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Tokyo (東京; Tōkyō , literally "eastern capital") is located in the Kanto region on the island of Honshu in Japan. It is counted as one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and commonly referred to as the capital of Japan with the government of Japan and the Emperor of Japan residing in Chiyoda Ward. With a population of over 12 million, or about 10 percent of Japan's population, it is by far the country's most populous and most densely populated prefecture.

Although Tokyo is considered to be one of the major cities of the world, it is technically not a city. There is no city named "Tokyo." Tokyo is actually designated as a "metropolis," similar to a prefecture, run by the metropolitan government headed by a publicly-elected governor.

Tokyo consists of 23 special wards, 26 cities, 5 towns, and 8 villages each having a local government. It includes outlying islands in the Pacific Ocean as far as over 1,000 km south in the subtropics. Over 8 million live within the 23 self-governing, special wards comprising "central Tokyo" which defines Tokyo for most people. The daytime population swells by over 2.5 million with workers and students commuting from neighboring prefectures. The total population of the three central wards of Chiyoda, Chuo, and Minato balloons to over 2 million during the daytime from a nighttime population of less than 300,000.

Being the nation's center of politics, business, finance, education, mass media, and pop culture, Tokyo has the country's highest concentration of corporate headquarters, financial institutions, universities and colleges, museums, theaters, and shopping and entertainment establishments. It boasts a highly developed public transportation system with numerous train and subway lines, buses, and an airport at Haneda with more runways than Narita International Airport.

This extreme concentration is both a boon and bane, prompting an ongoing debate over moving the nation's capital to another region. There is also a great fear of a catastrophic earthquake striking Tokyo, which may in effect cripple the entire nation. Nevertheless, Tokyo continues to attract people from all over Japan and many countries, making a substantial portion of the population non-native to Tokyo and making it a great place to meet people from all over the nation and the world.

 (a temple in ) and typify the contrasts between the ancient and the hyper-modern that define the world's largest : Tokyo.
Zōjōji (a temple in Shiba Park) and Tokyo Tower typify the contrasts between the ancient and the hyper-modern that define the world's largest megalopolis: Tokyo.


Although it is counted as one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, it is technically not a prefecture.

Tokyo has an administrative structure unique among the prefectures of Japan. It is officially designated as a "metropolis" (都 to). Although it generally resembles a prefecture, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government also offers partial city government functions to the 23 special wards included in the heart of Tokyo, with a combined population of 8,134,688 and an area of 621.3 km². In addition to the special wards, Tokyo administers twenty-six suburban cities to the west, and a number of small islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Metropolitan Government's main offices (tochō) are located in the ward of Shinjuku.

According to the Population Census in 2000, Tokyo has a population of 12,064,101 and area of 2186.9 km². Tokyo is also part of the Greater Tokyo Area, which consists of Tokyo itself and the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba.


Main article: History of Tokyo

Before the Meiji Restoration, the city was known as Edo. The Tokugawa shogunate was established in 1603 with Edo as its seat of government (de facto capital). (The emperor's residence, and formal capital, remained in Kyoto, that city had been the actual capital of Japan until that time.) In 1868, when the shogunate came to an end, the city was renamed "Tokyo" which means "Eastern Capital"; during the restoration, the emperor moved to Tokyo, making the city the formal as well as de facto capital of Japan. A major earthquake struck Tokyo in 1923, killing approximately 70,000 people; a massive reconstruction plan was drawn up, but was too expensive to carry out except in part. Despite this, the city grew until the beginning of World War II. During the war, Tokyo was heavily bombed, much of the city was burned to the ground, and its population in 1945 was only half that of 1940.

General Douglas MacArthur established his Occupation headquarters in what is now the Dai-Ichi Seimei building overlooking the Imperial Palace and, in the post-war years, and especially stimulated by the Korean War, Japan experienced an economic miracle that led it from post-war deprivation to tremendous economic success. In the process, Japan entered and very often came to dominate a range of industries including steel, shipbuilding, automobiles, semi-conductors, consumer electronics.

Although the recession following the bursting of the "bubble economy" in the early 1990s hurt the city, Tokyo has become one of the most dynamic capital cities on earth. It has a tremendous range of social and economic activities, with myriad restaurants and clubs, a major financial district, tremendous industrial strength, a wealth of shops and entertainment opportunities. The investment boom of the late 1980s is perhaps the greatest the world has ever known (as judged e.g. by the level of building expenditures in relation to the size of the economy) and, as a result, Tokyo has an enormously more modern capital stock (of buildings) than, e.g., London or New York.

On March 20, 1995 the city became the focus of international media attention in the wake of the Aum Shinrikyo cult terrorist organisation attack with Sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system (in the tunnels beneath the political district of central Tokyo) in which 12 people were killed and thousands affected.

Tokyo's postwar and manmade islands like in are clearly visible in this satellite photo taken by 's .
Tokyo's postwar urban sprawl and manmade islands like Odaiba in Tokyo Bay are clearly visible in this satellite photo taken by NASA's Landsat 7.


Tokyo is located to the northwest of Tokyo Bay, about 90 km east to west and 25 km north to south. It borders Chiba Prefecture to the east, Yamanashi Prefecture to the west, Kanagawa Prefecture to the south, and Saitama Prefecture to the north. It also consists of islands in the Pacific Ocean directly south. The Izu Islands are closest, while the Ogasawara Islands stretch over 1,000 km away from mainland Japan.

Tokyo consists of 23 special wards, 26 cities, 5 towns, and 8 villages.

23 special wards

Each ward (ku) is a local municipality with its own elected mayors and assemblies but differs from ordinary cities in that certain governmental functions are handled by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

As of September 1, 2003 the total population of the 23 wards was about 8.34 million, with a population density of 13,416 persons per square kilometer.


West of the 23 wards, Tokyo consists of cities (shi), which enjoy a similar legal status to cities elsewhere in Japan. While serving a role as "bed towns" for those working in central Tokyo, some of these cities also have a local commercial and industrial base. Collectively, these cities are often known as "West Tokyo."

Districts, towns, and villages

The far west is occupied by the district (gun) of Nishitama. Much of this area is mountainous and unsuitable for urbanization. The highest mountain in Tokyo, Mount Kumotori , is 2,017 m high; other mountains in Tokyo include Mount Takasu (1737 m), Mount Odake (1266 m), and Mount Mitake (929 m). Lake Okutama, on the Tama River near Yamanashi Prefecture, is Tokyo's largest lake.


Tokyo's outlying islands extend as far as 1,000 km from central Tokyo. Because of the islands' distance from the city, they are locally run by branches of the metropolitan government, and often referred to as "subprefectures." Most of the islands are classified as villages.

Izu Islands

  • Oshima Subprefecture - Islands of Kozushima, Niijima , Oshima , and Toshima .
  • Miyake Subprefecture - Islands of Mikurajima and Miyakejima (main town: Miyake ).
  • Hachijo Subprefecture - Islands of Aogashima and Hachijojima (main town: Hachijo ).

Ogasawara Islands

  • Ogasawara Subprefecture - Ogasawara includes, from north to south, Chichjima , Nishinoshima , Hahajima , Kita Iwo Jima , Iwo Jima, and Minami Iwo Jima . Also includes two tiny outlying islands: Minami Torishima, the easternmost point in Japan, and Oki no Torishima , the southernmost point in Japan. The Iwo chain and the outlying islands are mostly uninhabited, but there are small local populations on the three islands closer to Honshu.

National Parks

There are two national parks in West Tokyo: Chichibu-Tama National Park , located in Nishitama and spilling over into Yamanashi and Saitama Prefectures, and Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park , located around Mount Takao to the south of Hachioji.

South of Tokyo is the Ogasawara National Park.

Major Districts

The center of Tokyo is the Imperial Palace, the former site of Edo Castle. The term "central Tokyo" today may refer to either the area within the looping Yamanote train line or to Tokyo's 23 special wards (ku) covering about 621 square kilometers, the most densely-populated area of Tokyo.

Central Tokyo has a number of major urban centers where business, shopping, and entertainment are concentrated. They all center around a major train station where multiple train lines operate.

  • Shinjuku - Tokyo's capital where the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is located. It is best known for Tokyo's early skyscrapers since the early 1970s. Major department stores, camera and computer stores, and hotels can be found. On the east side of Shinjuku Station, Kabuki-cho is notorious for its many bars and nightclubs.
  • Marunouchi and Otemachi - The main financial and business district of Tokyo has many headquarters of banks, trading companies, and other major businesses. The area is seeing a major redevelopment with new buildings for shopping and entertainment constructed in front of Tokyo Station's Marunouchi side.
  • Ginza and Yurakucho - Major shopping and entertainment district with department stores, upscale shops selling brand-name goods, and movie theaters.
  • Shinbashi - By being the gateway to Odaiba and having the new Shiodome Shiosite complex of high-rise buildings, this area has been effectively revitalized.
  • Shinagawa - In addition to the major hotels on the west side of Shinagawa Station, the former sleepy east side of the station has been redeveloped as a major center for business.
  • Shibuya - A longtime center of shopping, fashion, and entertainment, especially for the younger set.
  • Ikebukuro - Anchored by the Sunshine City (which was once Tokyo's tallest building) hotel and shopping complex, this is another area where people gather due to the various train lines shooting out of Ikebukuro Station.
  • Ueno - Ueno Station serves areas north of Tokyo from where many people commute. Besides department stores and shops in Ameyoko, Ueno boasts Ueno Park, Ueno Zoo, and major national museums. In spring, Ueno Park and adjacent Shinobazu Pond are prime places to view cherry blossoms.
  • Odaiba - A large, reclaimed, waterfront area that has become one of Tokyo's most popular shopping and entertainment districts.
  • Kinshicho - Major shopping and entertainment area in eastern Tokyo.
  • Kichijoji - Major shopping and entertainment area in western Tokyo.

Also see Tourism below.


The area of Tokyo, once the world's most expensive shopping area during the of the , is still home to exclusive .
The Ginza area of Tokyo, once the world's most expensive shopping area during the economic bubble of the 1980s, is still home to exclusive department stores.

Tokyo is home to an enormous number of companies in many sectors of the national and world economy. Internationally, Tokyo is an important center for banking, finance, and insurance. Tokyo is also the hub of Japan's publishing, machine manufacturing, and IT industries. During the 1980s, Tokyo was one of the fastest-growing real estate markets in the world: real estate and construction remain major industries in the city.

Historically, Tokyo did not become a major commercial center until the 1800s, and did not achieve primacy in the Japanese economy until the mid-20th century. Since World War II, most of the largest Japanese corporations (and almost all multinationals) have been headquartered in Tokyo to benefit from proximity to government regulators, even if their operations are located elsewhere. For a partial list, see: List of companies headquartered in Tokyo.


By age (2002):

  • Juveniles (0-14): 1.43 million (12%)
  • Working population (15-64): 8.5 million (71.4%)
  • Aged population (65+): 1.98 million (16.6%)

Foreign resident population: 327,000 (2001)

Net population growth: +68,000 (2000 to 2001)


, final resting place for many of Japan's war dead, constantly remains a controversial reminder of Japan's modern history.
Yasukuni Shrine, final resting place for many of Japan's war dead, constantly remains a controversial reminder of Japan's modern history.

Tokyo is known for its Japanese religious sites: Shinto shrines (Kanda Myojin , Meiji Shrine, Yasukuni Shrine) and Buddhist temples (Sensoji, Zojoji).

The city also has a noticeable international religious influence, ranging from Eastern Orthodoxy (St. Nikolai Cathedral ) to the Roman Catholic Church (St. Mary's Cathedral ) to Islam (Tokyo Mosque ).


Tokyo is Japan's largest domestic and international hub for rail, ground, and air transportation. Public transportation within Tokyo is also unsurpassed in the world with clean and efficient train and subway lines and buses.



Rail is the primary mode of transportation in Tokyo (and Japan).


If you can't get there by train, you can probably get there by subway. Tokyo's subway system is unsurpassed in the world. It is also integrated with many train lines for convenient transfers between the subway and trains.


If you can't get there by train or subway, you can probably get there by bus. Government-operated Toei Bus operates mainly within the 23 special wards while private bus companies operate other bus routes. Since bus routes can be quite complicated with no signs in English, you will need to know how to get there beforehand.


Available along most major streets. Starting fare is about 650 yen.


Long-distance ferries operated by Tokai Kisen go to outlying islands such as the Ogasawara Islands and Izu Islands. River boats on the the Sumida River operate mainly for tourists.


Tomei Expressway, Chuo Expressway, Kan'etsu National Expressway, Ken-ou Expressway), Tokyo Gaikan Expressway, Daisan Keihin Highway, Keiyo Highway


Tokyo has many tourist attractions. It would take weeks to see all the major ones. Thanks to a very convenient train and subway system (with signs in English), it is easy to visit most of these attractions. Here are only some of them (random order).

Shrines, temples, and castles

The Imperial Palace, Meiji Shrine, and Sensoji Temple are the three most popular ones in Tokyo.

Festivals and events

Tokyo holds many festivals large and small throughout the year.

Spring (March-May)

  • Kanda Festival
  • Sanja Festival in Asakusa

Summer (June-Aug.)

  • Koenji Awa Odori
  • Asakusa Samba Festival
  • Sumida Fireworks in Asakusa and Sumida Ward
  • Fukagawa Hachiman Festival

Fall (Sept.-Nov.)

  • Tokyo Jidai Festival in Asakusa

Winter (Dec.-Feb.)

  • Hatsumode New Year's Prayers at Meiji Shrine, Sensoji, and other major shrines and temples
  • Dezome-shiki Fireman's Parade at Tokyo Big Sight
  • Setsubun at Sensoji and other major temples


Parks and gardens

  • Hibiya Park
  • Jingu Gaien
  • East Garden of the Imperial Palace
  • Meiji Shrine Inner Garden
  • Shinjuku Gyoen
  • Showa Memorial Park in Tachikawa
  • Sumida Park
  • Ueno Park
  • Yoyogi Park
  • Kitanomaru Park
  • Hamarikyu Gardens
  • Kiyosumi Garden
  • Rikugien Garden
  • Inokashira Park in Kichijoji
  • Kyu-Furukawa Gardens
  • Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
  • Koishikawa Botanical Garden
  • Shinjuku Central Park
  • Komazawa Olympic Park
  • Kiba Park
  • Kasai Rinkai Park


  • Plum blossoms (Feb.-March) - Yoshino Baigo in Ome, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden, Hanegi Park in Umegaoka
  • Cherry blossoms (Late March-early April) - Ueno Park and Shinobazu Pond , Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Gyoen , Inokashira Park in Kichijoji, Chidorigafuchi Imperial Palace moat near the Budokan, Aoyama Cemetery , Sumida Park and River near Asakusa, International Christian University
  • Wisteria (Late April-early May) - Kameido Tenjin Shrine in Koto Ward
  • Azaleas (Late April-early May) - Nezu Shrine , East Garden of the Imperial Palace , Shiofune Kannon Temple in Ome
  • Irises (early-mid June) - Meiji Shrine, Horikiri Iris Garden
  • Hydrangeas (June-July) - Takahata Fudo Temple, Hino

Scenic views

Shopping and entertainment

Tokyo has various shopping districts famous for specific products. Akihabara is well-known for electronics stores, Shinjuku for camera and book shops, Ginza for department stores and luxury goods, Shibuya and Harajuku for teenage fashion, and Jimbocho for used (and new) books.

See also: Tourism in Japan

Prefectural symbols

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government uses a gingko leaf design in iron fences along streets, Toei metropolitan buses, and other facilities they own or operate.

Among tourists, the Nijubashi at the Imperial Palace, the National Diet Building, the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) housing the big red paper lantern at Sensoji in Asakusa, the skyscrapers at Shinjuku, and the neon signs at night in Ginza are the most popular symbols that come to mind.

There are other major landmarks like Tokyo Tower, the Rainbow Bridge, the State Guest-House in the Akasaka Imperial Palace , and Tokyo Station, but no one really thinks of them when they think of Tokyo.



Tokyo has numerous museums and art galleries. This is only some of them.

  • Tokyo National Museum
  • National Museum of Western Art
  • Edo-Tokyo Museum
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
  • Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in Kiba
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu Garden Place
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space
  • Tokyo Bunka Kaikan
  • Kokugikan Sumo Museum
  • Fukagawa-Edo Museum in Koto Ward
  • Japanese Sword Museum
  • Tokyo Opera City
  • Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills


  • Kabuki-za
  • National Noh Theater (Kokuritsu Nohgaku-do)
  • National Theatre (Kokuritsu Gekijo)

Modern architecture


  • Omotesando - Fashion capital of Japan.
  • Harajuku - Street fashion capital of Japan.
  • Shibuya - Teen fashion capital of Japan.

Tokyo in popular media

As the largest city in Japan and the location of the country's largest broadcasters and studios, Tokyo is frequently the setting for Japanese movies, television shows, animated series (anime), and comic books (manga). The most well-known outside Japan may be the kaiju (monster movie) genre, in which landmarks of Tokyo are routinely destroyed. Many comic books and animated series set in Tokyo, such as Sailor Moon, Ranma 1/2, and Yu-Gi-Oh!, have become popular across the world as well.

Some Hollywood directors have turned to Tokyo as a filming location. Well-known examples from the postwar era include Tokyo Joe , My Geisha , and the James Bond film You Only Live Twice; well-known contemporary examples include Kill Bill and Lost in Translation.

For a more complete list, see: List of movies, manga, anime, and television shows that take place in Tokyo


Being the nation's center of education, Tokyo boasts many universities, junior colleges, and vocational schools. Many of Japan's most prestigious universities are in Tokyo. The most prestigious is the University of Tokyo. Other big-name schools include Keio University, Hitotsubashi University , and Waseda University.

Many students aspiring to enter the best universities attend cram schools or study on their own for many months before taking the entrance exams. Applicants who fail the first time often spend another year or more of private studies to take the exam again. Those smart and fortunate enough to enter a big-name university will have extremely proud parents and a meal ticket for life.

Tokyo also has a few universities well-known for classes instructed in English. They include International Christian University, Sophia University, and Temple University Japan.

Universities in Tokyo

National Universities

  • Ochanomizu University
  • University of Electro-Communications
  • Tokyo Medical and Dental University
  • Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
  • Tokyo Gakugei University
  • Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
  • Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku
  • Tokyo Institute of Technology
  • University of Tokyo
  • Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
  • Hitotsubashi University

Public University

Private Universities

Professional sports

Tokyo is home to two professional baseball clubs, the Yakult Swallows (Meiji Jingu Stadium ) and Yomiuri Giants (Tokyo Dome).

The Japan Sumo Association is also headquartered in Tokyo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena where three official sumo tournaments are held annually (in January, May, and September).

Football (soccer) clubs in Tokyo include FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy 1969, both of which play at Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu.

With a number of world-class sports venues, Tokyo often hosts national and international sporting events such as tennis tournaments, swim meets, marathons, American football exhibition games, judo, karate, etc.

Miscellaneous topics

Sister cities

In addition, many of the wards and cities within Tokyo maintain sister-city relationships with other foreign cities

North: Saitama
West: Kofu Tokyo, International Airport East: Chiba, Narita, International Airport
South: Yokohama, Kawasaki

External links


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