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Finding Edo, The City Lost Beneath Tokyo

Edo, Japan, grew by 1823 to be one of the world’s largest cities. Yet very little of Edo now survives. Not only was Tokyo thrown on top of it in 1868 when the Emperor moved his court from Kyoto to his new “Eastern Capital” — or “To-kyo” — but it has been razed by fires, by earthquakes, and by Allied firebombing during the Second World War, when half the city was destroyed. Between the Tokugawa shogunate and the drone of Allied bombers (as well as by Godzilla and other kaiju since then), first Edo and then Tokyo has been destroyed, on average, every 30 years. It’s happened so frequently that during the shogunate government (which held power from about 1600 to 1868), Edo was referred to as the “City of Fires.”

Tokyo is now a city of skyscrapers and neon, of more than 35 million people staring into their cell phones. It is the essence of a modern city, a city on the cutting edge of technology juxtaposed with the occasional quaint and touristy attractions that highlight Japan’s history, like the Geisha in Ginza, or the Zozoji Temple that stands at the feet of Tokyo Tower, itself a bright orange, 300-meter-tall replica of the Eiffel Tower in Pari

The Hibiya Line of Tokyo’s vast subway network is one of the city’s newest, built to connect those places you’ll find scattered through your guidebooks, including districts like Roppongi, a notorious night-club district; Ginza, with its aforementioned Geisha; Akihabara, the electronics district; and Ueno, with its zoo and museums. But the Hibiya Line also stops at some more unusual sites, hidden behind train stations with names that won’t ring any bells. It connects not only the places that Tokyo wants to display, it also runs by Iriya and Minowa stations, Kodemmacho Station, and Minami-Senju Station, places with a closer connection to the city buried beneath Tokyo: Edo.

Keep reading as we guide you through Edo, The Lost City Beneath Tokyo on Atlas Obscura…