History of MAEBASHI

From ancient times to the Nara Period
  (BC20000 to the 9th century)

Haniwa  Maebashi’s history dates back to the Stone Age, when the first settlers came to this region. In fact, traces of the Old Stone Age have been recognized at the site of Kuma-no-ana, discovered in Nishiomuro-machi.
 The Jomon Period began about ten thousands years ago, and ruins of houses from that period have been discovered in the northeastern and western area of the city.
 In the Yayoi Period, about 2300 years ago, a local ruling family began to rule the region, and many burial mounds were built. About eight hundreds ancient tombs were discovered in the city.
 During the Nara Period, the Kozuke Provincial Government was placed in the area that is Moto-soja-machi now, and the Kokubunji Temple was built. Since the area prospered as a center of politics in eastern Japan, it was called “the Nara of the East”.
 At that time, there was a stall (“Umaya” in Japanese) where travelers rest their horses on the Tozan Street, which connected the East with the capital. Since there was a bridge (“hashi” in Japanese) near the stall, the area was called “Umayabashi”, and then changed to “Maebashi” in the Edo Period.

From the Heian Period to the Sengoku Period
  (the 10th century to the 16th century)

 Maebashi was involved in the wars in the capital. One of the examples was the occupation of the Kozuke Provincial Government by Masakado Taira in 939. As a result, Maebashi was devastated from the end of the Heian Period to the beginning of the Muromachi Period. After that, a strong society ruled by samurai family gained power.
 In the beginning of the 15th century, the flow path of the Tone River changed as that of today, and the Umabayashi Castle was built in 1475. During the Sengoku Period, Kenshin Uesugi moved into the Kanto region and chose the castle as a base. Later on, lords of the castle changed rapidly as those in power at that time were continually deposed and defeated.

The Edo Period (the 17th century to the 19th century)

 When Ieyasu Tokugawa, who won the battle of Sekigahara and conquered the whole country, ordered Tadashige Sakai, his chief retainer, as a lord of the Umayabashi Castle in 1601, it is said that Tokugawa told Sakai that he gave Sakai the best area in the Kanto region. The area of the castle was about 50 hectares, twenty times larger than that of the Green Dome Maebashi. It was known as one of four great castles together with the castles of Utsunomiya, Kawagoe and Shinobu. The Sakai family continued to rule the area for nine generations, under which Maebashi was flourished as a castle town. The name of the town, Umabayashi, was changed into “Maebashi” around 1649. Especially, Tadakiyo Sakai, the fourth lord, became a great steward of the Edo feudal government, and gained power as “Geba-shogun”.
 In the late Edo Period, Japan actively traded silk, as the Yokohama Port was opened. Since Maebashi had a large silk growing district, they raised the silk crop. Soon, Maebashi's silk became famous because of its high quality and the town flourished. Maebashi clan also protected silk merchants, and promoted the development of silk industry, setting up a direct sales store of silk in Yokohama.

From the Meiji Period to the Taisho Period
  (the 19th century to the beginning of 20th century)

Kiito,Kuwa,Mayu  Right after the Meiji Restoration, Maebashi called over engineers from abroad and also built the first yarn-making factory in Japan. That made Maebashi famous as one of major silk-growing areas in Japan. At first, the prefectural office was built in Takasaki. Howerver, it was officially transferred to Maebashi in 1881 after silk merchants like Zentaro Shimomura promoted donating huge amount of his own funds to build quarters and schools. In 1892, Maebashi was given city status, and Zentaro Shimomura became the first city mayor.
 In the Taisho Period, the yarn-making industry in Maebashi was flourished at its highest in the postwar economic boom, and Maebashi prospered as a silk city. There was a forest of factory chimneys in the city. Being ahead of its times, Maebashi became culturally rich, thanks to favorable economic development. It produced a lot of major modern poets including Sakutaro Hagiwara due to its liberal culture.

From the Showa Period to present
  (the middle of 20th century to the beginning of 21st century)

 In the Showa Period, the transportation system got extensive; the entire portion of the Jomo electric railway and the Joetsu line opened, and the road network was improved. Besides, civil engineering projects for rural development and river improvement works were done, and Maebashi grew further. However, even though Maebashi was prosperous as a silk city, it had to switch to war industry as a national policy, as the silk export was dramatically decreased during the Pacific War. In 1945, most part of the city was destroyed in an air raid. However, the city recovered from the war's devastation. It started developing silk industry again after the war, but it didn't go well as foreign silk was risen into the market. Maebashi actively started attracting car and electric appliance factories by improving industrial complexes. The city of silk changed into a well-balanced city in the field of industry, commerce and agriculture. The Green Dome Maebashi was built in 1990, and The World Cycling Championships and The IAAF World Indoor Championship were held there. Today, Maebashi has lots of visitors from home and abroad as “an international convention city”.

◆ Historical Chronology of Maebashi
BC24000 Mudslides occurred and Maebashi plateau was formed
20000 The Old Stone Age culture spread in the southern base of Mt. Akagi
2300 Rice culture started, and new culture using metal and Yayoi wares spread through the region
AC300 The Tenjinyama Burial Mound, the oldest in the East, was built
700 The Kozuke Provincial Government was placed in Moto-soja-machi
939 The Provincial Government was occupied by Masakado Taira
1180 Toshituna Ashikaga burned down the Provincial Government
1475 The Umayabashi Castle was built
1560 Kagetora Nagao (Kenshin Uesugi) became the lord of the castle and used it as a base
1602 Tadashige Sakai became the lord of the castle
1617 Hon-machi and Ren-jaku-cho started a market, which was the beginning of Hatuichi, a market held in the New Year
1649 Umabayashi was changed to Maebashi
1749 Tomonori Matudaira took over the Maebashi clan from Sakai
1859 Maebashi started the export of silk as the Yokohama Port was opened
1876 The Gumma Prefectural Government was temporary placed in the Old Maebashi Castle
1881 The Prefectural Government was officially placed in Maebashi
1892 Given city status. Zentaro Shimomura became the first city mayor
1929 Town waterworks were completed. The ceremony was held
1945 80 percent of the city area was burnt out in an air aid during the WWII
1954 Merged with its eight neighboring towns/villages
1990 The construction of the Green Dome Maebashi was completed. The World Cycling Championships was held
1992 The 100th anniversary of the Maebashi city
1999 The IAAF World Indoor Championship was held
2004 Merged with its three neighboring town/villages

Bibliography : “history of comics Maebashi” (Maebashi issue)