An Ancient Capital (古都)

An ancient capital can be defined as a place which has been the national capital since the ancient times or a place which was once the national capital city.

Many Japanese people refer to Kyoto (Heian-kyo) and Nara (Heijo-kyo) as ancient capitals of Japan. In addition, Asuka-mura (Asuka-kyo), Osaka City (Naniwa-kyo) and Kobe City (Fukuhara-kyo) can be referred to as ancient capitals, since there were once Imperial residences in those areas in the ancient times. Though Kamakura cannot be referred to as an ancient capital when seen from the standpoint that 'an ancient capital' must be a place where Imperial residence existed, the Tokyo media often describe Kamakura as an ancient capital, since Kamakura was once a political center of the Kamakura Shogunate which held the reigns of government. It seems a definition of an ancient capital is not exact, because there is a tendency to call even old cities like Dazaifu and Hiraizumi, or so-called little Kyoto towns established in the medieval period, or castle towns of the early-modern times such as Kanazawa City and Matsue City with many historic sites as ancient capitals, though they had never been the center of national administration.

In any countries, many of ancient capitals (Gyeongju City, Xian City, Naples and Venice, and so on) have become today major tourist spots, for they have abundance of historic buildings.

Ancient Capitals from a Legal Point of View

According to 'Koto Hozon ho' (The Ancient Capitals Preservation Law,) it is the ordinance of local governments that designates a city or a town or a village as 'an ancient capital,' and once it was designated as 'an ancient capital' development is restricted in the specified area. Meanwhile, 'an ancient capital' under 'Koto Hozon ho' is a self-designated ancient capital and is not objectively confirmed. Not all cities designated as 'ancient capitals' under 'Koto Hozon ho' have old history or old townscapes.