Japan's capital is situated on the banks of the Sumida River, by Tokyo Bay. As the fishing village of Edo it became the shogunate's center of power in 1590. The Shitamachi (low city) of merchants and artisans served the political and intellectual elite in the Yamanote (high city) on the hills to the west. Renamed Tokyo and made capital in 1868, the city was devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, followed by World War II bombing. It has since reinvented itself as one of the world's most modern, exciting, and energizing cities. Transportation is efficient: the easy-to-use Yamanote JR line circles the city, subway lines crisscross the center and shinkansen lines link it with the rest of the country.
The Imperial Palace, formerly Edo Castle, is still surrounded by its original innermost moat. Handsome gates and old guard towers are set at intervals around the grounds. The main entrance is approached by the elegant Nijubashi or Double Bridge and is open to the public on special occasions. The East Garden (Higashi Gyoen) is where the original donjon once stood. The garden is graced with flowers and blossoms of each season, open to all as an ideal place for relaxation.
The west side of Tokyo Station is Marunouchi, Japan's largest business district. Here old buildings are being replaced by new attractive buildings with offices, shops and restaurants, which attract many visitors.
A 10-min. walk takes you to the Ginza district, famous the world over for elegant shopping and its bright, kaleidoscopic neon lights.
From the neon bustle of the Ginza and Yurakucho districts, turn to the spacious Ueno district where you will find Ueno Park, the largest in the city. In early April, the park turns into a paradise of delicate pale pink cherry blossoms and attracts numerous viewers and merrymakers. The park forms a great center of art and culture with its many and varied museums.
Akihabara, the world's largest and most famous electronics district has recently gained a new reputation as a mecca for Otaku, or fanatics of anime, computer games or so-called "costume play." There are many anime related stores where you can find animation figures, costumes and manga.
For a glimpse into Tokyo's past, the Asakusa district is the place. The many narrow back streets, lined with old buildings and shops, sell traditional items from kimono to hand-made combs. Asakusa Kannon Temple, with its colourful shopping lanes, is a marvellous place to buy souvenirs. TOKYO SKYTREE is easy to access from this area.
Shinjuku, on the city's trendy west side, is home to popular and raucous nightspots, to fine and sophisticated shopping, as well as to the sedate Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
The Shibuya district, near the tranquil Meiji Shrine and the modish Harajuku and Aoyama districts, is a popular shopping and entertainment paradise, particularly among the young set. Shibuya is a trendsetting hub from which the culture of youth is in continuous transmission. The forefront of international art and fashion is fully in evidence. People-watching from a sidewalk cafe is engaging and enjoyable.
Roppongi, filled with night spots popular with international visitors, is rapidly developing as an artistic and cultural center. Among its attractions are Tokyo Midtown; the National Art Center, Tokyo; and Roppongi Hills.
Odaiba, built on reclaimed land in the Port of Tokyo, featuring an expansive shopping mall and the Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari, exciting hot spring theme park.