If the Japanese annals may be trusted, Japan has had no less than sixty capitals. This is to be traced to the fact that in ancient days there was a superstitious dread of any place in which a person had died. The sons of a dead man built themselves a new house. Hence, too, the successor of a dead Mikado established a new capital. The provinces of Yamato, Yamashiro, Kawachi, and Settsu, which were the home and centre of the early Japanese monarchy, are dotted with places, now mere villages, sometimes indeed empty names, but once holding the proud position of capitals of the Empire.
In process of time, such perpetual changes proving incompatible with the needs of the more advanced civilisation introduced from China and Korea, a tendency to keep the Court settled in one place began to make itself felt. Nara in Yamato remained the capital for seven reigns, between A.D. 709 and 784. After further wanderings, the Court fixed itself at Kyōto in 794; and this city continued, with few interruptions, to be the residence of successive generations of Mikados till the year 1868, when it was abandoned in favour of Yedo (Tōkyō), which had been the capital of the Shōguns ever since the year 1590. Kyōto, however, still nominally retains the rank of a metropolis, as is indicated by its new name of Saikyō, or "western capital," in contradistinction to Tōkyō, the "eastern capital." The new name, however, is little used. The chief sights in and near Kyōto are the Mikado's palaces, the temples named Nishi Hongwanji, Chion-in, Kiyomizu-dera, Gion, Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Higashi Hongwanji, San-jū-san-gen-dō, and Inari-no-Jinja, Mount Hiei-zan, Lake Biwa, Arashi-yama famous for its cherry-blossoms and maple-leaves, and the rapids of the Katsura-gawa. Brocades and embroidery generally are the products for which Kyōto is chiefly noted. In the second rank come pottery, porcelain, cloisonné, and bronze.
Nara, whose charms have been sung by many a Japanese poet from the eighth century onwards, is distinguished by the almost English appearance of the park which surrounds the ancient Shintō temple of Kasuga, where tame deer crowd around the visitor to feed out of his hand. In Nara, likewise, stands the great Buddhist temple of Tōdaiji, with the colossal bronze image known as the Daibutsu or "Great Buddha," dating from A.D. 749.
Another of the old capitals, Kamakura, is distant only a few miles from Yokohama. It was never inhabited by the Mikados. It was the seat of the Shōguns from 1189 onwards, and of the socalled Regents of the Hōjō family during the troublous Middle Ages. Kamakura, taken by storm and burnt to the ground in 1455 and again in 1526, gradually lost its importance. Woods and ricefields now stretch over the area that once afforded a home to more than a million inhabitants, and little remains to tell of its ancient splendour, save the great temple of Hachiman and the magnificent bronze image of Buddha, perhaps the grandest of all Japanese works of art.
The principal sights of Tōkyō are the Shiba temples, with the tombs of the Shōguns of the Tokugawa dynasty, near which is one of the best Kwankōba or Bazaars; the view over the city from the tower on Atago-yama; the Shintō temple named Shōkonsha, erected to the memory of the loyal troops slain in battle; the adjacent museum of military objects, called the Yūshū-kwan; Ueno Park, with tombs and temples similar to those of Shiba, and also an interesting museum; the popular Buddhist temple of Asakusa, to say nothing of such modern European buildings as the government offices, banks, hospitals, prisons, etc., which will have an interest for some persons. In addition to these, according to the time of year, there are the cherry-blossoms of Ueno, Shiba, and Mukōjima, the wistarias of Kameido, the irises of Horikiri, and the chrysanthemums of Dango-zaka. It is also worth while paying a visit to one of the theatres, of which the Kabuki-za and Meiji-za are the best, and to the wrestling-matches held at the temple of Ekō-in and elsewhere. But after all, the chief sight of Tōkyō to one fresh from home is Tōkyō itself,-the quaint little wooden houses, which brick structures in foreign style have only partially replaced, the open-air life of the people, the clatter of the clogs, the jinrikishas, the dainty children powdered and rouged for a holiday outing, the graceful native dress which Western fashions and fabrics have not succeeded in driving out, the indescribably grotesque combinations of this dress with billycock hats, Inverness capes, and crochet tippets. There are also the attractions of the shops, which make Mr. Percival Lowell truly observe that "To stroll down the Broadway of Tōkyō of an evening is a liberal education in every day art," for-as he adds-"whatever these people fashion, from the toy of an hour to the triumphs of all time, is touched by a taste unknown elsewhere." Mr. Lowell, as an artist in words, does not add what we, simple recorders of facts, are bound to do, that with so much to appeal to the eye, Tōkyō also has not a little that appeals to the nose.
Books recommended - . For facts, Murray Handbook for Japan; The Castle of Yedo, by T. R. H. McClatchie, in Vol. VI. Part I., and The Feudal Mansions e Yedo, by the same author, in Vol. VII. Part III. of the "Asiatic Transactions" For picturesque descriptions and for "talky-talky," the pages of globe-trotters and book-makers innumerable.