Rivers of Edo-Tōkyō

Edo-Tōkyō no Kasen
(Rivers of Edo-Tōkyō)

For those of you who are new to the blog, I sometimes make really bad decisions. These bad decisions usually result in epic expositions on ridiculously obscure topics. They destroy my personal life and suck the life out of me in terms of research. But whatever, I love every minute of it. I did a series on the Rivers of Edo-Tōkyō and while long-time readers know it, new readers may not be. So I’ve put everything together in one place for future reference.

The original hamlet of Edo was given life by its location in Edo Bay[i], but also by the powerful rivers that flowed out into that bay. Local strongmen, then nobles, warlords, and eventually the shōguns themselves took advantage of the water. They used existing rivers to create moats for defense. They connected rivers to create water-based highways. The Tokugawa shōgunate did both of these, and expanded the river networks for commerce. Many people say Edo was the “Venice of the East.” I’m sad to say that today, precious little exists of Edo’s vast network of rivers.

I chose 7 major rivers in Tōkyō and tried to tell their story. I thought it would be easy. It turned out to be a serious son of bitch. I almost abandoned the series by the 2nd or 3rd article. That said, I’m happy to say, I finished the entire series.

It’s probably one of the most important series I’ve done on this blog, although it’s as rough a read as a topic. Tōkyō isn’t a river city today. But the former rivers, channels, and moats make up many of the modern roads, twists and turns of streets, and contribute to many of the place names.

Because the rivers are so important to understanding the history of Edo-Tōkyō, I wanted to bookmark this series here as a reference.


My silly rationale for starting this series!


The Sumida River


The Tone River


The Arakawa River


The Kanda River


The Tama River


The Edo River


The Meguro River

[i] Now Tōkyō Bay

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