top of page

Jomon Sea. Navigation in the Origins of Japan

Introduction and Problems

The Imperial Palace of Tōkyō, is today one of the most visited places in Japan. Millions of tourists immortalize it in their photographs, bringing with them the memory of his parks, his majesty, the change of the imperial guard and the aura of the Emperor himself.

Yet not everyone knows its secular history, not everyone knows that the modern city of Tōkyō has structured itself starting from the castle areas, its walls, its canals with bridges and the gates that gave its name to many neighborhoods of the city current.

In short, not everyone knows the hidden face of what was the last stronghold of the Tokugawa shogunate, or the Castle of Edo.

Numerous have been and still are historians, philologists, topographers and archaeologists who have studied the castle's historical, cultural and architectural past. The publications abound, as well as the topographic maps produced since the sixteenth century.

The enormous amount of material makes it difficult to obtain a product that includes all the results produced by the research of the eminent scholars who have dealt with it.

From a archaeological point of view the difficulties can be found in two problems: the first, relating to the "sacredness" of the area in which the main part of the castle stands and the areas currently dedicated to government offices; the second, however, is linked to an element that is also a characteristic of the uniqueness of the castle, or the fact that "it is never dead". This means that since its foundation in the fifteenth century, the castle has always been active as the headquarters of the Tokugawa during the Edo period, then later from the Meiji era to the present day, as the Imperial Palace.
For 5 centuries the castle has expanded to become the only Japanese example comparable to the medieval European citadels. The complex system of walls, canals, bridges and gates has been extended by transforming a small fishing village into a complex urban system on which Tōkyō was built today, so today the ancient components of the Tokugawa Castle are incorporated into the city's districts, many of which kept the name that once identified its gates, its bridges, etc.

The urban transformation produced by the incredible evolution of the medieval citadel has literally and profoundly transformed the topography of the Tōkyō area up to the filling and then the disappearance of the ancient gulf: not being able to extend further into the territory, they began to occupy the sea.


The project and its Methodology

The project in question, aims to bring together Italian and Japanese professionals among archaeologists, historians, topographers, cartographers and surveyors with the aim of re-studying the ancient and modern topographic maps, together with data from archaeological, bibliographic and archive research to realize the dynamic reconstruction of the castle from its origins to the modern era.

This reconstruction, which will be the result of the aforementioned research, will be realized thanks to the use of virtual reality and 3D to revitalize what has been one of the main stages in the history of Japan.

The activities are divided in 3 phases:

  1. archival research: recovery of sources; collection of maps of various periods, mainly those of the origins (15th century), of early Tokugawa works (around 1603), the reconstruction after the Meireki fire (around 1657), the last Tokugawa period and the rise of the Meiji (19th century).

  2. recovery of data from the various archaeological excavations carried out up to the present day.

  3. data processing through modern 3D modeling software: animated reconstruction of the various transformation of the castle through the centuries



The goals are mainly two:

  • The first one is to let the world know a more profound aspect of the Castle, so as to allow a historical reading that does not simply limit it to tourist attraction. What today is the Imperial Palace has much more to tell and the project wants to give a voice to this story.

  • The second one, is to add a new project that develops the already proven collaboration between Japan and Italy in the historical-archaeological-cultural context.

  • The third one, is to create a documentary dedicated to the castle and the project in question.

Scientific Director: Dr. Daniele Petrella

Collaborations: Tsushima Board of Edution

Partners: Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Asian Research Institute of Underwater Archaeology (ARIUA)

bottom of page