Tsukudajima was created during the first half of the seventeenth century by a group of fishermen who mainly came from Tsukuda village, in the area of present-day Osaka. These fishermen were allowed the responsibility of supplying seafood to Edo Castle, the residence of the Tokugawa rulers, in return for the right to fish off the Edo coast. Although built before the great Meireki fire that destroyed nearly two thirds of Edo in 1657, Tsukudajima was only marginally affected by both the fire and the radical rebuilding of the city that followed it, and it still faithfully preserves the plan of the original site. The fishermen from Tsukuda village brought with them the cult of the deities of the Sumiyoshi Shrine, the protectors of seafarers, and transposed aspects of the idealized image of their native place to their new home. Although economically and strategically part of Edo, Tsukudajima’s local customs and identity have maintained many aspects of a distinct nature. Over the centuries, it has been only marginally touched by earthquakes, fire, and war damage, has abstained from expanding in a vertical direction, and has also resisted high-rise redevelopment. Today, Tsukudajima is often unrecognized by inattentive visitors as being a rare heritage site, with a history that goes back to the early Edo period (1603–1867). Nevertheless, it can indeed considered as a unique case of man-made island in Tokyo where vivid traces of the original rural fishing village are preserved, descendants of its first residents still live, and a strong sense of community has survived for over four centuries. Tsukudajima offers an example of the values that have to be maintained in order to contribute to building resilience in social, economic and environmental terms. Here, the engagement of the local community has proved to be fundamental in maintaining Tsukudajima’s distinct character based on diversity, and in opposition to the homogenization process characteristic of market-driven tendencies in the real estate industry.
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