The City Rises: Civil Engineering and Aquaculture in Edo

The urban development of Edo began in the late 12th century with the construction of a modestly sized castle town by lord Edo Shigenaga (active c. 1180). The name of the town, Edojuku (literally, "the station of Lord Edo"), would later be shortened to Edo.

The castle of Edojuku, which was expanded in 1457 by the Buddhist priest Ōta Dōkan (1432–1486) and became the military headquarters of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616) in 1590, was unquestionably the most important landmark in Edo. Because censorship laws forbade the publication of artworks that referred to government officials, however, Hiroshige was forced to exclude Edo Castle from his series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1856–59).

Beside the castle, one of the most distinct physical characteristics about Edo City was its maze of waterways. Many "famous views" in Hiroshige’s series depict this aquatic infrastructure. Civil engineers actively improved upon nature by digging additional canals and reservoirs, reclaiming vast areas of land, and constructing a network of bridges. In order to save Edo residents the trouble of traveling beyond the city limits, they even constructed replicas of "famous views" from other provinces, such as Mount Fuji.