Capital of Japan

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The current de facto capital of Japan is Tokyo.[1][2][3] In the course of history, the national capital has been in many locations other than Tokyo.


Traditionally, the home of the Emperor is considered the capital. From 794 through 1868, the Emperor lived in Heian-kyō, modern-day Kyoto.[4] [5] After 1868, the seat of the Government of Japan and the location of the Emperor's home was moved to Edo, which it renamed Tokyo.[6]

In 1941, the Ministry of Education published the "designation of Tokyo as capital" (東京奠都, Tōkyō-tento).[7]

Law and custom[edit]

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 the Tokyo Metropolis as well as outlying regions designated by cabinet order." This 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.[8]

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).[9]

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 "designating Tokyo as capital" (東京奠都, Tōkyō-tento) without talking about "relocating 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.[7]

As of 2007, there is a movement to transfer the government functions of the capital from Tokyo while retaining Tokyo as the de facto capital, with the Gifu-Aichi region, the Mie-Kio region and other regions submitting bids for a de jure capital. Officially, the relocation is referred to as "capital functions relocation" instead of "capital relocation", or as "relocation of the Diet and other organizations".[10][11]

In 2017, the Government of Japan decided to move the Agency for Cultural Affairs to Kyoto.[12][13]

List of capitals[edit]


This list of legendary capitals of Japan begins with the reign of Emperor Jimmu. The names of the Imperial palaces are in parentheses:

  1. Kashihara, Yamato at the foot of Mount Unebi during reign of Emperor Jimmu[14]
  2. Kazuraki, Yamato during reign of Emperor Suizei[15]
  3. Katashiha, Kawachi during the reign of Emperor Annei[15]
  4. Karu, Yamato during reign of Emperor Itoku.[16]
  5. Waki-no-kami, Yamato during the reign of Emperor Kōshō[17]
  6. Muro, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kōan[17]
  7. Kuruda, Yamato during the reign of Emperor Kōrei[17]
  8. Karu, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kōgen[17]
  9. Izakaha, Yamato during reign of Emperor Kaika[17]
  10. Shika, Yamato (Palace of Mizugaki) during reign of Emperor Sujin[18]
  11. Shika, Yamato (Palace of Tamagaki) during reign of Emperor Suinin[19]
  12. Makimuko, Yamato (Palace of Hishiro) during reign of Emperor Keikō[20]
  13. Shiga, Ōmi (Palace of Takaanaho) during reign of Emperor Seimu[21]
  14. Ando, Nara (Palace of Toyoura) and Kashiki on the island of Kyushu during reign of Emperor Chūai[21]


This list of capitals includes the Imperial palaces names in parentheses.

Kofun period

Traditional site of Kusuba-no-Miya Palace in Osaka Prefecture

Asuka period

1/1000 scale model of Fujiwara-kyō, held by Kashihara-shi Fujiwara-kyō reference room

Nara period

1/1000 scale model of Heijō-kyō, held by Nara City Hall

Heian period

1/1000 scale model of Heian-kyō, held by Kyoto City Heiankyo Sosei-Kan Museum

Medieval Japan and Early modern period (see also: History of Japan)

Modern Japan (see also: History of Japan)

Historical capitals[edit]

  • 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Facts about Japan". The Government of Japan. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  2. ^ "The World Factbook" (section "Government :: JAPAN"). CIA. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  3. ^ "Japan country profile". BBC News. 9 September 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  4. ^ Nussbaum, "Kyōto" at pp. 585-587.
  5. ^ Wendy, Frey. History Alive!: The Medieval World and beyond. Palo Alto, CA: Teacher's Curriculum Institute, 2005.
  6. ^ a b Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Tokyo", Japan Encyclopedia, pp. 981–982.
  7. ^ a b 国会等の移転ホームページ – 国土交通省. Retrieved on 2011-04-29.
  8. ^ 首都圏整備法 Archived 2016-05-23 at the Portuguese Web Archive. Retrieved on 2011-04-29.
  9. ^ 首都圏近郊緑地保全法 Archived 2005-03-01 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2011-04-29.
  10. ^ "Shift of Capital from Tokyo Committee". Japan Productivity Center for Socio-Economic Development. Archived from the original on August 25, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
  11. ^ "Policy Speech by Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara at the First Regular Session of the Metropolitan Assembly, 2003". Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Archived from the original on 2007-11-03. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  12. ^ "文化庁の機能強化・京都移転" [Enhancement of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and relocation to Kyoto] (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  13. ^ Hiroshi Kajiyama (August 7, 2018). 5th meeting of the Agency for Cultural Affairs Relocation Council (Speech) (in Japanese). MEXT. Archived from the original on August 11, 2018. Retrieved August 11, 2018. 文化首都とも言われる京都
  14. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1915). The Imperial Family of Japan, p. 1.
  15. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 2.
  16. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, pp. 2-3.
  17. ^ a b c d e Ponsonby-Fane, p. 3.
  18. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 4.
  19. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 5.
  20. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 6.
  21. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 7.
  22. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 8.
  23. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 9.
  24. ^ コトバンク「履中天皇」
  25. ^ コトバンク「反正天皇」
  26. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 10.
  27. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 12.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Koch, W. (1904). Japan; Geschichte nach japanischen Quellen und ethnographische Skizzen. Mit einem Stammbaum des Kaisers von Japan, p. 13.
  29. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 13.
  30. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 14; excerpt, "Mikaguri Palace"
  31. ^ Nussbaum, "Asuka" at p. 59.
  32. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 15.
  33. ^ "枚方八景 樟葉宮跡の杜" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  34. ^ "筒城宮伝承地(Tsutsuki-no-miya denshochi)" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  35. ^ "弟国宮(Otokuni-no-miya)遷都1500年記念事業" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  36. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 16.
  37. ^ a b c Ponsonby-Fane, p. 17; except, "Palace of Kanahashi at Magari, Yamato"
  38. ^ Brown, Delmer. (1979). Gukanshō, pp. 262–263; excerpt, "... palace was Osada no Miya of Iware in the province of Yamato."
  39. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 18.
  40. ^ Brown, p. 263; excerpt, "... palace was Namitsuki no Miya at Ikebe in the province of Yamato."
  41. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 19.
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Asuka Historical Museum, Palaces of the Asuka Period," 1995; retrieved 2011-11-25.
  43. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 20.
  44. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 21.
  45. ^ a b なにわ活性化プロジェクト (Naniwa Revialization Project)[permanent dead link], August 24, 201; retrieved 2011-11-24.
  46. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 23.
  47. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 24.
  48. ^ Nussbaum, "Ōtsu mo Miya" at p. 216.
  49. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 25.
  50. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 26.
  51. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 27.
  52. ^ Nussbaum, "Fujiwara" at pp. 200–201.
  53. ^ a b Nussbaum, "Heijō-kyō" at p. 304.
  54. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 28.
  55. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 29.
  56. ^ Nussbaum, "Kuni-kyō" at p. 574.
  57. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 30.
  58. ^ a b Nussbaum, "Naniwa" at p. 697.
  59. ^ Nussbaum, "Nagaoka-kyō" at p. 216–217.
  60. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, p. 34.
  61. ^ "長岡京とは" [About Nagaoka Palace] (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  62. ^ a b Nussbaum, "Heian-kyō" at pp. 303–304.
  63. ^ Nussbaum, "Fukuhara" at pp. 216.
  64. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, p. 37.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fiévé, Nicolas and Paul Waley. (2003). Japanese Capitals in Historical Perspective: Place, Power and Memory in Kyoto, Edo and Tokyo. New York: Psychology Press. ISBN 9780700714094

External links[edit]

Media related to Capital of Japan at Wikimedia Commons