Tokyo, between sea and mountains, ultra-modernism and tradition, renewal and old, frenzy and serenity, dynamism and absolute calm, the Japanese capital is a gigantic patchwork where everything meets in perfect harmony.
Located in the Kanto plain on Honshu Island, Tokyo has been Japan’s current capital since 1868. Literally, its name means “Eastern Capital” as opposed to the former capital Kyoto located further west.
Often cited, never equalled, the city of Tokyo is the richest and most populated city on the planet, and has become over the course of its history a fascinating megalopolis of unrivalled size in the world. Tokyo is home to most of Japan’s institutions, such as the main residence of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Parliament (the Diet), ministries, or foreign embassies.
Historically, Tokyo was called Edo (literally “The Estuary”) and was a small fishing village. It was not until the 15th century that the city was fortified and became the capital of the feudal government of the Tokugawa Ieyasu Shogun. At the end of the 18th century, it was already the most populated city in the world, and in the 19th century, its castle (once the largest estate ever built in the world) became the residence of Emperor Meiji. Rebuilt after having been almost completely destroyed by the bombardments of the Second World War, Tokyo then experienced an era of inordinate development to become the most avant-garde city in the world. Today, it is Japan’s leading tourist destination.
There are many things to do in Tokyo. The districts not to be missed are Shibuya (the most lively, with its Omotesando Dori Avenue nicknamed “the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo”); Shinjuku (the skyscraper district, where you can find the Tokyo City Hall building which offers a breath-taking view of the city from the Shinjuku twin tower observatory); Asakusa (the traditional district); or Ginza (the modern and luxurious district). Harajuku’s shopping street, very popular with young people, is also worth a visit. Don’t miss the Odaiba district, on Tokyo Bay, with its beaches and Rainbow Bridge.
Among the buildings to see and visit are the Imperial Palace (Kokyo), the Kabuki-za Kabuki Theatre, the Tokyo Skytree and the Tokyo Tower. The parks not to be missed are Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno Park (where there is also a zoo). Be careful, however, the famous Tsukiji fish market no longer exists and has been replaced by the Toyosu market in Tokyo Bay.
On the museum side, the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is a must for Ghibli animation enthusiasts, paying tribute to the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. You can also visit the Tokyo National Museum or the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art.
As for culinary specialities, you will be spoilt for choice between sushi, monjayaki, or even small cakes called ningyoyaki… True gastronomic capital, Tokyo is the most starred city in the Michelin guide, benefiting from a pleiad of diverse and varied restaurants, most of which offer exceptional traditional Japanese cuisine.