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Tokyo Tower and Shiba Park

Tōkyō (東京; lit. eastern capital) is the capital and largest city of Japan, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world.

A little more than 12 million people live in the city while hundreds of thousands of others commute everyday from surrounding areas to work and do business in the city. Tokyo is the business center of the country as well as the home of the Japanese emperor and the seat of the national government.

The city is well known for its highly modern skyscrapers, thousands of flashing neon signs, a bustling network of roads always filled with traffic, and a very extensive underground railway system.

Tokyo occupies the Tokyo prefecture (東京都; Tōkyō-to, Tokyo prefecture), which is located in the Kanto region on Honshu island. The prefecture is sometimes referred to as the Tokyo Metropolitan Prefecture or Tokyo Metropolitan Area. This stems from the fact that the character used for prefecture for Tokyo, which can also be read as capital or metropolis, differs from the character used for other prefectures.

Tokyo is often considered part of the Greater Tokyo Area, which consists of Tokyo prefecture itself and the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba. The Greater Tokyo area is the largest metropolitan area in the world with a population of 33,418,366.

The government's name of prefecture and city is Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The offices are located in the ward of Shinjuku. While there is no municipality called Tokyo, the old Tokyo city that existed until 1943, covering the area of the present 23 special wards, is still regarded as the single largest city and the capital of Japan with population of 8,134,688 and area of 621.3 km2. This designation was made in 1943 in order to unify Tokyo City (東京市; Tōkyō-shi) and the existing Tokyo Prefecture (東京府; Tōkyō-fu) into the nation's capital. Currently, there are no defined city limits of Tokyo-shi, so Tokyo-shi and Tokyo-to are relatively synonymous.

Tokyo prefecture (東京都)

Tokyo prefectural symbol
Capital DistrictShinjuku
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 45th
2,187.08 km²
 - Total (Jan 1, 2001)
 - Density
Ranked 1st
Governor:Shintaro Ishihara
ISO 3166-2:JP-13
Pref. Flower:Yoshino cherry blossom
Pref. Tree:Ginkgo tree
(Ginkgo biloba)
Pref. Bird:Black-headed gull
(Larus ridibundus)

According to the Population Census in 2000, Tokyo has population of 12,064,101 and area of 2186.9 km2.

Tokyo literally means "eastern capital" in Japanese, to mean to oppose to an old capital in west, Kyoto, which was renamed "Saikyo", meaning "western capital", for a period of time. It was previously alternatively spelled Tokio in English, and is still spelled Tokio in some other languages like Dutch, Esperanto, German, and Spanish.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Tokyo today
3 Geography
4 Economy
5 Demographics
6 Culture
7 Tourism
8 Prefectural symbols
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External link and reference


Before the Meiji Restoration, the city was known as Edo (江戸). The Tokugawa shogunate was established in 1603 with Edo as its seat of government (de facto capital). (The emperor's residence, and formal capital, remained in Kyoto, that city had been the actual capital of Japan until that time.) In 1868, when the shogunate came to an end, the city was renamed "Tokyo" which means "Eastern Capital"; during the restoration, the emperor moved to Tokyo, making the city the formal as well as de facto capital of Japan.

A major earthquake struck Tokyo in 1923, killing approximately 70,000 people; a massive reconstruction plan was drawn up, but was too expensive to carry out except in part. Despite this, the city grew until the beginning of World War II. During the war, Tokyo was heavily bombed, much of the city was burned to the ground, and its population in 1945 was only half that of 1940.

General Douglas MacArthur established his Occupation headquarters in what is now the Dai-Ichi Seimei building overlooking the Imperial Palace and, in the post-war years, and especially stimulated by the Korean War, Japan experienced an economic miracle that led it from post-war deprivation to tremendous economic success. In the process, Japan entered and very often came to dominate a range of industries including steel, shipbuilding, automobiles, semi-conductors, consumer electronics.

Although the recession following the bursting of the "bubble economy" in the early 1990s hurt the city, Tokyo has become one of the most dynamic capital cities on earth. It has a tremendous range of social and economic activities, with myriad restaurants and clubs, a major financial district, tremendous industrial strength, a wealth of shops and entertainment opportunities. The investment boom of the late 1980s is perhaps the greatest the world has ever known (as judged e.g. by the level of building expenditures in relation to the size of the economy) and, as a result, Tokyo has an enormously more modern capital stock (of buildings) than, e.g., London or New York City.

1888 German Map of Tokyo, Japan

On March 20 1995 the city became the focus of international media attention in the wake of the Aum Shinrikyo cult terrorist organisation attack with Sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system (in the tunnels beneath the political district of central Tokyo) in which 12 people were killed and thousands affected.

Tokyo today

The city today is one of the world's most important urban centres. It is a major business and financial centre as well as the political capital of Japan. The city is unusual in that it has far fewer skyscrapers than other cities of its size, mostly due to earthquake construction codes. Rather it is mostly comprised of either low-rise apartments of six to ten floors or of densely packed family homes. Tokyo is also home to the world's most complex transit/train system and is world-famous for its crowded rush hours.


Tokyo prefecture is divided into mainland and island areas. The mainland is located at the northwest of Tokyo Bay, about 90 km east to west and 25 km north to south. It borders Chiba prefecture in the east, Yamanashi prefecture in the west, Kanagawa prefecture in the south, and Saitama prefecture in the north. The islands are made up of Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands, stretching 1,000km in the Pacific Ocean.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku


Tokyo prefecture has 23 special wards in an area of about 621 square kilometers. As of September 1, 2002 the total population of the 23 wards was about 8.28 million, with a population density of 13,333 persons per square kilometer. Each ward is a local municipality with its own elected mayors and assemblies:

Asakusa Street

List of Cities

In addition to wards, the prefecture has cities like other prefectures.

A store in the Akihabara electronics area

Districts, Sub-prefecture, towns and villages

The following are towns and villages on islands. The list is in their standard codes for areas of prefectures and municipalities for statistical use.

Tokyo by night


Tokyo is the economic center of Japan: most of Japan's printing, broadcasting, telecommunications, banking, insurance, and financial services companies are based there, and many prominent international corporations are either headquartered in Tokyo or have their main Japanese offices there.

Companies headquartered in Tokyo


By age (2002):

Foreign resident population: 327,000 (2001)

Net population growth: +68,000 (2000 to 2001)

Yasukuni Shrine


Religious landmarks in Tokyo:

Major universities in Tokyo: Baseball clubs in Tokyo:

The Ginza area of Tokyo, Japan


Some famous places for sight-seeing include:

Prefectural symbols

Coat of arms: A sun, sending forth its radiance in six directions.

Miscellaneous topics

Tokyo is home to Yokota Air Base of the United States Air Force.

Harajuku Station at night



Tokyo has one of the world's most extensive metro systems, which is run by the Teito Rapid Transit Authority (Eidan) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation (Toei).

Major railway stations:

North: Saitama
West: Kofu Tokyo, Tokyo International Airport East: Chiba, Narita, New Tokyo International Airport
South: Yokohama, Kawasaki

External link and reference