asakusa were popular spots for viewing autumn leaves.In the traditional Japanese calendar, the old name for October is ‘Kannazuki’, or ‘the month without gods’. This is the month in which all of the gods in Japan were believed to gather in Izumo, making this the month where there were no gods around. Therefore, this was a month in which shrine festivals were rarely held even in Edo. In place of holding those kinds of events, people spent this time enjoying the changing of the autumn leaves.

  • Winter: Finding ways to beat the freezing cold

    Winter: Finding ways to beat the freezing cold

    The Tokyo area may not get that much snow in the winter, but it can still get very cold with constant freezing winds to boot. Since this kind of cold could also be experienced in the Edo period, people at the time warmed themselves with tools such as hibachi, kotatsu and fire. The Edo period was a time in which excessive luxuries were easier banned or looked down upon, but through methods like these, the common people discovered how to continue to enjoy themselves through a variety of methods.

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