Akasaka Azabu

What did the Japanese call Tokyo?
  • Date Published: May 16, 2024

What the Japanese refer to as Tokyo has been a topic of fascination and inquiry for a long time. Overtime, Tokyo has been known by several different names in Japanese throughout its significant history. In this piece, we will dig into the past documents and cultural indications to get to the bottom of the puzzle of what the Japanese named Tokyo.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Japanese name for Tokyo has evolved over time.
  • From its origins as Edo, Tokyo’s name has changed multiple times.
  • Present-day Tokyo is commonly referred to as “東京” (Tōkyō).
  • The name “Tōkyō” translates to “Eastern Capital.”
  • Tokyo’s modern Japanese title reflects its status as the capital of Japan.

The Evolution of Tokyo’s Name in Japanese Language

Tokyo, the bustling capital of Japan, has a rich history that is closely intertwined with its name. Throughout the centuries, the city has undergone several name changes, each reflecting the cultural and political transformations it has experienced. Let’s dive into the fascinating evolution of Tokyo’s name in the Japanese language.

The city, originally known as Edo, was established as a small fishing village in the 12th century. It wasn’t until the 16th century that Edo emerged as a significant political and cultural hub under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. During this period, the city’s name was often written as “江戸” in Japanese, which translates to “estuary” or “calm bay.”

Historical Period Japanese Name Meaning
Edo Period (1603-1868) 江戸 Estuary; Calm Bay
Meiji Period (1868-1912) 東京 Eastern Capital
Post-WWII Era 東京 Eastern Capital

With the onset of the Meiji Period in 1868, Japan underwent a period of rapid modernization and Westernization. As part of this transformation, Edo was renamed Tokyo, which translates to “Eastern Capital.” This change aimed to signify Japan’s shift towards becoming a modern nation with global significance.

“Tokyo represents the epitome of Japan’s progress, both economically and culturally. The name change from Edo to Tokyo reflects the city’s transformation from a feudal capital to a modern metropolis, and symbolizes Japan’s aspirations for the future.”

Since then, Tokyo has retained its name, serving as a testament to the city’s enduring significance as the political, economic, and cultural heart of Japan. As Tokyo continues to evolve and shape the country’s future, its name remains a powerful symbol of Japan’s history and ambitions.

Next, we will delve into the modern Japanese title of Tokyo and its implications on the city’s identity and global perception.

Tokyo’s Modern Japanese Title

In present-day Japan, Tokyo is commonly referred to as “東京” (Tōkyō), which translates to “Eastern Capital.” The name “Tōkyō” reflects the city’s status as the capital of Japan and its significance as a center of activity, commerce, and culture.

Tokyo’s modern Japanese name symbolizes its role as the vibrant heart of the nation. As the Eastern Capital, it represents the dynamic spirit and forward-thinking nature of the city. The title encapsulates the energy, innovation, and global influence that Tokyo possesses in today’s world.

When conversing in Japanese or referring to Tokyo in written form, “Tōkyō” is the most widely recognized and accepted term. It has become deeply ingrained in the cultural and linguistic fabric of Japan. Whether it is used in official documents, everyday conversations, or promotional materials, “Tōkyō” is the go-to name to identify the bustling capital.

While there are historical variations of Tokyo’s name in Japanese, including Edo and Tokei, the modern designation of “Tōkyō” has solidified its place in the nation’s vocabulary. This name serves as a testament to the city’s transformation, resilience, and ongoing prominence as a global metropolis.


What did the Japanese call Tokyo throughout its history?

Tokyo has undergone several name changes throughout history. From its early origins as Edo to the present-day Tokyo, the name has evolved alongside the city’s growth and cultural transformations.

What is Tokyo called in Japanese today?

In present-day Japan, Tokyo is commonly referred to as “東京” (Tōkyō), which translates to “Eastern Capital.” This name reflects the city’s status as the capital of Japan and its significance as a center of activity, commerce, and culture.

How has the name of Tokyo changed over time in the Japanese language?

The name of Tokyo has evolved from its early roots as Edo to the modern-day Tōkyō. The changes in the Japanese name for Tokyo correspond to the city’s historical developments and cultural shifts.

Why is Tokyo called the “Eastern Capital” in Japanese?

Tokyo is known as the “Eastern Capital” in Japanese because it serves as the capital of Japan, located on the eastern coast of the country. The name symbolizes Tokyo’s importance as the political and cultural hub of Japan’s eastern region.

What are some other names Tokyo has been called in Japanese?

Throughout its history, Tokyo has been referred to by various names in the Japanese language, including Edo, Tōkei, and Kyōto. These alternate names highlight different aspects of the city’s identity during specific periods.

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