The Evolution of Tokyo and the Current Appearance of Hiroshige’s "Famous Views"

Soon after Hiroshige’s series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo was published in 1859, Japan experienced dramatic social and political change. In 1867, the shogun was overthrown. The following year, Emperor Meiji (1852–1912) was declared the national ruler. Edo, his new home, was renamed Tokyo, and his residence, Edo Castle, was thereafter called the Imperial palace.

Tokyo’s population rose from 1,150,000 to 2.0 million in the latter half of the 19th century. Urban development proceeded accordingly, but in the first half of the 20th century, such catastrophes as the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 and bombings during the Pacific War severely crippled the capital’s infrastructure. In 1945, Japan’s economy began to recover, and by 1964, when Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympic Games, the city’s population had soared to 10 million. The "bubble economy" of the 1980s intensified urban development, and though the economy collapsed in 1990, construction of skyscrapers in some parts of the capital still continues today.

The video displayed here employs Google Maps to indicate the current appearance of sites featured in Hiroshige’s series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1856–59).