History of Nagoya

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The name Nagoya is derived from a famous manor in the 12th century called Nagono. The Nagono manor prospered until the middle of the fourteenth century and people continued to call the area “Nagono” long after it had gone. The Chinese characters used to write “Nagono” could also be read “Nagoya” which was later adopted as the city’s name.

ieyasuKiyosu, on the outskirts of what is now Nagoya, was the ancestral home of Oda Nobunaga. Oda along with his understudy Toyotomi Hideyoshi played an important role in the unification of Japan. After a series of battles, Tokugawa Ieyasu, born just south of Nagoya, became ruler of Japan and established the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. The Shogunate ruled Japan for 250 years. The people in Nagoya are proud of the fact that these “three heroes” were from this region and they are featured elaborately in the annual Nagoya festival.

In 1610, Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered that Nagoya Castle be constructed as a residence for his son. Surrounded on three sides by natural water barriers, the castle was easily defendable against attack. Tokugawa then ordered that the people of Kiyosu, along with their temples and shrines move to the area around the castle. The area around the castle soon became a thriving “castle town.” Nagoya Castle itself functioned as the home of the leading branch of the Tokugawa family for 16 generations.

Nagoya became a city in 1889 and in the same year the Nagoya Power Company started its service. Electricity was the symbol of development and Nagoya’s first streetcar, a 25-passenger model, started operation in 1898. Nagoya was the second city in Japan after Kyoto to establish such public transportation.

Most of the enterprises, for which Nagoya is noted today, were established between 1881 and 1917. Among them are: Itoh Bank (present MUFJ Bank), Aichi Basha-tetsudo (present Meitetsu), Nagoya Hotel, Okuma Machinery (present Okuma Corporation), & Nagoya Gas (present Toho Gas)

The implementation of an efficient and convenient transportation system made up of railways, ports, and canals led to the rapid development of these industries. In 1907, Nagoya Port was opened and along with the reinforcing of the connecting Shinhori River helped popularize Nagoya merchandise throughout Japan. Nagoya established itself as a modern commercial and industrial city. During World War I (1914-1918), the demand for metals, machinery, and the heavy industry continued to increase. Nagoya stepped in to meet the demands. In the 1930’s, exports from Nagoya increased remarkably, especially in heavy industries. As a result, employment in related areas such as machinery and metals boomed.

Around 1920, the automobile industry began to lay its foundations with the announcement of the “Chukyo Detroit Plan”. Five companies worked together and produced a domestic passenger car in 1932. Later this automobile industry was succeeded by the famous Toyota Motor Corporation. The airplane industry started at about the same time. Before and during World War II, Nagoya was the largest industrial center for production of military materials. More than 10,000 Zero Fighters, 60% of the national total, were manufactured here.

The central water supply system began in 1904 and by 1923, drains and sewers had been installed in the central part of the city. Four sewage plants were built between 1930 and 1934 to ensure the purity of the rivers. In the early 1900’s, the City constructed and improved the city road network. Between 1908 and 1924, five main streets were constructed. Together with the opening of the Nagoya port, rivers and waterways were also improved, bridges were built or repaired, and special consideration was given to the efficiency of water transportation.

Approximately one-fourth of Nagoya was destroyed during World War II. Almost half of the population evacuated the city and most city functions were brought to a standstill. However just 45 days after the war ended, the City Assembly approved an extensive reconstruction plan. It was to be a long and arduous assignment. This plan included everything needed for a modern city such as city streets, subways, parks, and greenery. One of the central features of the plan was the construction of two 100 meter-wide roads and nine 50 meter-wide road which would serve as the main routes for automobile transportation in a city of two million people.

In the public transportation sector, construction of a subway system linking Nagoya Station and Sakae began in 1957. Subway construction has moved along at a rapid pace over the last 40 years. In order to fulfill the responsibilities for the Tokyo Olympics, the Tokaido Shinkansen and the Nagoya to Kobe Expressway were completed in early 1964. An efficient and convenient bus network has also been set up throughout the city.

In September 1959, the most severe post-war disaster struck Nagoya. The Ise Bay typhoon struck the southern part of the city, flooding the entire area. The west bank of the Shonai River collapsed, and 1,851 residents were killed, 118,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and over 530,000 people were made homeless by the catastrophe. The city implemented a comprehensive relief effort and at the same time, received help and support from its sister-city, Los Angeles, and many other cities both in Japan and overseas. In order to prevent a recurrence of such a disaster, the city has taken extensive measures to improve the breakwaters in the port area, and to strengthen and heighten the embankments along the rivers in the city.

Find out more….
Aichi, Home of the Samurai Spirit – History and legacy of Aichi’s three most famous sons.

To learn more about the Nagoya International Center,
please watch our video.

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