Kyoto (also known as Miyako and Kyo-no-Miyako in Japanese) was the historical capital of Japan. Kyoto was also called Kyo, Keishi or Koto (imperial capital). Kyoto was formerly named Heian-kyo, which was designated Japan's capital in 794 and served as the political and cultural center of the country.
Origin of 'Kyoto'
In East Asia, the words 'Kyo' and 'Keishi' have historically been used as common nouns meaning 'city in which the emperor resides' and 'capital' since ancient times. In order to avoid using the character 'shi' which was the posthumous name of Shizong (Sima Shi), the city was later called 'Keito,' and other common names including 'Kyo,' 'Keishi' and 'Kyoto' subsequently came to be used.
The ancient capitals of Asuka-kyo and Kuni-kyo were also called Kyoto in Japan. Heian-kyo was also originally called Kyoto but the name became established during the latter part of the Heian period when both the names Kyo and Keishi were used. Kyo-no-Miyako,' 'Kyo' and 'Kyoto' later gradually became the proper nouns used to refer to the capital and their usage was established.
Kyoto and Rakuyo
In ancient times, Kyoto was frequently called names which included Kyoraku, Rakuchu and Rakuyo after Luoyang (Rakuyo in Japanese) which became the capital of imperial China.
Heian-kyo was originally divided into eastern and western sections, with the western side (Ukyo) called 'Choan' and the eastern side (Sakyo) called 'Rakuyo.'
However, Ukyo, otherwise known as the 'Choan' side, soon fell out of use due to its many wetland areas, leaving Sakyo, or 'Rakuyo' as it was also known, as the only urban area.
As a result, Kyoto came to be called 'Rakuyo.'
The act of going to Kyo-no-Miyako was called Jokyo or Joraku. Some still use the term 'Joraku suru' and 'Nyuraku suru' to refer to the act of visiting Kyoto from areas (including Tokyo) outside of Kyoto.
Relocation of the Capital to Heian-Kyo City
Kyoto has a history going back over 1000 years to the year 794 when the capital was relocated to the city of Heian-kyo by Emperor Kanmu following the establishment of the capital in Nagaoka-kyo City in 784. There are various theories regarding the reasons for the relocation of the capital city to Kyoto. These theories include the assassination of FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu who was responsible for the construction of Nagaoka-kyo, the intention to escape the influence of temples of Nara, and the desire to escape the capital of Emperor Tenmu and create a capital for Emperor Tenji. Heian-kyo was designed according to the principles of Chinese feng shui; surrounded by mountains on all sides with the Kamo-gawa River (the Yodo-gawa River system) in the east and the Katsura-gawa River (the Yodo-gawa River system) in the west which both meander southward. The inner city was divided into rectangular sections as found in castle towns. Present-day Senbon-dori Street corresponds to the original Suzaku-dori Street, immediately north of which stood Mt. Funaoka. As the Ritsuryo System (a system of centralized government based on the Ritsuryo Code) declined during the Heian period, the city gradually expanded beyond its original area to become centered around the Kamo-gawa River and the Kyoto Imperial Palace of the Daidairi (Greater Imperial Palace), and developed economically.
The imperial court of Kyoto fulfilled a political function during the Kamakura period but Kyoto came to function more as a financial city as the imperial court allowed the Kamakura-dono (lord of Kamakura) who was gaining control over the eastern part of Japan to appoint shugo (provincial constables) and jito (managers and lords of a manor) in 1185. In the wake of the Jokyu War, the Kamakura bakufu established Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto) in Kyo, and monitored the power held by court nobles. In the late Kamakura period, Takauji ASHIKAGA destroyed the Rokuhara Tandai of Kyoto, and after the collapse of the bakufu, the Kenmu Restoration was initiated by Emperor Godaigo in Kyo. Takauji, who distanced himself from the restoration, subsequently established the Northern Court (Japan), and numerous battles for control of Kyoto broke out during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) (following the division into the Northern Court and Southern Court, the Southern Court (Japan) occupied Kyoto on four occasions but was repelled by the Ashikaga army within a short space of time).
Establishment of the Muromachi bakufu
While the establishment of the Muromachi bakufu in Kyo during the Muromachi period following the decline of the Southern Court led to the revival of Kyoto as a political city, it also achieved economic development and a tradition of self-governance by influential citizens called machishu (merchant class) arose. Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA built a residence called Hana no Gosho (literally, Flower Palace) in Kitakoji Muromachi (Kamigyo Ward), which was used as a residence by the Shogun family until it was burned down during to the Onin War, and Ashikaga Shogun were also called as 'Muromachi-dono' after the residence.
Sengoku Period (period of warring states) and Azuchi-Momoyama Period
During the Onin War which was the start of the Sengoku period, the city, in particular the majority of the northern side, was destroyed by fire and would later frequently become embroiled in conflict.
During this period, Kyoto was divided into Kamigyo (the northern part of capital) and Shimogyo (the southern part of capital), and each part was surrounded by 'fortifications.'
It is said that fields were located between Kamigyo and Shimogyo, and the two parts were connected only by Muromachi-dori Street. Kyoto was subsequently revived under the protection of Nobunaga ODA and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and by the efforts of the machishu. Hideyoshi's urban reconstruction was of a particularly large scale and led to the construction of Jurakudai (Hideyoshi's residence and office in Kyoto) and Bukemachi (a samurai residential district), the repair of the Dairi (Imperial Palace), and the construction of Kugemachi (a court noble village) and Teramachi (temple district) in order to assemble the temples which were once scattered throughout central Kyoto. These structures can still often be seen to this day (refer to Tensho no Jiwari (land allotment system in the Tensho era)).
Establishment of the Edo bakufu
On March 24, 1603, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA was appointed seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), and the center of politics was relocated to Edo along with the establishment of the Edo bakufu. However, Kyoto remained the capital, and Nijo-jo Castle was built as a base for the bakufu in Kyoto. As a center of culture and the industrial arts, Kyoto had a population exceeding 500,000 and flourished as a city that ranked behind only the political center of Edo and the financial center of Osaka. The Edo bakufu also placed Kyoto under its direct control by creating the posts of Kyoto shoshidai (Kyoto deputy), and Kyoto machi-bugyo (town magistrate of Kyoto).
Establishment of Tokyo and the Emperor's move to the East
The restoration of imperial rule on November 9, 1867 saw the bakufu relinquish sovereignty to the Imperial Court in Kyoto, and a new government was formed. Kyoto Prefecture was established. However, so that the Imperial Court could directly supervise the politics of Edo, the city was renamed Tokyo and became visited by and resided in by the emperor (Tokyo Gyoko; the emperor's visit to Tokyo), while the Daijokan (Grand Council of State) was also relocated (refer to Tokyo Tento (transfer of the national capital to Tokyo)). The period of time before the emperor returned to Kyoto grew longer, and in 1877 Emperor Meiji ordered the preservation of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
In 1879, the two wards of Kamigyo and Shimogyo were established in Kyoto under the Gun-ku-cho-son Henseiho (an act for the organization of the administrative divisions), and in 1889, Kamigyo Ward and Shimogyo Ward became 'Kyoto City' under the jurisdiction of the prefecture. Due to the fact that modern-day Kyoto City was formed by merging surrounding cities, towns and villages which included Fushimi City, the area of the traditional pre-Edo period 'Kyoto' accounts for only part of modern-day Kyoto City (the area extending to Keihoku Town was formerly part of Kuwata District in Tanba Province). As was the case for Tokyo, Kyoto also consisted mostly of agricultural land until the pre-war era.
Kyoto is currently one of the best sightseeing cities in the world. The city contains the headquarters of many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Since the majority of the current information plaques for famous places and historic sites were installed based on assumptions after the Meiji Restoration, they do not necessarily correspond to the actual locations.
Kyoto as a Capital City
The city of Kyoto maintains a special function as a result of the Former Imperial House Act which stipulated that 'the Sokui no rei (enthronement ceremony) and Daijosai (first ceremonial offering of rice by newly-enthroned Emperor) be held in Kyoto' and the fact that the Takamikura (imperial throne) is housed at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which mean that Kyoto remains a capital even after the emperor has departed for Tokyo. However, it is also true that Kyoto lost its function as a capital after the Meiji period, and the arguments regarding its status as a capital are complicated.
Some maintain the opinion that 'Kyoto is still the capital.'
Examples of such opinions are given below.
Both Kyoto and Tokyo are capitals because Kyoto as a common noun means capital while Tokyo means eastern capital.
Kyoto City remains the capital because the Takamikura, which indicates the Emperor's residence, is still housed in the Kyoto Imperial Palace (the capital city of Japan is determined not by the location of the government but by the place in which the Takamikura is housed).
Because there has never been a shochoku (imperial edict) for the transfer of the national capital to Tokyo, there has been no change to the fact that Kyoto is officially the capital of Japan even now while the imperial system continues.
One problem with this argument is that, although Kyoto means capital, the term capital mainly came to be used after the Second World War, and is not defined or specified by any laws or ordinances. Please refer to The Capital of Japan.
Rakuchu, Rakugai and Kyochu
From around the time of Heian-kyo, the Sakyo area, which became the basis for the subsequent city of Kyoto, was called 'Rakuyo' after the Tang Dynasty Chinese capital Luoyang (Rakuyo in Japanese), and the area within the city was called Rakuchu, while the outside area was called Hendo (remote region) and later called Rakugai (refer to Kyoto and Rakuyo), but definitions were ambiguous.
In the Heian period, Rakuchu was under the control of the Kyoshiki (Capital Bureau) and kebiishi (a police and judicial chief), but Hendo (Rakugai) was considered to be under the control of the kokufu (provincial office) of Yamashiro Province. The entry regarding the Famine of Yowa in KAMO no Chomei's "Hojoki" (An Account of My Hut) describes Kyo (Rakuchu) as the area 'south of Ichijo, north of Kujo, west of Kyogoku and east of Suzaku,' while Hendo is described as consisting of Shirakawa and Nishinokyo (or Nishikyo, formerly the Ukyo area). Among the areas referred to as Hendo, the area to the east of the Kamo-gawa River was called Kato, and was equivalent to Shirakawa and Rokuhara. According to the December 25, 1180 entry in "Kikki" (a diary of Tsunefusa YOSHIDA), the author Tsunefusa YOSHIDA objected to the taking of the divine mirror on the imperial visit to Hendo when Emperor Antoku planned to visit the Retired Emperor Takakura who was staying at the Rokuhara-tei residence of TAIRA no Kiyomori. This was because the Kamakura bakufu established the Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency) in Rokuhara and because the Kyoto residence of the Hojo clan was established after the defeat of the Taira clan, but the avoidance of direct conflict with kebiishi over the right to judge criminal cases is also given as a reason. Thereafter, Kato also became another name for Rokuhara Tandai. In an July 16, 1288, imperial decree by Emperor Fushimi prohibiting hunting and fishing, the area outside Rakuchu to which the ban applied was referred to as 'Kinkyo' and specified as an area extending to the base of Mt. Higashi (Kyoto Prefecture) in the east, Akae (modern-day Furukawa-cho, Hazukashi, Fushimi Ward) in the south, the eastern side the Katsura-gawa River in the west, and Mt. Kamo in the north. The Imperial Court and the Muromachi bakufu imposed Sakaya yaku (taxes imposed on sake brewing) on 'Rakuchu Hendo' at the end of the Kamakura period, and it became general practice to use the name Rakugai instead of Hendo since around the time of the Onin War.
From the Muromachi period to the Sengoku period (Japan), the custom arose of calling the area north of Sanjo-dori Street Kamikyo, and the area in the south of the street Shimokyo, with Kamikyo and Shimokyo each having their own sogamae (outer citadel). When reconstructing Kyoto, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI implemented his Taiko-kenchi land survey in Rakuchu from around 1587, and in 1591 he constructed doi (mound) around central Kyoto. Upon designating the area inside of the doi as Rakuchu and the area outside as Rakugai, Hideyoshi went on to specifically designate inner Rakuchu; with the exception of villages such as Ueno, Nishinokyo, Chudoji, Kujo and Shiokoji which were treated as agricultural villages; as Kyochu and allowed a certain degree of self-governance by machi-doshiyori (ward heads) and later by chodai (town officials who assisted government officials). As a result of this, an early modern period Kyoto consisting a territorially-connected community of 'Sogumi' (Kamikyo and Shimokyo), 'Machigumi' (also known as kunimachi) and each 'machi' (town) came to be formed. The city subsequently expanded beyond Kyochu into the entire Rakuchu area and even into Rakugai, and the entire Rakuchu area and part of Rakugai were made exempt from jishi (land tax) with the visit of the Seii Taishogun Iemitsu TOKUGAWA to Kyoto in 1634. With the establishment of the post of Kyoto machi-bugyo in 1669, all Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines with the exception of monzeki temples (temples of high rank where members of imperial family and nobility entered the priesthood) came under the control of machi-bugyo. Owing to the completion (in 1670) an embankment along the Kamo-gawa River (the Yodo-gawa River System) on which construction began immediately afterwards, the natural conditions dividing Rakuchu from Rakugai changed significantly when the river beach of the Kamo-gawa River was eliminated and the river transformed into a channel while channels to the north of Gojo disappeared. As a result of this, the urban area rapidly expanded to include the north of Rakuchu, which led to the expansion of a city called 'Rakuchu Rakugai Machitsuzuki' (lit. town extending from Rakuchu to Rakugai). Machi-bugyo adopted a policy to restrain the expansion of the town but it was in fact the case that until then end of the Edo period, a situation continued in which the city's expansion preceded any ratification by the machi-bugyo or the yoriki (police sergeants) who were responsible for assessing the propriety of new town planning. Kamikyo and Shimokyo which extended to Rakugai became the basis of early modern period Kyoto City.
Disasters and Cultural Properties
The presence of an active fault in Kyoto City has been confirmed, and this has historically caused great damage.
Many cultural properties including a large number of wooden buildings and Buddhist images exist in modern-day Kyoto City, and there is continuing recognition of research findings which claim that these cultural properties have survived because the majority of them were located outside of the residential area until the early Showa period and therefore escaped the fires that repeatedly spread from the urban center.
However, experts are voicing the fear that the probability that cultural properties enveloped by the sprawl of recent residential areas can become lost in fires caused by earthquakes and other factors is greater than ever before.
When judging the earthquake resistance of those cultural properties in accordance with current standards, there are many buildings that fail but dismantling and repair can only be conducted once every century and requires enormous amounts of money. There is therefore the fear that a building determined to be insufficiently earthquake resistant may be forced to restrict admission and there would be many cases for which even assessments could not be conducted.
As the first elementary schools established in Japan under the school district system were 64 District Elementary Schools in Kyoto which were founded in 1869, prior to the establishment of the national school system (in 1872). Many of these elementary schools were consolidated but 22 still remain. They not only functioned as educational institutions but also as government offices, police stations, fire departments, healthcare centers and so on. Even today, the school district of a District Elementary School is called motogakku (original school district), and is a unit of council organization.