Edo Castle

Edo Castle
Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
Edo P detail.jpg
Edo Castle with surrounding residential palaces and moats, from a 17th-century screen painting.
Site information
Controlled byImperial Household Agency
ConditionMostly ruins, parts reconstructed after World War II. Site today of Tokyo Imperial Palace.
Site history
Built byŌta Dōkan, Tokugawa Ieyasu
In use1457–1868, then 1868–1873
Materialsgranite stone, earthwork, wood
DemolishedThe tenshu (keep) was destroyed by fire in 1657, most of the rest was destroyed by another major fire on 5 May 1873. In use as Tokyo Imperial Palace.
Garrison information
OccupantsTokugawa shōguns, Japanese emperors and imperial family since the Meiji era
Aerial view of the inner grounds of Edo Castle, today the location of Tokyo Imperial Palace

Edo Castle (江戸城, Edo-jō), also known as Chiyoda Castle (千代田城, Chiyoda-jō), is a flatland castle that was built in 1457 by Ōta Dōkan. It is today part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace and is in Chiyoda, Tokyo, then known as Edo, Toshima District, Musashi Province.[1] Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa shogunate here. It was the residence of the shōgun and location of the shogunate, and also functioned as the military capital during the Edo period of Japanese history. After the resignation of the shōgun and the Meiji Restoration, it became the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Some moats, walls and ramparts of the castle survive to this day. However, the grounds were more extensive during the Edo period, with Tokyo Station and the Marunouchi section of the city lying within the outermost moat. It also encompassed Kitanomaru Park, the Nippon Budokan Hall and other landmarks of the surrounding area.[2]


Map of Edo Castle grounds around 1849 (click to see legend)
1)Ōoku 2)Naka-Oku 3)Omote 4)Ninomaru-Goten 5)Ninomaru 6)Momiji-yama 7)Nishinomaru 8)Fukiage 9)Kitanomaru 10)? 11)Sannomaru 12)Nishinomaru-shita 13)Ōte-mae 14)Daimyō-Kōji

The warrior Edo Shigetsugu built his residence in what is now the Honmaru and Ninomaru part of Edo Castle, around the end of the Heian or beginning of the Kamakura period. The Edo clan left in the 15th century as a result of uprisings in the Kantō region, and Ōta Dōkan, a retainer of the Ogigayatsu Uesugi family, built Edo Castle in 1457.

The castle later came under the control of the Later Hōjō clan in 1524 after the Siege of Edo.[3] The castle was vacated in 1590 due to the Siege of Odawara. Tokugawa Ieyasu made Edo Castle his base after he was offered eight eastern provinces by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.[1] He later defeated Toyotomi Hideyori, son of Hideyoshi, at the Siege of Osaka in 1615, and emerged as the political leader of Japan. Tokugawa Ieyasu received the title of Sei-i Taishōgun in 1603, and Edo became the center of Tokugawa's administration.

Initially, parts of the area were lying under water. The sea reached the present Nishinomaru area of Edo Castle, and Hibiya was a beach.[clarification needed] The landscape was changed for the construction of the castle.[4] Most construction started in 1593 and was completed in 1636 under Ieyasu's grandson, Tokugawa Iemitsu. By this time, Edo had a population of 150,000.[5]

The existing Honmaru, Ninomaru, and Sannomaru areas were extended with the addition of the Nishinomaru, Nishinomaru-shita, Fukiage, and Kitanomaru areas. The perimeter measured 16 km.

The shōgun required the daimyōs to supply building materials or finances, a method shogunate used to keep the powers of the daimyōs in check. Large granite stones were moved from afar, the size and number of the stones depended on the wealth of the daimyōs. The wealthier ones had to contribute more. Those who did not supply stones were required to contribute labor for such tasks as digging the large moats and flattening hills. The earth that was taken from the moats was used as landfill for sea-reclamation or to level the ground. Thus the construction of Edo Castle laid the foundation for parts of the city where merchants were able to settle.

At least 10,000 men were involved in the first phase of the construction and more than 300,000 in the middle phase.[6] When construction ended, the castle had 38 gates. The ramparts were almost 20 meters high and the outer walls were 12 meters high. Moats forming roughly concentric circles were dug for further protection. Some moats reached as far as Ichigaya and Yotsuya, and parts of the ramparts survive to this day. This area is bordered by either the sea or the Kanda River, allowing ships access.

Ukiyo-e print depicting the assault of Asano Naganori on Kira Yoshinaka in the Matsu no Ōrōka in 1701

Various fires over the centuries damaged or destroyed parts of the castle, Edo and the majority of its buildings being made of timber.

On April 21, 1701, in the Great Pine Corridor (Matsu no Ōrōka) of Edo Castle, Asano Takumi-no-kami drew his short sword and attempted to kill Kira Kōzuke-no-suke for insulting him. This triggered the events involving the forty-seven rōnin.

After the capitulation of the shogunate in 1867, the inhabitants and shōgun had to vacate the premises. The castle compound was renamed Tokyo Castle (東京城, Tōkei-jō)[7] in October, 1868, and then renamed Imperial Castle (皇城, Kōjō) in 1869. In the year Meiji 2 (1868), on the 23rd day of the 10th month of the Japanese calendar the emperor moved to Tokyo and Edo castle became an imperial palace.[8]

A fire consumed the old Edo Castle on the night of May 5, 1873. The area around the old donjon, which burned in the 1657 Meireki fire, became the site of the new Imperial Palace Castle (宮城, Kyūjō), built in 1888. Some Tokugawa-period buildings which were still standing were destroyed to make space for new structures for the imperial government. The imperial palace building itself, however, was constructed in Nishinomaru Ward, not in the same location as the shōgun's palace in Honmaru Ward.

The site suffered substantial damage during World War II and in the destruction of Tokyo in 1945.

Today the site is part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The government declared the area an historic site and has undertaken steps to restore and preserve the remaining structures of Edo Castle.