Tokyo became Japan’s capital only after the deposition of the Tokugawa shogunate in the late 1860’s, but has since grown into a modern metropolis. Straddling the mouth of one of the largest ports in the world, Tokyo serves as the entry point for almost every visitor to Japan. As a world-renowned center for commerce, culture, and creativity, Tokyo represents the pinnacle of the Japanese brand of capitalism.
Reduced to rubble twice by both earthquakes and bombs, it survived to become what many still call the most fascinating city on earth. Be it fashion, finance, technology or manufacturing, business finds its rightful place in Tokyo. Men and women of almost every nationality depend daily on its network of resources. Efficient transport, delicious food, advanced research and all the latest trends grace Tokyo. The Imperial Family, the Prime Minister, and every branch of government all set their center within the capital. But although it stands today as an international symbol of both the new and cutting edge, it expends great effort to preserve the richness of its impressive list of traditions.
While Japan is divided into 47 separate Prefectures (including Hokkaido, Okinawa, the old city of Kyoto, and Osaka), Tokyo is constructed from 23 different wards, in addition to several outlying cities, towns, and villages.
Unlike the districts comprising major cities in other countries, the wards of Tokyo act almost like separate cities. Each is marked by a seemingly meandering border, which is not only difficult to remember, but is famous for making simple tasks like delivering the mail or a pizza quite challenging. The areas and populations vary greatly per Ward, but in all there are over 8.7 million people living in Tokyo today – in other words, 13,800 people per square kilometer.
Tokyo has several famous districts that stand out amongst the hustle and clamor of the crowds:
- Minato-ku: This is the international hub of Tokyo. Along with 49 embassies, it houses the famous Keio University, as well as a major shopping/entertainment district called “Odaiba” which comes complete with TV studios and event sites. It was built on a reclaimed island in Tokyo Bay. Additionally, Minato-ku is home to Shinbashi station, the first train station in Japan.
- Ginza: This is a famous (and expensive) shopping district that boasts the flagship stores of famous designers and is touted not only as one of the most luxurious shopping locations in the world, but impressive and decadent enough to rival New York’s 5th Avenue..
- Marunouchi: This is the financial hub of Tokyo where multiple businesses, the Tokyo Central Post Office, and the headquarters for the three largest banks are located.
- Shinjuku: This town boasts the world’s busiest train station (Shinjuku Station – with nearly 3.5 million passengers daily), the federal government buildings of Tokyo, several large corporate conglomerates, international hotels, electronics department stores, and a very active nightlife.
- Roppongi: Many Tokyo businesses find their original establishment here, including the wealthy Roppongi Hills area – famous for its high rises that mix business with residential. In addition, an incredibly active ex-pat fueled nightlife thrives here after-hours.