Why does Japan have two capitals?
Edo had been renamed Tokyo, but there was never an official decree that the capital had moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. For that reason, Kyoto is sometimes referred to as Saikyo (西京), or the Western Capital, and technically Japan still has two capitals — Kyoto and Tokyo.
Throughout this time, the Emperor resided in Kyoto, which was the formal capital of the nation. The Edo Period lasted for nearly 260 years until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the Tokugawa Shogunate ended and imperial rule was restored. The Emperor moved to Edo, which was renamed Tokyo.
Kyoto was the capital city of Japan for more than a millennium, after its inception in 794AD. It's one of the oldest cities of Japan, after all, so it only made sense that leaders have settled down there and created history. In the 8th century, Emperor Kanmu was the one that decided Kyoto to be the capital.
Kyoto relinquished its title as capital of Japan, which it had held for 1,000 years, to Tokyo in 1869. Fears emerged that Kyoto would enter a period of decline, spurring local merchants and politicians to modernize the city as soon as possible.
At the time of the Meiji Restoration, the ruling class renamed Edo as Tokyo and selected it as the capital of the new nation they intended to build, rather than Kyoto where old traditions and customs remained prominent.
Tokyo Prefecture ( Tokyo Metropolis ) in Japanese is 東京都（Tokyo-to), which means ” Kyoto in the East”. The first “To” in Tokyo-to means “east”. As explained earlier, Tokyo-to has a meaning of Kyoto in the East, this would explain the anagram of Tokyo and Kyoto i.e. why Tokyo and Kyoto have the same letters.
Before the Taihō Code was established, the capital was customarily moved after the death of an emperor because of the ancient belief that a place of death was polluted. Reforms and bureaucratization of government led to the establishment of a permanent imperial capital at Heijō-kyō, or Nara, in AD 710.
U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson wanted Kyoto removed from the target list, on the grounds that the city was too culturally significant to the Japanese to be destroyed.
In the year 794, the Emperor Kanmu moved Japan's capital to the site of present day Kyoto and called it Heian-kyo. Unlike the maze like arrangement of other Japanese cities of that era, the checkerboard layout of the streets was inspired by the grid model of Chang'an, the capital of China in the Tang Dynasty.
Kyoto: History and Background. Kyoto is Japan's third largest city and also one its oldest. It was originally founded as Heian in 794, and had its golden age during the court's heyday from 794 to 1185. Home to many cultural landmarks and historical sites, Kyoto is thought of as the heart of Japan.
Is Tokyo or Kyoto better?
If you prefer big cities, modern technology, nightlife and a huge selection of restaurants, Tokyo is for you. If you're after temples, shrines, garden, geisha and hiking, Kyoto is for you. If you've got 4 or more days in Japan, you should see both.
Traditionally, the home of the Emperor is considered the capital. From 794 through 1868, the Emperor lived in Heian-kyō, modern-day Kyoto. After 1868, the seat of the Government of Japan and the location of the Emperor's home was moved to Edo, which it renamed Tokyo.
More than one capital in the past
These countries have had two cities that served as administrative capitals at the same time, for various reasons such as war, weather or partition. In some cases, the second capital is considered a temporary capital.
From Japanese 京都 (kyōto, “capital city”), from Middle Chinese 京都 (kjæng-tu, “capital (of a country)”).
Osaka city was the first capital of Japan because it was the most popular port city of the time; bring new ideas, cultures and politics into the Japanese world. Being a port city, it has been considered the “merchant's capital”, where the merchants have the most political power.