Tōkyō is the capital of Japan. With over 13 million people within the city limits alone, Tokyo is the core of the most populated urban area in the world. This huge, wealthy and fascinating metropolis has something for everyone: be it high-tech visions of the future, or nostalgic glimpses of old Japan.
Over 500 years old, the city of Tokyo has come a long way from its modest beginnings as a fishing village named Edo. The city only truly began to grow when it became the seat of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603. While the emperor ruled in name from Kyoto, the true power was concentrated in the hands of the Tokugawa shogun in Edo. After the Meiji restoration in 1868, during which the Tokugawa family lost its influence, the emperor and the imperial family moved here from Kyoto, and the city was re-named to its current name, Tokyo.
Huge and varied in its geography, with over 2,000km² (770 square miles) to explore, Tokyo Metropolis spans not just the city, but rugged mountains to the west and subtropical islands to the south. This article concentrates on the 23 central wards near the bay, while the western cities and the islands are covered in a separate article.
Tokyo is classified as lying in the humid subtropical climate zone and has four distinct seasons. August is the hottest month in Tokyo with an average temperature of 79°F (26°C) and the coldest is January at 41°F (5°C).
Tokyo is one of the most well-connected cities on the planet in terms of transportation, and it’s easy to get almost anywhere by train (subway tickets start at $1.40). Note you will need to walk to and from stations, so bring some good walking shoes. Taxis can be pricey but helpful in navigating the city.
Download Tokyo Subway Map
Tokyo is a dizzying whirl of activity: you can practically feel it pulse, with the neon signs, the crush of people, and the perfectly punctual, high-speed trains whizzing by. Then there’s a pause, a bit of green and calm on the city’s temple grounds or classical gardens. There’s a varied cultural landscape full of futuristic skyscrapers, those centuries-old temples, sophisticated hotels, and enticing restaurants.
Navigating the world’s largest metropolis—home to more than 13 million people—can be a daunting prospect for visitors. Tokyo’s maze of neighborhoods seems to offer up every imaginable sight and sound—some of them cacophonous and modern (speeding bullet trains; herds of hurrying, be-suited businessmen; bizarrely futuristic toilets), and some of them ancient (Buddhist shrines and temples; the waddling combat of sumo wrestlers). The trick here is to explore one enclave at a time; for instance, starting in Ginza or Shibuya for shopping, then heading to Shinjuku or Roppongi for nightlife. And if you get lost, just ask for help—Tokyo residents are some of the politest city-dwellers in the world.
Once a fishing village, Tokyo has evolved into an economic and cultural powerhouse. Note some of the big cultural celebrations: every two years in May, thousands flock to see the elaborate floats at the Kanda Matsuri Festival, and there’s also the Azalea Festival in April and Sunrise Festival in May. It's a city of delightful contrasts, where skyscrapers demand as much attention as Zen-style gardens.