Japan has been a mono-dynastic Empire for some 2,000 years with geographic origins inexact but thought to be in the region around modern day Nara.

Tokyo by contrast, is a relatively modern city and was founded as Edo with a major castle built in the 1450s and became the military stronghold of the Tokugawa shogunate (Tokugawa military government of Japan) later in 1603. Imperial power meanwhile continued to reside in the Kansai area, the Imperial capital having been moved from Nara to Kyoto (or Heian as it was then called) in 794.

The Emperor held spiritual power under Shinto (a state religion) whilst the Shogun and the samurai classes (largely adhering to Buddhist tradition and Confucian values) wielded temporal power.

Edo (latterly Tokyo) was the greatest capital of the modern world in the 18th century and numbered around 2 million inhabitants with a significant concentration of wealth and economic activity including department stores (the largest of which, Echigoya later renamed as Mitsukoshi, employed around 1,000 staff), a sprawling entertainment quarter (Yoshiwara) and residences of all the regional lords of Japan (Daimyo) and their retinues.

Much of Tokyo was destroyed by dreadful fire bombing during WWII (which actually lead to the deaths of more civilians than did the atomic bombings of either Hiroshima and Nagasaki) but here and there beautiful relics of old Japan are to be found.

Click to a larger version of Old Bank in Kamakura

Old Bank in Kamakura

Kamakura (the seat of the Ashikaga shogunate from 1336 to 1573) lies slightly to the south west of Tokyo and houses a vast collection of ancient temples statues (a vast bronze Buddha 13.35m tall and cast in 1252) and some pre-war buildings.
Japan was forced to open her doors to foreign visitors and business with threats of a coastal blockade by the American "Black Ship" fleet of Commodore Perry in 1853 (food and goods having been moved around Japan to a great extent by coastal vessels).
Many foreigners settled in Shimoda and Yokohama (close to Kamakura) and this old bank remains as a legacy of old times.
Click to a larger version of Japan - serene Buddha of Kamakura

Japan - serene Buddha of Kamakura

The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha that is located on the grounds of the Kotokuin Temple. With a height of 13.35 meters, it is the second largest Buddha statue in Japan (the largest is located in the Todaiji Temple in Nara).

The statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were washed away by a tsunami tidal wave at the end of the 15th century, and since then the Buddha stands in the open air.
Kamakura is the site of the ancient Ashikaka shogunal government (military government which held power in parallel to the ceremonial and religious Imperial court in Kyoto). The so called Kamakura period lasted from 1185 to 1333AD.
Allied armies of Koryo (Korea) and Kublai Khan (China) invaded Japan on two occasions during the Kamakura period in 1274 and 1281. Despite the overwhelming superiority of the allied invasion force the samurai of the Kamakura period remained undefeated (partially due to forces of nature, the divine wind or Kamikaze).
The Kamakura period also marked the zenith of production quality of Japanese metallurgy as epitomised by the perfection of Japanese swords (Katana) and other such weapons.
Click to a larger version of Tokyo's architectural heritage

Tokyo's architectural heritage

Little is left of Japan's old housing, much having been destroyed during terrible fire bombing towards the end of WWII. Small pockets remain such as the little housing communities at Tsukishima and Nezu.
Stately old office buildings have all but been demolished.
The photograph to the side shows an example of cramped old housing with great warmth and charm.
Click to a larger version of Tokyo - warm texture of old building material.

Tokyo - warm texture of old building material.

Walls of old houses were built of wood. Many buildings used wood and paper partitions to flexibly create smaller or larger rooms. Heating used to rely on charcoal brasiers and even today central heating is relatively rare with kerosene (paraffin) heaters proliferating (a fire hazard in an earthquake prone region).
Click to a larger version of Tokyo - old shuttered houses

Tokyo - old shuttered houses

Grand old houses hide behind tall walls. In the countryside one often sees stockades surrounding a small group of houses in which an extended family would live (each family pocket in their own separate dwelling) with the eldest son and his wife usually responsible for looking after aged parents.