Girish Mahajan

Capital of Japan

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Capital of Japan

The current capital of Japan is Tokyo. In the course of history, the national capital has been in many locations other than Tokyo.


Map of Tokyo, Japan


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).

Law and custom

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.

  1. Kashiwabara, Yamato at the foot of Mt. Unebi during reign of Emperor Jimmu
  2. Kazuraki, Yamato during reign of Emperor Suizei
  3. Katashiha, Kawachi during the reign of Emperor Annei
  4. Karu, Yamato during reign of Emperor Itoku.
  5. Waki-no-kami, Yamato during the reign of Emperor Kōshō
  6. Muro, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kōan
  7. Kuruda, Yamato during the reign of Emperor Kōrei
  8. Karu, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kōgen
  9. Izakaha, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kaika
  10. Shika, Yamato (Palace of Mizugaki) during reign of Emperor Sujin
  11. Shika, Yamato (Palace of Tamagaki) during reign of Emperor Suinin
  12. Makimuko, Yamato (Palace of Hishiro) during reign of Emperor Keikō
  13. Shiga, Ōmi (Palace of Takaanaho) during reign of Emperor Seimu
  14. 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 period

  • Karushima, 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 period

  • Asuka, 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 period

  • Heijō-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 period

  • Heian-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
  • Capitals in present day Japan

  • 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.
  • References

    Capital of Japan Wikipedia

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