Prior to 1868, Tokyo was originally known as Edo, meaning “estuary”. Its name was changed to Tokyo (Tōkyō: tō (east) + kyō (capital)) when it became the imperial capital in 1868 with the Meiji Restoration in line with the East Asian tradition of including the word “capital” in the name of the capital city.
A small castle town in the 16th century, Edo became Japan’s political centre in 1603, when Tokugawa Ieyasu established his feudal government there. A few decades later, Edo had grown into one of the world’s most populous cities.
The centre of Japan, the centre of the shogun’s power, Tokyo is now one of the world’s financial centres and within the last two centuries has been totally demolished due to war and earthquakes. Large parts of the city were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and in the air raids of 1945.
The city is both east and west, old and new, a mix of concrete buildings, electrical cables, traffic and people everywhere. The pulse of Tokyo is high, but if you are a fan of big city breaks then a week in one of the world’s most fascinating metropolis is a unique experience!
Tokyo is too big to explore on foot. The city’s public transportation works very smoothly and is highly recommended for getting around. Just try to avoid the rush hour!
Tokyo is not just one city: it consists of a number of areas, each with their own characteristics. In the northeast part of Tokyo you can find the cultural and popular Tokyo with a lot of museums clustered around Ueno Park. In the area north of the park close to the Yanaka cemetery you can see the genuine Tokyo, Shitamachi, with an authentic and peaceful atmosphere. To the west is Asakusa and Nakamise Street, where you can buy everything from souvenirs to genuine arts and crafts.
The streets run to the most famous of Tokyo’s temples, Asakusa Kannon with the big red rice paper lamp. South of Asakusa is the “Electric City” of Akihabara which is a mass of shops selling the latest electronics. In the heart of Tokyo is the Imperial Palace with its extensive park. Not far from the park is Ginza with the most expensive land prices in the world. This area also contains more exclusive boutiques and brands than any were else in the world.
In the centre of Tokyo is Roppongi, an entertainment area with restaurants, bars, discos, clubs and nightlife second to none.
In the western part of Tokyo is Shinjuku: more than 3 million people pass through its train station every day. This is a modern centre with numerous skyscrapers on the western side of the station and big shopping malls and fashion boutiques on the eastern side. Just south of the station is the smart and trendy part of Tokyo: Shibuya.
While Aoyama is still sophisticated and cosmopolitan, Shibuya is a shopping mecca for the younger generation. And here you also find Harajuku, the world’s centre for avant-garde fashion, where young people gather and dress up on Sundays. And like an oasis in the middle of all this modern and futuristic townscape is the Meiji temple with the gigantic Torii (entrance portal).
- From Osaka Itami Airport to Haneda Airport (1h) or from Kansai International Airport to Haneda Airport (1h10min) or from Shin-Osaka Station to Tokyo Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen trains (2h30min)
A useful Google map of Tokyo