, literally: bay-door, "estuary", ), once also spelled Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868. During this period it grew to become one of the largest cities in the world and the site of a vibrant urban culture centered on notions of the "floating world".
From the establishment of the Tokugawa bakufus headquarters at Edo, Kyoto remained merely the formal capital of the country. The de facto'' capital was now Edo, because it was the center of real political power. Edo consequently rapidly grew from what had been a small, virtually unknown fishing village in 1457 to a metropolis of 1,000,000 residents by 1721, the largest city in the world at the time.
Edo was repeatedly devastated by fires, with the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657—in which an estimated 100,000 people died—perhaps the most disastrous. During the Edo period there were about one hundred fires, typically started by accident and often quickly escalating to giant proportions, spreading through neighbourhoods of wooden machiya that were heated with charcoal fires. Between 1600 and 1945, Edo/Tokyo was leveled every 25–50 years or so by fire, earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and war.
In 1868, when the shogunate came to an end, the city was renamed Tokyo, meaning "eastern capital", and the emperor moved his residence to Tokyo, making the city the formal capital of Japan.
Other areas further from the center were the domains of commoners, or chōnin (町人), literally "townsfolk." The area known as Shitamachi (下町, lit. "lower town" or "downtown"), to the northeast of the castle, was perhaps one of the key centers of urban culture. The ancient Buddhist temple of Sensō-ji still stands in Asakusa and marks the center of an area of traditional "low-town" culture. Some of the shops in the streets before the temple have been carried on continuously in the same location since the Edo period.
The Sumida River, then simply called the Great River (大川), ran along the eastern edge of the city, along which one would find the shogunate's official rice storage warehouses and other official buildings, along with some of the city's most famous restaurants.
The Edo Bridge (江戸橋, Edo-bashi) marked the center of the city's commercial center, an area also known as Kuramae (蔵前, "in front of the storehouses"). Many fishermen, craftsmen, and other producers and retailers operated here, as did shippers who managed ships to and from Osaka (called tarubune) and other cities, either taking goods into the city, or simply transferring them from sea-routes onto river barges or onto land routes such as the Tōkaidō, which terminated here. The area remains the center of Tokyo's financial and business district today.
The northeastern corner of the city, regarded as a dangerous direction in traditional onmyōdō (cosmology/geomancy), is guarded from evil spirits by a series of temples, including Sensō-ji and Kan'ei-ji. Just beyond these lay the districts of the eta or outcastes, who engaged in unclean vocations and were thus separated from the main sections of commoner residences. A long dirt path extended west from the riverbank, a short distance north of these eta districts, leading along the northern edge of the city to the Yoshiwara pleasure districts. Previously located within the city proper, close to Asakusa, the districts were rebuilt in this more distant location after the Meireki Fire of 1657.