Tokyo became capital of Japan in 1868 at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, being renamed Tokyo from Edo.
The previous capital of Japan being Kyoto.
Tokyo is a fairly new city and history has not been kind to her. In September 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake hit Tokyo and the fires caused by the earthquake burned the city center to the ground. Then bombing by the Americans during World War 2 flattened and burnt the city to the ground again.
Having dragged itself back from the brink of oblivion twice in one century, Tokyo is now one of the busiest metropolises in the east having the highest population of any city in Japan at around 12 million. This is truly huge city. To get some scale of the size of Tokyo you should go up Tokyo tower. It´s a large radio mast with an observation lounge half way up and another three quarters of the way up. From the top observation lounge you can see Tokyo in its entirety. See picture, left. On a clear day you can see Mt Fuji and I have the pictures to prove it! What you will see from the tower is city in every direction as far as you can see. Tokyo is a big city.
No visit to Tokyo would be complete without a visit to Akihabara (Electric City). If you want or like looking at consumer electrical goods and don´t care if they have Japanese instruction manuals, this is the place for you. When you arrive here and leave the train station all you will see is electrical shops for 4 blocks in all directions. Here you can buy anything from a blank CD to an air conditioning unit, but best to leave the air conditioning units though, as you might get a few funny looks at customs on the way home.
My advice is to go on a Saturday or Sunday, Its very, very, very busy but some shops will have special offers on for the weekend and there are also lots of street venders pedaling their wares as well.
If you’re a foreign visitor then check out the Duty free shops such as Laox, as you´ll get the tax knocked off (5%), making for even cheaper deals. You will have to take your passport with you for this and any receipts are usually stapled into your passport. Please note: if you are staying in Japan longer than 90 days you will have a visa stamp in your passport and some stores maybe reluctant to discount you 5% because of this.
Another great place to visit is Tokyo Tower. Its a giant communications and observation tower, its used by the main Japanese network channels to broadcast programmes. The tower is 333 meters tall which makes it the worlds tallest self supporting structure, its 13m taller than the Eiffel tower in Paris.
There are two observations decks, the first is 150 metres high and from here you get a pretty good view, there is a few shops and a small coffee shop here as well. The second onservation deck is at 250 metres and this is the best place to see the city from. Prices are about 800 yen to get to the first observation deck and another 600 yen to reach the special observation deck. Beware though, DONT go at weekend, I went once with some friends as there kids wanted to go on a visit to Tokyo – Bloody nightmare. To say it was busy would be an understatement. 1 hour to get in and then another 1 hour to reach the special observation deck. The kids we took where fast asleep by the time we got there. Amazing how quick kids wake up!
If your into temples and in Tokyo then Meiji Jingu shrine is most popular and its also one of the easiest to get to being just outside Harajuku station. Its a big place to walk round though, 175 acres with a mixture of buildings and wooded areas as the temple also encompasses Yoyogi park. If your planning on visiting Meiji Jingu then you might want to take time afterwards to visit Shibuya which is home to many fashion and accessory shops.
If you want amusement parks then Disney Land Japan is close to Tokyo, but be warned its very expensive and there is always long queues.
Hotels in Tokyo
I’ve only stayed in two hotels in Tokyo, the Grand Palace in Iidabashi and the Keio Plaza in Shinjuku, a review of this can be found on the menu, left.