The development of urbanism in Japan can be traced back to the Yayoi period when markets appeared, and large settlements such as Yoshinogari in Fukuoka prefecture. Some archaeologists have even argued that the large Jomon settlements, such as Sannai Maruyama in Aomori prefecture, were urban in form. Much depends on how urbanism, towns and cities are defined. Chinese models of urban planning, incorporating temples, palaces, markets and administrative centres appeared in the 8th century AD, with the creation of some very new urban forms, with grid-pattern streets. In this module we explore what archaeology and historical documents tell us about the development of Kyoto, founded over 1300 years ago, and home to the Imperial family until the 1860s.
The capital of Heian-kyo, later known as Kyoto, was established in 794 AD by Emperor Kammu. The original site was 5,200 metres from north to south and 4,500 metres from east to west. It has been estimated that the population was about 100,000 in the Heian period and increased to around 240,000 at the beginning of the Meiji era. In 2010, the population was 1,470,000.
The city was planned on a hierarchical grid system. Heian-kyo consists of 3 sectors: Heian-kyu (the Imperial Palace), Sakyo (left sector when viewing from Heian-kyu, sometimes mentioned as the western sector) and Ukyo (right sector or eastern sector). Sakyo and Ukyo were divided into square blocks. The basic unit is the cho. One cho is approximately 120 metres square. A block of 4 cho is 1 ho, and a block of 4 ho forms 1 bo.
The Heian Period
The Heian period has 3 sub periods:
- Early (8-9th century)
- Middle (10-11th century)
- Late (12th century)
The Late Heian is also known as the cloister period after the practice of Emperors abdicating and continuing to rule from their retirement cloister.