Tokyo Prefecture (東京都;; Tōkyō-to)
Oiran Oiran dochu courtesan procession at the Tokyo Jidai Festival in Asakusa. More Tokyo photos here.
Map of Japan with Tokyo highlighted in red
[{{{GoogleMapLink}}} Google Map of Tokyo here.]
Location Honshu island, Kanto region 
Neighbors Saitama Prefecture, Chiba Prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture 
Population 12,369,000 (8,340,000 in 23 wards) (1st) (October 1, 2003)
Area 2,187.08 km² (1.0% water) (45th)
Major Cities Shinjuku-ku (capital), Chuo-ku, Chiyoda-ku, Minato-ku 
Major Sights Asakusa, Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya, Odaiba, Imperial Palace, Kabuki-za, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Tower, sumo tournament 
Major Gateways Narita International Airport, Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, Ueno Station, Shibuya Station, Ikebukuro Station 
Train Lines Yamanote Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Chuo Line, Sobu Line, Tokaido Line, Tokaido/Tohoku/Nagano Shinkansen bullet train lines, Tsukuba Express, etc. 
Travel Time 70 min. from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station by train 
Claim to Fame Capital of Japan and nation's political and economic center.
Products Personal computers
Old Name(s) Edo
Keywords to-nai, 23-ku, shitamachi, Edokko, To-cho, Kanto earthquake
Historical Persons Tokugawa Ieyasu, Emperor Meiji
Related Links Tokyo Articles | Tokyo Photos
Tourist Links
Tokyo Convention & Visitors | JNTO
Tokyo Prefectural Government
Address 〒163-8001東京都新宿区西新宿2-8-1
8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku 2-chome, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 163-8001
Phone (03) 5321-1111 
Official Site 
Symbols Flower:  Somei-Yoshino cherry blossom
Tree:  Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba)
Bird:  Black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus)
Others:  gingko leaf, Nijubashi Bridge at Imperial Palace, Shinjuku skyscrapers
Logo:  {{{Logocaption}}}
Sister States Beijing, People's Republic of China; Berlin, Germany; Cairo, Egypt; Jakarta, Indonesia; Moscow, Russia; New South Wales, Australia; New York City, New York, USA; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea
[[Image:|310px|Map of Tokyo]]
Long a symbol of Tokyo, the Nijubashi Bridge at the Imperial Palace. The general public is allowed to cross this bridge on two days of the year: New Year's and the Emperor's birthday on Dec. 23 to greet the Imperial family appearing on a balcony.

This article is 85% complete.

by Philbert Ono

Tokyo (東京都; Tōkyō, literally "eastern capital"), is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan located in the Kanto region on Japan's largest island of Honshu.

Tokyo is 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 one of the major cities of the world, it is technically and politically not a city. There is no city named "Tokyo." Tokyo is actually designated as a "metropolis" (都 -to), similar to a prefecture (県 -ken), consisting of 23 special wards (区 -ku), 26 cities (市 -shi), 5 towns (町 -cho or machi), and 8 villages (村 -son or mura) each having a local government. It includes outlying islands in the Pacific Ocean as far as over 1,000 km south in the subtropics. Tokyo itself is headed by a publicly-elected governor (not mayor).

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 over 8 million 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.

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-ku, Chuo-ku, and Minato-ku is less than 300,000 at night, but balloons to over 2 million during the day.

Tokyo is 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.

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 a convenient 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 country and the world.

Getting There & Around

Being the nerve center and capital of Japan, Tokyo is obviously Japan's easiest place to get to by air, rail, or car. Narita International Airport no longer seems that far away with improved rail links from Tokyo. However, since domestic flights land in Haneda in Tokyo, the fact remains that it is inconvenient to make flight connections between domestic and international flights.

Within Tokyo, a labryinth of train lines, subways, and buses can carry you to almost anywhere you want to go. Train and subway station signs are in English and it is not too difficult for even first-time travelers armed with a map to navigate the megalopolis.

Travel Tips

  • Compared to most other large cities in the world, Tokyo is still quite safe to be in. Since foreigners are a common sight, people (especially children) won't pester you with stares or "hellos (haro)."
  • Instead of thinking of Tokyo as one big city, look at it as a collection of many small little neighborhoods. Besides the big city centers, also explore different neighborhoods.
  • If you come to Japan during cherry blossom season, Tokyo has many places where you can see the flowers.
  • Tokyo is also an excellent base for day trips to Kamakura, Yokohama, and Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture and Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture.

Must See

  • Asakusa - A tourist trap to be sure, but still a must-see area.
  • Ginza - The neon lights at night, department stores, and the Kabuki-za Theater.
  • Imperial Palace - Home of the Emperor.
  • Omotesando and Harajuku - Mecca for the latest Japanese teen fashion.
  • Shibuya - Great place for people-watching.
  • Shinjuku - Another great place for people-watching and to buy a camera. Go up one of the skyscrapers to see Tokyo from above.
  • Akihabara - "Electric Town" for anything electric or electronic.
  • Meiji Shrine - Tokyo's largest Shinto shrine.
  • Sumo at Ryogoku Kokugikan - Grand sumo tournaments are held in Tokyo in Jan., May, and Sept.
  • Although there is a tourist information office in Tokyo (Yurakucho), it's quite out of the way. Best to pick up foreign-language tourist pamphlets at Narita Airport if you arrive there.

Recommended Routes

There are many areas in Tokyo where major attractions are clustered together.

  • Tokyo Station, Imperial Palace, Ginza, Kabuki-za
  • Shibuya, Omotesando, Harajuku, and Meiji Shrine
  • Asakusa, Ueno Park/Zoo, Yanaka

City Centers

Shibuya, considered the center of Japanese youth culture, boasts one of the world's busiest pedestrian crossings, the Scramble Crossing in front of the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station.]] 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.

There are 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 Building 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 is Tokyo's northern gateway through which many people commute and travel from the northern prefectures. 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 with a number of malls and Inokashira Park, famous for cherry blossoms.

Photos of Tokyo

Thousands of photos of Tokyo here.


Select a video and click on the image to start playing it.


See: Main article: History of Tokyo

Tokyo's current prominence in Japan can be attributed to just two men: Tokugawa Ieyasu and Emperor Meiji. In 1603, after unifying the warring states of Japan, Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made Edo (now Tokyo) his base of operations. As a result, the city developed rapidly and grew to become one of the largest cities in the world with a population topping 1 million by the 18th century. It was the de facto capital of Japan even while the Emperor resided in Kyoto, the Imperial capital.

Since the city's early beginnings and even now, Edo/Tokyo has always had a large non-native population. Ieyasu himself was an outsider who brought many outsiders to help build the city and government. The sankin kotai system also required provincial warlords to periodically parade to Edo and keep a residence in the city along with key family members and samurai retainers. The term "Edokko" (child of Edo) was even coined (and still used today) to distinguish the natives from the non-natives.

After 250 years of the Tokugawa, the shogunate was overthrown by two southern prefectures (Chōshū and Satsuma) under the banner of restoring Imperial rule. In 1869, the figurehead 17-year-old Emperor Meiji moved to Edo, which was renamed "Tokyo." Tokyo was already the nation's political, economic, and cultural center, and the emperor's residence made it a de facto Imperial capital as well with the former Edo Castle becoming the Imperial Palace.

Tokyo went on to suffer two major tragedies and has remarkably recovered from both of them. One was the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, and the other was World War II. The firebombings in 1945 were almost as devastating as the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Large areas of the city were flattened. Today, hardly a trace of the war remains, but the emotional scars still remain among many people.

After the war, Tokyo was rebuilt with excellent train and subway systems, skyscrapers sprouting since the early 1970s, a new and controversial airport at Narita in 1978, and a population increase to about 11 million. In the 1980s, real estate prices skyrocketed during the economic bubble. Many companies and people got rich quick reselling real estate. But the bubble popped in the 1990s and many companies, banks, and individuals got caught with with real estate shrinking in value. A major recession followed, making the 1990s Japan's "lost decade" which still continues well into the first decade of the 21st century.

Tokyo still sees new or renewed urban centers being developed on large lots of idle land. Recent projects include Ebisu Garden Place, Tennozu Isle, Shiodome, Roppongi Hills, Shinagawa (now also a shinkansen station), and Tokyo Station (Marunouchi side). Land reclamation projects in Tokyo have also been going on for centuries. The most prominent is the Odaiba area, now a major shopping and entertainment center.


Tokyo is Japan's largest domestic and international hub for rail, ground, and air transportation. Public transportation within Tokyo is also one of the best 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 surface train, you can probably get there by subway: Tokyo's subway system is unsurpassed in the world, and is also integrated with many surface lines for convenient transfers between the subway and trains.


The metropolitan government operates Toei buses mainly within the 23 special wards while private bus companies operate other bus routes. Bus transportation is convenient for places far from the train or subway stations. Most bus routes stop or terminate at a train or subway station, and they can be quite complicated with no signs in English. The Toei buses charge 200 yen per ride which you pay when you board. Other buses may charge according to distance, and you pay when you get off.


  • Taxis - Available along most major streets. Starting fare is about 650 yen.
  • Streetcars - Once a common sight before subways and buses came to fore, streetcar lines have shrunk to only one route called the Toden Arakawa Line plying the route between Waseda and Minowabashi.
  • Ferries/Boats - Long-distance ferries operated by Tokai Kisen go to outlying islands such as the Ogasawara Islands and Izu Islands. River boats on the Sumida River operate between Asakusa and Kasai Rinkai Park, mainly for tourists.
  • Expressways - Many expressways converge at Tokyo including the Tomei Expressway, Chuo Expressway, Kan'etsu National Expressway, Ken-ō Expressway, Tokyo Gaikan Expressway, Daisan Keihin Highway, and Keiyo Highway.


Sanja Festival in Asakusa.

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.

Other Structures

Event Calendar

Tokyo holds many festivals and events large and small throughout the year.

  • Spring (March-May)
  • Summer (June-Aug.)
  • Fall (Sept.-Nov.)
  • 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
  • Others

Parks and gardens

National Parks

Other Parks


The Jindai Botanical Garden has a multitude of flowers such as the roses in this garden.

Scenic views

Shopping and entertainment

Ginza neon signs at night.

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.



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

Kabuki-za Theater




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.

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

  • Tokyo Metropolitan University

Private Universities

  • Aoyama Gakuin University
  • Asia University
  • Obirin University
  • Gakushuin University
  • Keio University
  • Kogakuin University
  • Kokugakuin University
  • International Christian University
  • Kokushikan University
  • Komazawa University
  • Shibaura Institute of Technology
  • Sophia University
  • Showa University
  • Senshu University
  • Daito Bunka University
  • Takushoku University
  • Chuo University
  • Teikyo University
  • Temple University Japan
  • Tokyo University of Agriculture
  • Tokyo University of Science
  • Toho University
  • Nihon University
  • Hosei University
  • Musashi Institute of Technology
  • Meiji University
  • Meiji Gakuin University
  • Rikkyo University
  • Waseda University

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.


Tokyo consists of the following 23 special wards, 26 cities, 5 towns, and 8 villages:

23 special wards

Each ward (ku 区) 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 市), 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."

Towns and Villages

The far west is occupied by the county (gun 郡) 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 1,300 km from central Tokyo. Because of the islands' distance from the city, they are locally run by branches of the metropolitan government. Most of the islands are classified as villages.

Izu Islands

Ogasawara Islands



By area (as of Oct. 1, 2003)

  • All of Tokyo: 12.36 million
  • 23 special wards: 8.34 million
  • Tama area: 4 million
  • Islands: 27,000

By age (As of Jan. 1, 2003):

  • Juveniles (0-14): 1.433 million (12%)
  • Working population (15-64): 8.507 million (71.4%)
  • Aged population (65+): 2.057 million (16.6%)

By time (As of 2000)

  • Nighttime: 12.017 million
  • Daytime: 14.667 million

By nationality

  • Foreign residents: 354,000 (as of Oct. 1, 2003)


  • Although Tokyo is a prefecture and not a city, it maintains sister-city relations with a number of major cities. In addition, many of the wards and cities within Tokyo maintain sister-city relationships with foreign cities.
  • A survey in 2006 found that there are about 1,000 tanuki racoon dogs living within the 23 wards of Tokyo. They live in parks and pockets of greenery in the concrete jungle.

External links


Prefectures of Japan
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