A study of the history of traffic noise in a large city: modern Tokyo compared to Edo - the predecessor to Tokyo

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Takako Otsuka

With the development of mechanized civilization, transportation of goods and people has become fast and convenient, at the expense of transportation noise which has become a serious problem. This paper aims at comparing the acoustical environment of a modern multi-million city (Tokyo) with the situation one to three centuries ago in the corresponding old city (Edo); also at that time one of the largest cities in the world. Attempts are made to explore traffic noise of Edo through historical records and to compare Edo and Tokyo in this respect. Naturally, as the noise in Edo was not quantified, this study is only qualitative. Edo was a highly developed city in the 17th-19th centuries with a unique system of distribution and ecology and was considered to be an unusually clean city of those times. It is concluded that traffic in Edo was intensive; yet relatively quiet as it was dominated by other modes of transportation than today and with non-motorized vehicles. Yet, sound from people who operated the road vehicles or who carried other people and goods must have been quite loud. At nighttime Edo was closed to traffic and was a quiet city, only interrupted by sound from night watches and fire guardians. Tokyo, on the other hand, is noisy both day and night.

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