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The large, bustling, busy capital of modern-day Japan is Tokyo. Before the consolidation of warring feudal lords and the emergence of the emperor as a central leadership figure in the 19th century, Tokyo was known as Edo, the capital off the Tokugawa shogunate. Chosen both for its central geographic location and position on the eastern coast of the home island of Honshu and former ties to the ruling Tokugawa clan, Tokyo beat out the former imperial capital of Kyoto when the emperor moved in 1868.

The relatively recent move highlights that despite having an ancient dynasty and long history, the concept of Japan as a unified, industrial nation state—exemplified by its high-tech capital of Tokyo—is a relatively modern occurrence. Tokyo and its various bureaucratic institutions coincide with Japan’s breakout onto the international scene at the turn of the 20th century, when the emperor was finally able to supersede the authority of the shogunate, finalizing nearly a millennium of Japanese infighting and consolidation.

 

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