General Information About Tokyo
Tokyo is a city found in Tokyo, Japan. It is located 35.69 latitude and 139.69 longitude and it is situated at elevation 44 meters above sea level.
Tokyo has a population of 8,336,599 making it the biggest city in Tokyo. It operates on the JCST time zone.
Tokyo, formerly (until 1868) Edo, city and capital of Tokyo to (metropolis) and of Japan. It is located at the head of Tokyo Bay on the Pacific coast of central Honshu. It is the focus of the vast metropolitan area often called Greater Tokyo, the largest urban and industrial agglomeration in Japan.
The site of Tokyo has been inhabited since ancient times; the small fishing village of Edo existed there for centuries. Edo’s development into a city did not occur until the Tokugawa period (1603–1867), when it became the capital of the Tokugawa shogunate. During this period, however, the imperial family remained in Kyōto, the ancient imperial capital. With the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which ended the shogunate, the capital was moved to Edo. The city was renamed Tokyo, meaning “eastern capital.” Edo had been Japan’s largest city since the 17th century. Tokyo’s population exceeded one million in the late 19th century, and as Japan’s political, economic, and cultural centre it became one of the world’s most populous cities in the 20th century.
The city is built on low, alluvial plains and adjacent upland hills. The climate is mild in winter and hot and humid in the summer. Early summer and early autumn are rainy seasons; two or three typhoons usually occur during September and October.
The metropolitan area is the largest industrial, commercial, and financial centre in Japan. Many domestic and international financial institutions and other businesses are headquartered in central Tokyo. The city is an important wholesale centre, where goods from all parts of the country and the world are distributed. Tokyo is part of the Keihin Industrial Zone, centred on the western shore of the bay, which has become the country’s leading manufacturing region. Light and labour-intensive industries predominate in the city, notably printing and publishing and the manufacture of electronic equipment.
In striking contrast to the ethnic and racial diversity that characterize large American cities, Tokyo, like the rest of Japan, is overwhelmingly mono-racial. The largest non-Japanese minorities that live in Tokyo as Japanese citizens are Korean and Chinese nationals, who are never considered Japanese even though some of these families have lived in Japan for centuries. Tokyo has always attracted Japanese from areas beyond its borders, mostly people from the rural areas to the north and east who come in hopes of benefiting from Tokyo's economic prosperity, which is often in stark contrast to the depressed economies of much of rural Japan. Many of these newcomers, and many native Tokyoites, are young people, who throng the streets at all hours of the day and night, infusing the city with an atmosphere of youthful vitality.
The Tokyo region is Japan's leading industrial center, with a highly diversified manufacturing base. Heavy industries are concentrated in Chiba, Kawasaki, and Yokohama, while Tokyo proper is strongly inclined toward light industry, including book printing and the production of electronic equipment.
More significantly, perhaps, Tokyo is Japan's management and finance center. Corporations with headquarters or branches or production sites in other parts of the country often have large offices in Tokyo, Marunouchi being the location of many of these. The close relationship between government and business in Japan makes a Tokyo location advantageous if not necessary.
To the north of Marunouchi is Otemachi, where Japan's leading financial institutions and insurance companies are located. Otemachi is also home to NTT, the communications giant. Of course, Tokyo is also the site of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, located in Kabutocho.
Tokyo was particularly affected by an economic boom in Japan in the 1980s when the country emerged as a global financial center rivaling Europe and the United States. The economic upswing led to speculation, and especially to real estate speculation. Land prices soared at the time, as did the value of the yen. The economy leveled out by the early 1990s, but Tokyo real estate remained the most expensive in Japan and held a similar rank on a global scale.
In the latter half of the 1990s, Tokyo was again affected by the national economy—only this time it was not an economic boom. In 1999 Japan began a tentative recovery from its longest and most severe recession since the end of World War II.
Tokyo stores bring the goods of the world home to the domestic market. At the fashionable shops of the Ginza, Harajuku, Aoyama, and Shibuya, discerning Tokyoites can procure the clothing and merchandise of designers from London, Paris, New York, and of course Tokyo. Large, well-supplied department stores can be found throughout the city, like Tokyu, Seibu, and Parco in Shibuya, and Keio, Mitsukoshi, and Isetan in Shinjuku. Ikebukuro is the location of the Tobu department store, which promotes itself as the world's largest.
Certain areas of Tokyo specialize in particular lines of merchandise. Akihabara, for example, is an electronics market and is the first place to sell the latest offerings from Japan's unsurpassable electronics industry. Nearby Kanda, in the vicinity of Meiji University, has some 100 shops specializing in secondhand books. Kanda also has a concentrated area of sporting goods stores.
Wherever one shops, and whatever one shops for, one thing is universal throughout Tokyo and all of Japan: high-quality, attentive service from Japanese merchants. In this regard, the invariably helpful and polite proprietor of the smallest shop is in no way out-done by even the most expensive boutique in the Ginza or the larger department stores of Shibuya and Shinjuku, with their "greeters" at the doors and their abundant sales personnel.
Health standards in Tokyo are comparable to those found in other highly industrialized countries. Restaurants are most often impeccably clean, and the food is safe to eat and the water safe to drink everywhere.
Noise and smog are persistent problems in the city. Electronic billboards report sound levels and air pollution indices. Air quality has improved in recent years and continues to improve.
Medical insurance in Japan is of two types. Private insurance is usually held through one's employer or labor union. Public health insurance is available to everyone through the government's National Health Insurance. Policy holders of the latter pay 30 percent of costs, and while most doctors and medical and dental establishments subscribe to the program, not all do. Certain expensive materials (like gold fillings) are not covered, though the plan does provide for expensive procedures.
Health care is provided on a level comparable to that in any other highly industrialized nation. There are many hospitals in Tokyo, several of which are associated with the universities there, while others are private or run by religious groups. Some of the more prominent are Kosei General, University of Tokyo, Showa University, Tokyo Adventist, and St. Luke's International Hospitals.
As Japan's nerve center, Tokyo is also a national media center. Television and radio stations and programs abound in Japanese and many other languages, with English predominating. Televisions are engineered for bilingual broadcast when available.
The most famous television network is Japan Broadcasting Corporation, or Nippon Hoso Kyokai, known as NHK. The government-sponsored network produces and broadcasts a wide variety of high-quality programs from their studios near Harujuku.
Tokyo is also home to several newspapers, notably Asahi Shinbun, the Mainichi Daily News, the Japan Times, and Yomiuri Shimbun, which boasts the world's largest circulation.
Modern Tokyo is host to the latest trends of global popular culture, and Tokyo Dome is the usual venue for performances by the likes of the Rolling Stones and Mariah Carey.
Of course, Japan has evolved many types of performance that are uniquely Japanese, and Tokyo is one of the best places to experience these. Noh drama, slow-paced and minimalist and rooted in Zen Buddhism, can be seen at the new National Noh Theater in Sendagaya. Noh is also performed at night by torchlight at places like Meiji Shrine. But the National Theater, across the moat from the Imperial Palace, is the major venue for traditional performance art in Tokyo. There one can experience traditional court music called gagaku, which dates back many centuries to the Heian period. The National Theater also holds performances of bunraku, dramas in which the "actors" are three-quarter-life-size puppets manipulated by men covered with black cloth. And performances of kabuiki, the marvelously stylized opera-like dramas as elaborate as any from the heart of Italy, are part of the program at the National Theater, though one can also see these at the Kabukiza in the Ginza and the Simbashi Embujo Theater.
Entry into Japan is subject to the complex policies of the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice. Visitors from the United States who will be staying in Japan for a period of less than 90 days need to have a valid passport and obtain a short-term visa. Longer stays require an extension or a commercial or student visa.
Standard electrical voltage in Tokyo as in the rest of Japan is 100 volts AC, 50 cycles. Appliances designed to operate on 110–120 volts AC will work on Tokyo's 100 volts but will not run as well and eventually will burn out, though this occurs only with long-term use and not during a short stay. Major hotels in Tokyo have 110-to 120-volt and 220-volt outlets as well and can usually supply adapters if appliance plugs will not fit the outlets provided.
Travel in Tokyo is safe, easy, and efficient, and getting around is relatively inexpensive. The subway and train system is extensive, though transferring between the two different subway systems is more costly than traveling on only one. Transfers are sometimes a bit more complicated between JR lines and private railways. English-language signs abound, and English-language subway and train maps are available at major stations. Tickets are dispensed from vending machines, though there is always an attendant on hand (who usually speaks little if any English). There are many services to aid the foreign traveler, among them the Japan National Tourist Organization.
An ancient city that has grown organically rather than according to an imposed plan, Tokyo exhibits a layout that differs radically from the grid-like patterns of cities like Washington, D.C., or Chicago. The streets follow no discernible pattern, though they might approximate a spiderweb, with concentric circles like Meiji-dori intersected by radiating streets like Shinjuku-dori and Yamate-dori. The geographical center is arguably Chiyoda-ku, where the Imperial Palace is located, though Chiyodaku, with its abundant public park space, hardly qualifies as Tokyo's "downtown." No other area qualifies as downtown either; instead, the city has several concentrated "centers," such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro. Other hubs include Setagaya, the Ginza, and Ueno.
The fact that each of these areas, with their distinctive characteristics, shares its name with a major train or subway station points to the primary means of travel in Tokyo. The government-operated Japan Railways operates several lines within Tokyo, the central line being the Yamanote line, which runs in a large circle around the city and intersects with most of the other train and subway lines en route. There are also several private train lines operating in Tokyo. Besides the trains, which run above ground, there are two subway companies, the Toei and the Teito. The subway lines are constantly being extended out to the suburbs, where they often emerge to run above ground like the trains. An extensive bus system fills in the areas not covered by the different rail systems. Rather inexplicably in a city as large and as lively as Tokyo, public transportation stops running sometime between midnight and 1:00 am and resumes again at 5:00 AM. All public transportation in Tokyo, as in the rest of Japan, is relatively inexpensive, clean, and famous for being reliable and on schedule.
Culture and History Tokyo
Although the site of Tokyo has been inhabited since prehistoric times, the first recorded mention of a settlement is a twelfth-century reference to an obscure village called Edo, meaning "Gate of the Inlet," situated where the Sumida River empties into Tokyo Bay. The temple at Asakusa, east of Ueno station and near the Sumida, dates from perhaps the late seventh century, though the present-day structures have been built since World War II. A provincial general erected a fortified castle at Edo around 1457, but the village remained insignificant until Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616) took it over in 1590. Edo was made the capital of the shogunate in 1603 and remained so until 1868, though for the time being the court aristocracy remained in Kyoto, which retained its cultural preeminence throughout the early Tokugawa period.
Edo grew rapidly through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and appears to have become the largest city on the planet by the end of the 1700s. Edo also overtook Kyoto to become the center of national culture, as theater (in particular, kabuki) reached a high level of sophistication during this time. The growth of the city was also accompanied by difficulties, such as the fire of 1657, in which two-thirds of the city was destroyed, and more than 100,000 people died.
In 1868, the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, the name of Edo was changed to Tokyo, meaning "Eastern capital," when the imperial court was moved there following the fall of the shogunate. Tokyo's population fell during the political unrest of the times, but it recovered and surpassed two million by the end of Meiji period. In 1872, a devastating fire ravaged the city and inflicted heavy damage on the Ginza and Maronouchi districts, which were subsequently rebuilt with Western-style brick structures. The rebuilding program reflected a larger trend in the nation, an effort to catch up with other nations in the world, in the process of which Japan and its capital were increasingly receptive to Western influences. By the end of the Emperor Meiji's reign, Japan was allied with England and had been victorious in war against China and Russia.
Tokyo has not only been prone to fires, the city's most common disaster historically, but has also suffered from earthquakes. The great 1923 earthquake, which destroyed most of the city, was the worst disaster in modern Japanese history. Reconstruction took seven years and included more than 200,000 new buildings, seven reinforced concrete bridges on the Sumida River, and a number of parks, in one of which the Hall of the Nameless Dead was constructed as a memorial to the estimated 30,000 casualties in Tokyo alone.
Tokyo also incurred heavy damage from Allied bombings in World War II, when U.S. Air Force raids reduced large sections of the city to rubble. After Japan's surrender, U.S. troops occupied Tokyo until April 1952. The decade following 1954 was a time of rapid expansion and renovation, culminating in Tokyo's hosting of the summer Olympics in 1964. Tokyo observed its 500th anniversary in 1957. Since then Tokyo's growth has continued unabated, keeping pace with its increasing stature as one of the most important cities in the world.
Japan is an ancient culture that is remarkably unique. This is often explained by its isolation as an island country with a large population. Japan has been influenced by Asia, Europe and America but each new idea from abroad quickly takes on Japanese dimensions until it is transformed into something distinctly Japanese. The culture has also been influenced by the landscape including factors as diverse as earthquakes and fish.
Japanese food includes thousands of dishes that represent one of the world's great culinary traditions associated with distinct preparation methods, aesthetics, ingredients, tastes, customs and manners.
Onsen are Japanese hot spring baths that are surrounded in a number of customs and traditions. Japan is extremely geothermally active and natural hot springs can be found all over the country. Onsen are one of Japan's great national pastimes.
Kimono is a type of traditional Japanese clothing that consists of layers of robes made of silk, silk brocade or weaved satin. They are quite expensive but were once considered everyday wear in Japan. As a result, the Japanese historically took great care not to damage their clothing. Kimono fabrics were usually recycled over and over again until they were finally used as toys and crafts. In modern times, kimono are considered formal wear and come in dozens of types that vary in formality, cost and function. For example, there is special kimono for young single ladies, brides and geisha.
Manga is an artistic genre and literary format that is remarkably popular with everyone from children to senior citizens in Japan. They cover as many topics as regular fiction from business stories to science fiction. Manga has both hardcore fans who devote much of their free time to it and casual readers who take a glace once in a while.
Japan has around 100,000 Shinto shrines and 80,000 Buddhist temples. Some are architectural wonders while others are quiet neighborhood spots that offer ceremony, rituals and festivals to their communities.
Hanami, literally "flower viewing", is the Japanese tradition of holding parties under cherry blossom trees when they bloom. The term can also apply to plum blossoms that bloom in much colder weather. Cherry blossoms are a symbol of Japanese culture that have been celebrated in countless ways by art, music, literature and film. The format of hanami parties is fairly simple, you lay down a mat under the trees and enjoy snacks and beverages. Hanami ranges from quiet afternoon conversations to large events with entertainment and music.
Traditional Japanese buildings were mostly made of wood. Japanese carpenters developed advanced techniques and occasionally built large wooden structures without using a single nail. Architecture in Japan evolved along unique lines that reflected religious and aesthetic ideas as well as practical concerns such as weather and earthquakes. Japanese architecture, both traditional and modern, is something to see.
Every neighborhood shrine and temple in Japan holds at least one annual festival meaning that there are well over 100,000 festivals held each year across the country. Japanese festivals range from dance competitions to rituals that involve large scale fires. They offer an interesting view into Japanese life.
Tea Ceremony is the pursuit of an aesthetic ideal in the humble act of preparing, serving and appreciating tea.
Japan has been producing films for almost 120 years and currently releases over 400 movies each year. Japanese films such as Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Tokyo Story are widely considered amongst the top films ever made.