Edo-Tokyo Museum by: Lihau Fujihara & Brendan Woo

On March 30th, 2017, the Tomodachi KAKEHASHI Inouye scholars visited the Edo-Tokyo Museum located in the Ryogoku district. There, they learned more about the history of the Edo period, its people, and their way of life. The term Edo literally translates to “gateway to the bay.” Its government was formed in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu and it was ruled by the Tokugawa Shoguns for an astounding 250 years. The museum displays various replicas of different structures, objects, and artifacts that were based around the term Iki, which was an aesthetic ideal distinct to Edo. An example of our findings was the Nihonbashi Bridge (first two photos). They were designated as the focal point of the nation’s highways. Riverside quarters for merchants, rice brokers, and timber dealers, as well as the fish market, were established in the surrounding area. Another example that displayed the Edo Period’s unique history was the Kansen-dō (third and fourth photo), which was the façade of a bookshop that sold light fiction and illustrations. This area was crowded with shops providing Edo-produced fiction and woodcuts. One last example would be the Edo Hongokuchō (last photo), which was a bell that chimed every hour in Edo so that people could roughly tell the time. This bell ringer had the right to levy a so-called “bell usage money” tax from residents who lived within hearing distance of the bell at 4 mon per month. By the end of the Edo period, there were nine of these bells that existed.

This activity broadened our horizons because it gave us a chance to experience life as a citizen living during the Edo period. It taught us more about Japanese history and its culture, and how it came to be the way it is today. The most astonishing fact that we learned through this exhibit was finding out that Tokyo was actually named Edo up until 1869. Before entering the museum, we had no idea that Tokyo was once named something else, nor were we exposed to Tokyo’s history and its development over the years. Some connections we can draw between the Japanese and Hawaiian culture are that both cultures had different leaders for each of their territories/districts. For example, the Hawaiian culture (before King Kamehameha’s reign) had different chiefs that ruled each island and in the Japanese culture, they had the shoguns rule their own territories as well. Another similarity we noticed between the two cultures were that one of their main sources of food were fish. Since both Japan and Hawaii are surrounded by the ocean, seafood was a very important part of both cultures. Fishing was also a craft that was highly valued and practiced between both cultures, which is probably why it was easy for the Japanese immigrants to adapt to the culture in Hawaii.

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