Tokyo Travel Guide

Tokyo, 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. Tokyo is a place where the urgent rhythms of consumer culture collide with the quieter moments that linger from older traditions. It's hectic madness leavened by the Zennest of calms. 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. Tokyo remains a glittering example of the 'miracle' of post-WWII Japan.

Tokyo suburb hasn't been completely trounced: in the shadows of skyscrapers, streets are still lined with tiny specialist shops and bustling restaurants open late into the night; and you can still sense a bygone era in an ancient wooden house, a Japanese inn, an old lady in a kimono sweeping the pavement outside her home with a straw broom. 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.

Facts in a glance

Area: 2,168 sq km
Population: 12 million
Country: Japan
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +9 (Standard Time)
Telephone Area Code: 03


1457: As ordered by Uesugi Mochitomo, the construction of Edo Castle begins in what is now the East Garden of the Imperial Palace. Ota Dokan, Uesugi's vassal, is assigned the task.

1524: Hojo Ujitsuna enters Edo Castle.

1590: Tokugawa Ieyasu occupies Edo Castle.

1603: Tokugawa becomes shogun and rules Japan from Edo Castle, starting the Edo period of Japan which lasts until 1868. Edo develops rapidly under the Tokugawa shoguns.

1637: The construction of Edo Castle, including the main tower, is finally completed.

1657: The Great Fire of Edo (Edo Taika) destroys much of the Yoshiwara red-light district, Asakusa, and Edo Castle. 100,000 people die.

1701: In the shogun's palace, Asano Naganori draws his sword in a fit of anger and cuts Kira Yoshinaka, the highest-ranking master of protocol who had mocked Asano. Asano was immediately forced to commit ritual seppuku. At the end of the following year, his 47 masterless retainers avenged their master's death by attacking and beheading Kira at his residence in Ryogoku. This story of loyalty soon becomes a timeless classic known as "Chushingura."

1707: Mt. Fuji erupts and ash falls on Edo.

1853: the days of global isolation were nearly over. Sent by the US Navy, under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry, a fleet of four US Navy ships dropped anchor in Tokyo Bay. Perry demanded that Japan should open its doors to foreign trade. Finally it was agreed, and US ships were permitted to use two Japanese ports.

1867: the Edo Shogun (head of the government) resigned and power was handed to Emperor Meiji. One year later, Emperor Meiji transferred his residence from Kyoto to Edo and renamed the city Tokyo ("eastern capital"). To realign Japan with the rest of the world, Emperor Meiji set to work with frenzied plans of rapid industrialization. Opportunities abound. New jobs attracted new people, population and excitement exploded with a bang! But then, disaster struck. Just fifty-five years into life as the capital, Tokyo was flattened.

1923: The "big one" struck at a minute to midday on September 1st. The "low" city area was completely destroyed. In the aftermath fires raged for days. Fuelled by strong winds, the flames claimed more lives than the quake itself.

1925: The Yamanote Line looping train line is finally completed when the section between Kanda and Ueno Stations is completed. Construction first started in 1885.

1927: Tokyo's first subway (Ginza Line) opens between Asakusa and Ueno.

1932: Five districts and 82 towns and villages are admitted to Tokyo city which then has 35 wards.

1936: The National Diet Building is completed. In an attempted coup (the February 26 Incident), nearly 1500 junior officers of Japan's army occupied the National Diet Building, the Kantei (Prime Minister's Residence) and other key locations in Tokyo. The coup was suppressed by the Army and Navy within three days.

1942: Tokyo suffers the Doolittle Raid, its first air raid by US bombers, soon after the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 1941.

1943: Tokyo Prefecture and Tokyo city merge to form Tokyo Metropolis or Tokyo-to, commonly called "Tokyo." Since this time, no city in Japan has had the name "Tokyo."

1945: Tokyo was heavily bombed, and much of the city was burned to the ground by heavy bombardment by B-29 and other aircraft. Extensive tracts of land were leveled both by the explosions and by the subsequent fires. The damage was not limited to the former Tokyo City, but extended to Hachioji and other cities in western Tokyo, as the bombers targeted air bases, transportation facilities, and strategically important manufacturing plants. The American Occupation began in September.

Rebuilding Tokyo had to begin after the raids of World War II. Many historic buildings were severely damaged, if not completely destroyed. The cinders of the destroyed city were once again dumped in the canals, and black markets sprang up all over the city.

1950: profits from the Korean War provided much of the funding. In the 1960's it was the prospect of the Olympics that inspired more - streets were widened, the subway expanded, a monorail was built out to Hanada (the old international airport) and the bullet train link to Osaka was established. There was also a frenzy of highway and freeway building, a frenzy, which even after the Olympics had finished, ceased to stop. It was aesthetically thoughtless in places and even plain ridiculous - whoever thought it a good idea to "top" the historic Nihombahsi Bridge with a highway? (Nihombashi Bridge is the point from which all distance is measured in Japan).

1958: Tokyo Tower is completed.

1961: The Hibiya subway line opens between Minami-senju and Naka-Okachimachi.

1964: The Tokaido Shinkansen opens on October 1 in time for the Tokyo Olympic Games starting on October 10. Tokyo's re-emergence from wartime trauma was complete at the Summer Olympics, which publicized the city on an international stage and brought global attention to the "economic miracle".

1968: The Ogasawara Islands (Bonin Islands) are returned to Japan and become part of Tokyo.

1977: Tachikawa Air Force Base is returned to Japan and later converted partially into a park.

1978: The New Tokyo International Airport in nearby Chiba Prefecture opens. Tokyo International Airport then serves mainly domestic flights.

1986: The bubble economy starts with land prices skyrocketing.

1988: The Tokyo Dome indoor baseball stadium is completed.

1990: Although the recession following the bursting of the "bubble economy" 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.

1991: The new Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku is completed.

1993: The Rainbow Bridge is completed.

1995: On March 20, 1995 the city became the focus of international media attention in the wake of the Aum Shinrikyo cult terrorist organization 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.

1999: Shintaro Ishihara is elected Governor of Tokyo.

2000: The Oedo subway line opens.

2003: Shintaro Ishihara is reelected Governor of Tokyo.

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