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Tokyo Travel Guide

Tsukiji and Shiodome

Although it's best known today as the site of the largest wholesale fish market in the world, Tsukiji is also a reminder of the awesome disaster of the great fire of 1657. In the space of two days, it killed more than 100,000 people and leveled almost 70% of Ieyasu Tokugawa's new capital. Ieyasu was not a man to be discouraged by mere catastrophe, however; he took it as an opportunity to

plan an even bigger and better city, one that would incorporate the marshes east of his castle. Tsukiji, in fact, means "reclaimed land," and a substantial block of land it was, laboriously drained and filled, from present-day Ginza to the bay.

The common people of the tenements and alleys, who had suffered most in the great fire, did not benefit from this land project, as it was first allotted to feudal lords and temples. After 1853, when Japan opened its doors to the outside world, Tsukiji became Tokyo's first foreign settlement—the site of the American delegation and an elegant two-story brick hotel, and home to missionaries, teachers, and doctors.

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