The Thousand Faces of the Extraordinary Japanese Capital
Tokyo is the capital of Japan as well as the largest prefecture in the country including 23 wards. About 14 million inhabitants live in the city formerly named Edo, which is located at the heart of Honshu main island, on the shore of Tokyo Bay. Economic, political, and cultural powers of the archipelago are concentrated here. It is also the first place visited by travelers in Japan.
Tokyo is the administrative capital of Japan, but also a prefecture constituted of 23 large wards (including Shinjuku, Shibuya, Setagaya or Shinagawa), that are themselves cities in the city and forming a giant conurbation.
With a 14 million-strong population, rising to a nearly 43 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area, Tokyo is the largest metropolis in the world, wrapped up in an architectural structure that is second to none (according to projections Tokyo may lose this position to Delhi in India from 2029). Tokyo, however, has been listed for years as one of the safest capital in the world by several rankings among which the most respected one by The Economist.
The first touristic destination in Japan
Spreading on the north of the bay sharing its name, Tokyo is also the most visited city by tourists in Japan, which makes sense when considering the fascination it creates from the huge contrast between the neon-lit metropolis and the charm of its thousand small villages.
In 2017, foreign visitors in Tokyo were about 13,8 million, twice as much than in 2013. In 2018, foreign tourists visiting Japan spent in the capital 53% of their total expenditure in Japan! The top three cities are Shibuya, Minato and Chiyoda.
Where to stay in the capital?
The best choice when looking for an accommodation in Tokyo is to select a central location, close to the city center defined by the circular train 🚅 line Yamanote. It is important to pay attention to the neighborhood or the ward where an accommodation is located when searching on the Internet 📶. The cheapest hotels 🏨 are often far away or inconveniently served by public transportation.
How to travel in Tokyo?
The center of the city is crossed by hundreds of train lines, subways 🚇, buses, monorails 🚝 and other trams that intersect one another in a breathtaking ballet, ready to take hurried Tokyo inhabitants to their meetings as well as thrilled tourists to their latest discoveries. The Yamanote Line stands as a totem, an aerial circle which links together the most popular areas with ease.
It is easy to walk a lot when visiting Tokyo. Its large sidewalks and secured roadways allow to plan smooth pedestrian itineraries. Traffic signs are written both in Japanese and in English for an easy travel. Amateurs can even ride a bicycle, a good compromise to discover at one’s own pace more confidential places of the capital.
Top destinations in Tokyo
Travelers often have trouble to decide on what to do in Tokyo. The capital is so sprawled out that even a lifetime might not be enough to see everything. While most tourists choose to combine Tokyo with a trip to Kyoto, which is a good idea, others prefer to spend their entire stay in the famous metropolis.
Even though Tokyo is the economic center of Japan, traveling just a few miles in any direction from and in the capital will take you to a variety of incredible landscapes. From the sea to the mountains, from hiking in nature to the concrete jungle, from the cutting edge of modernity to (sometimes) the timeless quaintness of ancient Japan.
Among the must-sees in Tokyo, the following short list can help deciding on a first selection:
- Places of worship: Meiji-jingu shrine in Harajuku, Senso-ji temple in Asakusa and Jindai-ji temple in Chofu
- Japanese Gardens: Shinjuku Gyoen, Hama Rikyu and Koishikawa Koarakuen
- Observatories: Tokyo Sky Tree, Shibuya Sky, Tokyo Metropolitain Government Office in Shinjuku and Tokyo City View in Roppongi
- Museums: Tokyo National Museum, Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, Nezu Museum, Ghibli Museum, teamLab Bordeless and Miraikan in Odaiba
- Shopping centers: Shibuya Parco, Tokyo Midtown, Ginza Six and Kitte Marunouchi
- Hiking: Mount Takao, Mitake-san
- And unique places: Ueno Park and its cherry trees, Tokyo Disney Resort, Tsukiji Outer Fish Market, Tokyo Station and its underground galleries.
Discover the pull of Tokyo through our numerous visit posts classified by the city’s wards and neighborhoods. Fully immerse in its splendor and intimacy and let yourself be sucked into its sublime transience.