The current capital of Japan is Tokyo. In the course of history, the national capital has been in many locations other than Tokyo.
Capital of Japan Wikipedia
Traditionally, the home of the Emperor is considered the capital. From 794 through 1868, the Emperor lived in Heian-kyō, modern-day Kyoto. After 1868, the seat of the Government of Japan and the location of the Emperor's home was moved to Tokyo.
In 1941, the Ministry of Education published the "designation of Tokyo as capital" (東京奠都, Tōkyō-tento).
While no laws have designated Tokyo as the Japanese capital, many laws have defined a "capital area" (首都圏, shuto-ken) that incorporates Tokyo. Article 2 of the Capital Area Consolidation Law (首都圏整備法) of 1956 states: "In this Act, the term 'capital area' shall denote a broad region comprising both the territory of Tokyo Metropolis as well as outlying regions designated by cabinet order." This clearly implies that the government has designated Tokyo as the capital of Japan, although (again) it is not explicitly stated, and the definition of the "capital area" is purposely restricted to the terms of that specific law.
Other laws referring to this "capital area" include the Capital Expressway Public Corporation Law (首都高速道路公団法) and the Capital Area Greenbelt Preservation Law (首都圏近郊緑地保全法).
This term for capital was never used to refer to Kyoto. Indeed, shuto came into use during the 1860s as a gloss of the English term "capital".
The Ministry of Education published a book called "History of the Restoration" in 1941. This book referred to the "designation of Tokyo as capital" (東京奠都, Tōkyō-tento) without talking about "moving the capital to Tokyo" (東京遷都, Tōkyō-sento). A contemporary history textbook states that the Meiji government "moved the capital (shuto) from Kyoto to Tokyo" without using the sento term.
As of 2007, there is a movement to transfer the government functions of the capital from Tokyo, with the Gifu-Aichi region, the Mie-Kio region and other regions submitting bids for it. Officially, the relocation is referred to as "capital functions relocation" instead of "capital relocation", or as "relocation of the Diet and other organizations".
This list of legendary capitals of Japan begins with the reign of Emperor Jimmu. The names of the Imperial palaces are in parentheses.
- Kashiwabara, Yamato at the foot of Mt. Unebi during reign of Emperor Jimmu
- Kazuraki, Yamato during reign of Emperor Suizei
- Katashiha, Kawachi during the reign of Emperor Annei
- Karu, Yamato during reign of Emperor Itoku.
- Waki-no-kami, Yamato during the reign of Emperor Kōshō
- Muro, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kōan
- Kuruda, Yamato during the reign of Emperor Kōrei
- Karu, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kōgen
- Izakaha, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kaika
- Shika, Yamato (Palace of Mizugaki) during reign of Emperor Sujin
- Shika, Yamato (Palace of Tamagaki) during reign of Emperor Suinin
- Makimuko, Yamato (Palace of Hishiro) during reign of Emperor Keikō
- Shiga, Ōmi (Palace of Takaanaho) during reign of Emperor Seimu
- Ando, Nara (Palace of Toyoura) and Kashiki on the island of Kyushu during reign of Emperor Chūai
This list of capitals includes the Imperial palaces names in parentheses.
Kofun periodKarushima, Yamato (Palace of Akira), reign of Emperor Ōjin
Naniwa, Settsu (Palace of Takatsu), reign of Emperor Nintoku
Iware, Yamato (Palace of Watasakura''), reign of Emperor Richū
Tajihi, Kawachi (Palace of Shibakaki), reign of Emperor Hanzei
Asuka, Yamato (Palace of Tohotsu), reign of Emperor Ingyō
Isonokami, Yamato (Palace of Anaho), reign of Emperor Ankō
Sakurai, Nara (Hatsuse no Asakura Palace), 457–479 in reign of Emperor Yūryaku
Sakurai, Nara (Iware no Mikakuri Palace), 480–484 in reign of Emperor Seinei
Asuka, Yamato (Chikatsu-Asuka-Yatsuri Palace), 485–487 in reign of Emperor Kenzō
Tenri, Nara (Isonokami Hirotaka Palace), 488–498 in reign of Emperor Ninken
Sakurai, Nara (Nimiki Palace), 499–506 in reign of Emperor Buretsu
Hirakata, Osaka (Kusuba Palace), 507–511
Kyōtanabe, Kyoto (Tsutsuki Palace), 511–518 in reign of Emperor Keitai
Nagaoka-kyō (Otokuni Palace), 518–526 in reign of Keitai
Sakurai, Nara (Iware no Tamaho Palace), 526–532 in reign of Keitai
Kashihara, Nara (Magari no Kanahashi Palace), 532–535 in reign of Emperor Ankan
Sakurai, Nara (Hinokuma no Iorino Palace), 535–539 in reign of Emperor Senka
Asuka periodAsuka, Yamato (Shikishima no Kanasashi Palace), 540–571 in reign of Emperor Kinmei
Kōryō, Nara (Kudara no Ohi Palace), 572–575
Sakurai, Nara (Osata no Sakitama Palace or Osada no Miya), 572–585 in reign of Emperor Bidatsu
Shiki District, Nara (Iwareikebe no Namitsuki Palace), 585–587 in the reign of Emperor Yōmei
Shiki District, Nara (Kurahashi no Shibagaki Palace), 587–592 in the reign of Emperor Sushun
Asuka, Yamato (Toyura Palace or Toyura-no-miya), 593–603 in the reign of Empress Suiko
Asuka, Yamato (Oharida Palace or Oharida-no-miya), 603–629 in the reign of Suiko
Asuka, Yamato (Okamoto Palace or Oakmoto-no-miya), 630–636 in the reign of Emperor Jomei
Kashihara, Nara (Tanaka Palace or Tanaka-no-miya), 636–639
Kōryō, Nara (Umayasaka Palace or Umayasaka-no-miya, 640
Kōryō, Nara (Kudara Palace or Kudara-no-miya), 640–642
Asuka, Yamato (Oharida Palace), 642–643
Asuka, Yamato (Itabuki Palace or Itabuki no miya), 643–645 in the reign of Empress Kōgyoku
Osaka (Naniwa-Nagara no Toyosaki Palace), 645–654 in the reign of Emperor Kōtoku
Asuka, Yamato (Itabuki Palace), 655–655 in the reign of Kōtoku
Asuka, Yamato (Kawahara Palace or Kawahara-no-miya), 655–655
Asuka, Yamato (Okamoto Palace or Nochi no Asuka-Okamoto-no-miya), 656–660 in the reign of Emperor Saimei
Asakura, Fukuoka (Asakura no Tachibana no Hironiwa Palace or Asakure no Tachibana no Hironiwa-no-miya), 660–661
Osaka, (Naniwa-Nagara no Toyosaki Palace), 661–667
Ōtsu, Shiga (Ōmi Ōtsu Palace or Ōmi Ōtsu-no-miya), 667–672 in reign of Emperor Tenji and the reign of Emperor Kōbun
Asuka, Yamato (Kiyomihara Palace or Kiomihara-no-miya), 672–694 in the reign of Emperor Tenmu and in the reign of Empress Jitō
Fujiwara-kyō (Fujiwara Palace), 694–710 in the reign of Emperor Monmu
Nara periodHeijō-kyō (Heijō Palace), 710–740 in the reigns of Empress Genmei, Empress Genshō, and Emperor Shōmu
Kuni-kyō (Kuni Palace), 740–744 in the reign of Shomu
Naniwa-kyō (Naniwa Palace), 744
Naniwa-kyō, Shigaraki Palace, 744–745
Heijō-kyō (Heijō Palace), 745–784
Nagaoka-kyō (Nagaoka Palace), 784–794 in the reign of Emperor Kanmu
Heian periodHeian-kyō (Heian Palace), 794–1180 in the reign of Kammu and others
Fukuhara Palace, 1180 in the reign of Emperor Antoku
Heian-kyō/Kyōto (Heian Palace), 1180–1868
Tōkyō (Kōkyo), 1868–present
Hiraizumi was the capital of totally independent Northern Fujiwara polity (Ōshū) based in Tōhoku region, having defeated Emishi tribes. This polity existed as Kyoto's internal politics prevented Kyoto's authority from 1100 to 1189.
Hakodate was the capital of the short lived Republic of Ezo (1869)
Shuri was the capital of Ryukyu Kingdom (1429–1879) and Urasoe was capital of Chuzan from at least 1350, which predated the Ryukyu Kingdom.