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Tokyo (東京都; Tōkyō-to)
Map of Japan with Tokyo highlighted
Capital Shinjuku
Region Kanto
Island Honshu
Governor Shintaro Ishihara
Area 2,187.08 km² (45th)
 - % water 1.0%
Population (October 1, 2003)
 - Population 12,527,115 (8,444,531 in 23 wards) (1st)
 - Density 5655 /km²
Districts 1
Municipalities 62
ISO 3166-2 JP-13
Web site
Prefectural Symbols
 - Flower Somei-Yoshino cherry blossom
 - Tree Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba)
 - Bird Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
Tokyo Metropolitan Government symbol

Adopted in June 1989, Tokyo's official symbol has three arcs forming the letter T for Tokyo in the shape of a vivid green ginkgo leaf. It symbolizes Tokyo's future growth and prosperity, charm, and tranquility.

Long a symbol of Tokyo, the Nijubashi Bridge at the Kokyo 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.
Long a symbol of Tokyo, the Nijubashi Bridge at the Kokyo 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.

Tokyo (東京, ; literally, "eastern capital") is de facto capital of Japan and home to the Japanese government and emperor. It is also the nation's most populous urban area (12 million people, or about 10 percent of the country's population, live in Tokyo) and one of 47 prefectures of Japan.


Tokyo: the de facto city

Under Japanese law, Tokyo is designated as a "metropolis" ( -to) rather than a city, and its administrative structure is similar to that of Japan's other prefectures ( -ken). It consists of 23 special wards ( -ku) which once comprised the city of Tokyo but are now self-governing municipalities, as well as 26 cities ( -shi), 5 towns ( -chō or machi), and 8 villages ( -son or mura), each of which has a local government. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is headed by a publicly-elected governor and metropolitan assembly, located in the ward of Shinjuku.


Tokyo is located in the Kanto region on the island of Honshu. Its center is at 35°41' North, 139°46' East (35.68333, 139.7667) [1], but its borders extend to outlying islands in the Pacific Ocean, some as far as 1,000 km south of the mainland.


As the nation's center of politics, business, finance, education, mass media, and pop culture, Tokyo has Japan'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.

This extreme concentration is both boon and bane, prompting an ongoing debate over moving the nation's capital to another region. There is also great fear of a catastrophic earthquake striking Tokyo, which may in effect cripple the entire nation. Nevertheless, Tokyo continues to draw people from across Japan and other countries; a substantial portion of the population is not native to the region, and Tokyo is still a place to meet people from all over the country and the world.


Main article: History of Tokyo
Stone foundation of the main tower at Edo Castle.
Stone foundation of the main tower at Edo Castle.

Tokyo's rise to prominence can be largely attributed to 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 became 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 was 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.

A map from the 1888 Meyers Konversations-Lexikon Encyclopedia shows the old German name for Tokyo, Jedo.
A map from the 1888 Meyers Konversations-Lexikon Encyclopedia shows the old German name for Tokyo, Jedo.

Tokyo went on to suffer two major catastrophes 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 combined. Large areas of the city were flattened. Today, hardly a trace of the war is evident to visitors to the city, but many people still carry its emotional scars.

After the war, Tokyo was rebuilt with excellent train and subway systems, which were showcased to the world during the city's 1964 Summer Olympics. The 1970s brought new high-rise developments, a new and controversial airport at Narita (1978), and a population increase to about 11 million (in the metropolitan area). In the 1980s, real estate prices skyrocketed during an economic bubble: many got rich quick, but the bubble burst in the early 1990s and many companies, banks, and individuals were caught with real estate shrinking in value. A major recession followed, making the 1990s Japan's "lost decade" which still continues today.

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.

Geography and administrative divisions

This map shows the mainland portion of Tokyo. Colors indicate the 23 Special Wards and Western Tokyo. Reclaimed land on Tokyo Bay (such as Odaiba) has been omitted for clarity. The islands cannot be shown at this scale. Click on the map to enlarge it.
This map shows the mainland portion of Tokyo. Colors indicate the 23 Special Wards and Western Tokyo. Reclaimed land on Tokyo Bay (such as Odaiba) has been omitted for clarity. The islands cannot be shown at this scale. Click on the map to enlarge it.

Tokyo is northwest of Tokyo Bay, and is 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.

Toyko has been hit by powerful earthquakes in 1703, 1782, 1812, 1855 and 1923. The 1923 earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 8.3 killed 142,000 people.

Tokyo is also part of the Greater Tokyo Area, by far the world's most populous metropolitan region, which includes the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba.

Tokyo consists of the following 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 official total population of the 23 wards combined was about 8.34 million, with a population density of 13,416 persons per square kilometer.


Satellite photo of Tokyo taken by NASA's Landsat 7.
Satellite photo of Tokyo taken by NASA's Landsat 7.

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.


The Izu Islands, to the south, are part of Tokyo.
The Izu Islands, to the south, are part of Tokyo.

Tokyo's outlying islands extend as far as 1,850 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

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

Shinjuku by night.
Shinjuku by night.
Shibuya, considered the center of Japanese youth culture, boasts one of the world's busiest pedestrian crossings, the scramble crossing in front of the Hachikō exit of Shibuya station.
Shibuya, considered the center of Japanese youth culture, boasts one of the world's busiest pedestrian crossings, the scramble crossing in front of the Hachikō exit of Shibuya station.
Odaiba Fuji TV building
Odaiba Fuji TV building

The center of Tokyo is Kokyo, or 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.
  • UenoUeno 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.
  • Nagatacho - The political heart of Tokyo and the nation. It is the location of the Diet, government ministries, and party headquarters.
  • Aoyama - An upscale neighborhood of Tokyo with parks, an enormous cemetery, expensive housing, trendy cafes, and international restaurants (includes the subway station Omotesando).


Tokyo has the largest metropolitan economy in the world: its nominal GDP of around $1.315 trillion is greater than that of South Korea and Mexico. It is a major international finance center, headquarters to several of the world's largest investment banks and insurance companies, and serves as a hub for Japan's transportation, publishing, and broadcasting industries.

During the centralized growth of Japan's economy following World War II, many large firms moved their headquarters from cities such as Osaka (the historical commercial capital) to Tokyo, in an attempt to take advantage of better access to the government. This trend has begun to slow due to ongoing population growth in Tokyo and the high cost of living there.


As one of the major cities of the world, Tokyo has over 8 million people living within its 23 wards, and during the daytime, the population swells by over 2.5 million as workers and students commute from adjacent areas. This effect is even more pronounced in the three central wards of Chiyoda, Chuo, and Minato, whose collective population is less than 300,000 at night, but over 2 million during the day.


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: 353,826 (as of Jan. 1, 2005)
  • Top 5 Nationalities of Foreign Residents: Chinese (120,331), Korean (103,191), Philippine (31,505), American (18, 043), British (7,585)


Tokyo is Japan's largest domestic and international hub for rail, ground, and air transportation. Public transportation within Tokyo is dominated by an extensive network of clean and efficient, if occasionally very crowded trains and subways run by a variety of operators, with buses, monorails and trams playing a secondary role.


Railways and subways

The Ginza Line, Tokyo's oldest subway line, first opened in 1927.
The Ginza Line, Tokyo's oldest subway line, first opened in 1927.

Rail is the primary mode of transportation in Tokyo, which has the most extensive underground network in the world and an equally extensive network of surface lines. Most lines in Tokyo are privately owned and operated, with the exception of Toei Subway (run directly by the metropolitan government). Railway and subway lines are highly integrated; commuter trains from the suburbs continue directly into the subway network on many lines, often emerging on the other side of the city to serve another company's surface line. It is estimated some 20 million people take the 70 plus train lines and go through 1000 stations in the metropolitan area daily. Some of the larger stations, like Shinjuku Station and Tokyo station, are miles long and are the busiest in the world.

Toei Oedo Line is Tokyo's deepest subway line.
Toei Oedo Line is Tokyo's deepest subway line.
JR Yamanote Line
JR Yamanote Line


Toei bus
Toei bus

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 the customer pays while boarding. Buses run by other companies may charge according to distance, and the customer pays when leaving the bus.


  • 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. The Shuto Expressway network covers central Tokyo, linking the intercity expressways together.


Zōjōji (a temple in Shiba Park) and Tokyo Tower.
Zōjōji (a temple in Shiba Park) and Tokyo Tower.

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.

Rickshaws carry tourists in front of Kaminarimon Gate of Sensoji in Asakusa
Rickshaws carry tourists in front of Kaminarimon Gate of Sensoji in Asakusa

Festivals and events

Tokyo holds many festivals large and small throughout the year.

Spring (March-May)

Sanja Festival in Asakusa.
Sanja Festival in Asakusa.

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


Parks and gardens


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

Scenic views

Shopping and entertainment

Shibuya intersection crossing
Shibuya intersection crossing
Ginza 4-chome crossing
Ginza 4-chome crossing

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.

Traditional symbols of Tokyo include Nijubashi (a bridge at the Imperial Palace), the National Diet Building, the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) housing the big red paper lantern at Sensoji in Asakusa, the State Guest-House in the Akasaka Imperial Palace, and the Meiji-era facade of Tokyo Station. More contemporary symbols include the skyscrapers of Shinjuku, the neon signs at night in Ginza, Tokyo Tower, the Rainbow Bridge, and the Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills, among many others.



Tokyo has numerous museums and art galleries. This list is by no means exhaustive.


Kabuki-za Theater
Kabuki-za Theater

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 many 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 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

Public University

Private Universities

Public schools

The kindergartens, elementary schools (years 1 through 6), and junior high schools (7 through 9) are operated by local wards or municipal offices. Public high schools in Tokyo are run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education and are called "Metropolitan High Schools". [2]. For a list of high schools in Japanese, see [3].

Private schools

In addition to public schools, Tokyo has many private schools.

Private secondary schools include:

Professional sports

A sumo match at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
A sumo match at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

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

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Travel guide to Tokyo from Wikitravel


  Tokyo Metropolis Symbol of Tokyo Metropolis
Adachi | Arakawa | Bunkyō | Chiyoda | Chūō | Edogawa | Itabashi | Katsushika | Kita | Kōtō | Meguro | Minato | Nakano | Nerima | Ōta | Setagaya | Shibuya | Shinagawa | Shinjuku (capital) | Suginami | Sumida | Toshima | Taitō
Akiruno | Akishima | Chōfu | Fuchū | Fussa | Hachiōji | Hamura | Higashikurume | Higashimurayama | Higashiyamato | Hino | Inagi | Kiyose | Kodaira | Koganei | Kokubunji | Komae | Kunitachi | Machida | Mitaka | Musashimurayama | Musashino | Nishi-Tōkyō | Ōme | Tachikawa | Tama
Districts and Subprefectures
Nishitama District | Hachijō Subprefecture | Miyake Subprefecture | Ogasawara Subprefecture | Ōshima Subprefecture
edit Prefectures of Japan Flag of Japan
Aichi | Akita | Aomori | Chiba | Ehime | Fukui | Fukuoka | Fukushima | Gifu | Gunma | Hiroshima | Hokkaido | Hyogo | Ibaraki | Ishikawa | Iwate | Kagawa | Kagoshima | Kanagawa | Kochi | Kumamoto | Kyoto | Mie | Miyagi | Miyazaki | Nagano | Nagasaki | Nara | Niigata | Oita | Okayama | Okinawa | Osaka | Saga | Saitama | Shiga | Shimane | Shizuoka | Tochigi | Tokushima | Tokyo | Tottori | Toyama | Wakayama | Yamagata | Yamaguchi | Yamanashi
Regions of Japan
Hokkaido | Tohoku | Kantō | Chubu (Hokuriku - Koshinetsu - Tokai) | Kansai | Chugoku | Shikoku | Kyushu
Major Cities (Cities designated by government ordinance)
23 wards of Tokyo | Chiba | Fukuoka | Hiroshima | Kawasaki | Kitakyushu | Kobe | Kyoto | Nagoya | Osaka | Saitama | Sapporo | Sendai | Shizuoka | Yokohama
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