Suidobashi is one of the historic bridges in Japan that is still preserved nowadays. Suidobashi bridge crosses the river Kanda in downtown Tokyo; in the past it was used by merchants, travelers, warriors and samurai that followed the Tokaido route (that linked the present cities of Tokyo and Kyoto).

This is how Suidobashi bridge and some areas of downtown Tokyo looked 200 or 300 years ago as represented by ukiyo-e artists:


Kanda river and Suidobashi bridge
Kanda river and Suidobashi bridge.

Suidobashi bridge and mount fuji
Suidobashi bridge and mount Fuji on the horizon.



And this is how Suidobashi bridge and its surroundings look nowadays:




Suidobashi. Roller coaster through building
A roller coaster passing through a building!

Google Maps view. The white thing is Tokyo Dome stadium

The Kuril Islands dispute

Walking around Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido (the northernmost prefecture in Japan), we saw several times these signs claiming: “Let’s regain Japan’s Northern Territories with the Spirit of the Whole Nation”.


All Kuril Islands were Japanese from 1875 until the San Francisco treaty was signed in 1945, since then the Kuril Islands belong to Russia. Even so, Japan claims the islands as part of its national territory, specially the four islands which are very near Hokkaido (as seen in the sign on the picture). These four islands have a Japanese name and most of its inhabitants belong to the ethnic group Ainu, who speak Japanese (the Ainu language is in danger of extinction)

Kuril Islands
In this map from Wikipedia you can see how the Japanese control over the Kuril Islands changed over the years.

Some years ago Russia was thinking about giving back some of the islands to Japan, but they eventually backed out.

More information about the dispute in Hokkaido prefecture website and Wikipedia.

Brief History of Japan – Part 3

In the mid-nineteenth century, when Europe and the United States were already fully engaged in the industrial revolution, Japan was a feudal country ruled by an army (samurai) who had the power of life and death over the rest of society. In July 1853, an American squad led by Admiral Perry entered the Tokyo Bay. The Admiral proposed the Japanese government to sign a treaty that would authorize the United States to do business with the archipelago.

Perplexed before the sight of American cannons, the Shogun, for the first time in six centuries of military power, consulted the Emperor about the most convenient way to act. Without hesitation, he replied that they needed to expel the Americans. Unfortunately, the General didn’t have sufficient means to expel the Americans and he was forced to sign the treaty.

As a result to his disobedience to the Emperor, considered a living god by all Japanese, Tokugawa lost the trust of his people. He had to resign in order to allow a triumphant restoration of the imperial power. Young Mutsushito, better known as Emperor Meiji, found himself, being only 15 years of age, as the head of the country. The first thing he did as Emperor was to change the name of the capital from Edo to Tokyo (Capital of the East). Paradoxically, with the return of the Emperor to power, Japan would fully enter the modern world.

This post is the third part of my brief summary of the history of Japan: