Japan by Prefecture: Tokyo Metropolis

Japan by Prefecture: Tokyo Metropolis

Although it no longer has the word “prefecture” in it’s name, the Tokyo Metropolis (東京都; Tokyo-to) is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and is part of the Kanto Region (関東地方; Kanto-chiho) on Honshu, the main island of Japan.

While most people think of Tokyo as a city, it’s actually not. In the 1940s they merged what was then considered Tokyo City with the surrounding (but separate) Tokyo Prefecture to create today’s Tokyo Metropolis.

For most of history, Tokyo, then called Edo, played an important role as the de facto seat of government. Once the capital was officially moved from Kyoto in 1868, they renamed the city to “Tokyo”, meaning “Eastern Capital”. Today it’s the largest metropolitan area in the world and sees almost five million foreign tourists each year.

As a metropolis, Tokyo is set up a little differently than other prefectures. It is divided up in 23 special wards (which until 1943 made up the city of Tokyo), and 26 additional cities.

Special Wards:

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  • Adachi
  • Arakawa
  • Bunkyo
  • Chiyoda
  • Chuo
  • Edogawa
  • Itabashi
  • Katsushika
  • Kita
  • Koto
  • Meguro
  • Minato
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  • Nakano
  • Nerima
  • Ota
  • Setagaya
  • Shibuya
  • Shinagawa
  • Shinjuku
  • Suginami
  • Sumida
  • Taito
  • Toshima
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Cities:

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  • Akiruno
  • Akishima
  • Chofu
  • Fuchu
  • Fussa
  • Hachioji
  • Hamura
  • Higashikurume
  • Higashimurayama
  • Higashiyamato
  • Hino
  • Inagi
  • Kiyose
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  • Kodaira
  • Koganei
  • Kokubunji
  • Komae
  • Kunitachi
  • Machida
  • Mitaka
  • Musashimurayama
  • Musashino
  • Nishitokyo
  • Ome
  • Tachikawa
  • Tama
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tokyo

If you’re looking to see the best of modern Japan, you’ve come to the right place. From robots serving you food to the neon-flooded streets that look right out of a sci-fi film, Tokyo is the futuristic city you’ve been dreaming of.

Yet despite being the Japan of the future, Tokyo still holds onto its roots, as you can still find elements of its samurai past sprinkled throughout the city.

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Did you know?

Tokyo might seem a bit daunting to first-time visitors, I mean, have you looked at their metro map? But really, most everything you’ll want to visit is located conveniently around one of these metro lines– the JR Yamanote Line.

Denoted by it’s green color, this train line circles all of the most important districts within the special wards, including: Akihabara, Ueno, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Roppongi and more. By sticking only to this one line, you can easily cover most of Tokyo’s top tourist attractions in a day or two. See? Tokyo’s not so confusing after all!

Crowded JR Yamanote Train in Tokyo, Japan

>>>Read More About Tokyo’s Most Important Districts

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For most tourists, Tokyo is their first introduction to Japan– and it’s also often their last.

With something for everyone, one could easily spend months in this city and never even come close to experiencing everything one ward has to offer. It’s easy to see why some people never leave.

Tokyo, Japan

 

What to See & Do

Tokyo has an overwhelming amount of things to do from temple hopping to trying out one of its many themed cafes.

Places you absolutely must check out are Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, the electric world of Akihabara, Tsukiji Market, the famous Shibuya scrambler and iconic Tokyo Tower. 

These are some of the most important places around the city and together they’ll give you a good feel for the overall culture of Japan.

However if you have more time, I strongly recommend a visit to Tokyo Skytree, Meiji Temple, the Imperial Palace, people watching in Harajuku or Yoyogi, a visit to the infamous Robot Restaurant and Odaiba.

If you have kids with you, Tokyo can be quite overwhelming for them– and understandably so. Take them to a cute cafe like the Hello Kitty cafe, the Ghibli Museum or to Ueno Zoo where they can see pandas!

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan  Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan  Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan  Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

Tokyo may not have the prettiest skyline, but if you want the best views, most people will tell you to head to Skytree or Tokyo Tower. While these are two of the highest structures and they do give an awesome vantage point, it’s just not as fun taking pictures unless these two iconic symbols are IN them.

So instead, I recommend a visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observation decks (free!) or to the Tokyo City View observation deck at Mori Tower in Roppongi.

Tokyo, Japan  Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Odaiba is a man-made island within Tokyo. If you need your fix of futuristic buildings, then head here. Some of Tokyo’s most famous buildings such as Tokyo Big Site (the city’s convention center) and Fuji TV are located here.

If you’ve got a day to kill, a trip to Odaiba is always fun.

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Tokyo, Japan

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Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

It’s not just Odaiba’s futuristic architecture that lures visitors, it’s also where you’ll find some of the city’s quirkiest architecture like the State of Liberty and life size Gundam replica.

At night Odaiba gives beautiful views of Tokyo from across the bay and of the famous Rainbow Bridge. Note that Rainbow Bridge is only lit up like a rainbow during the holiday season and for special events.

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How to get there:

From Tokyo Station:
 Take the JR Yamanote Line to Shimbashi Station. Here you will switch to the Yurikamome Line, which travels around Odaiba.

Alternatively you can take the Tokyo Water Bus or even walk across Rainbow Bridge.

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Article’s Featuring Tokyo Metropolis

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A Beginner's Guide to the Neighborhoods of Tokyo [/tie_slide][tie_slide] 5 Strange Themed Cafes in Tokyo [/tie_slide][tie_slide] Sensory Overload at Tokyo's Robot Restaurant[/tie_slide] [/tie_slideshow] [divider style=”dotted” top=”10″ bottom=”20″]

 

What to Eat

 

Tokyo might not be “Japan’s Kitchen”, but it’s still a foodie paradise. To date it has been awarded more Michelin Stars than any other city in the world– even Paris.

You’ll find all sorts of food in Tokyo including specialty’s from other regions of the country. While it does have a few regional specialties of its own, dating back to the Edo era, in Tokyo it’s not about what you eat, but where.

Grab the freshest sushi of your life at Tsukiji Market, try some of the deliciously cute snacks at a maid cafe, or enjoy the company of cuddly kittens at a cat cafe.

Tokyo’s regional specialties:

  • Sushi (寿司), from nigiri-zushi to futo-maki, the birth of this world famous dish originates back to old Edo.
  • Soba (蕎麦), long buckwheat noodles served either hot or cold.
  • Chanko-nabe (ちゃんこ鍋), a hot pot dish originally cooked for sumo wrestlers to help them gain weight.
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Tokyo, Japan

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” class=”” width=”600″]Another reason I ❤ Tokyo? It’s vibrant nightlife. Looking for where to go? Head to Golden Gai, Roppongi or Kabukicho for bars and more.[/box]

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Tokyo Metropolis Omiyage

 

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When it comes to Tokyo omiyage, there’s only one name you need to know: Tokyo Banana.

These Twinkie-like desserts have come ubiquitous with the city and tourists line up everywhere to get them. Since their explosion in popularity, they’ve also started making a range of flavor spin-offs from caramel to strawberry.

If you’re looking for non-edible items, go for the chigibako or a maneki neko.

Chigibako are only available at Shiba Dai Shrine near the Daimon station.  The omamori is made of three levels of painted boxes tied together with a cord. This talisman is popular with women seeking relationships, although it was once used as a toy in the Edo period due to it’s rattling noises.

Chances are, if you’ve ever been to Asia or inside an Asian shop, you’ve seen a maneki neko. This cat symbolizes good fortune and is said to have originated in Tokyo (although some people will argue it was in Osaka).

Other than that, you’ll find all your usual Japanese items filling the stores here, including: chopsticks, yukata and cute Hello Kitty goods.

Avoid the over-priced stalls lining the way to Senso-ji in Asakusa, and instead head to Tokyo Station, which is one of the best places in the city to pick up all your souvenirs.

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Let’s Pin It!

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>>>Read About Other Prefectures in Japan

84 Comments

  • Pui says:

    We were here for mere 4 days. It was so overwhelmed with so much to see, to do and to eat! We love it so much that we decide to re-visit the place end of March this year for cherry blossom viewing.

  • Jacqueline says:

    I feel very small right now. Wow, think of all the people in Tokyo living their lives and such. I come from New Hampshire, which has like, a quarter of the population of Tokyo in the entire state. I have to make it to Japan one day! Wonderful pics!! :)

  • Digna D. says:

    Tokyo reminds me of New York. So much energy it can be exhausting. A one day city visit is enough for me. If I visit, I would like to stay on the outskirts, away from the city.

    • Beth Williams says:

      I haven’t been to New York, but I can imagine it would be exhausting! I’ll finally get to experience it myself in May :)

  • Roselynn says:

    I’m so jealous of you being able to experience such things in Tokyo. It has been a long set dream of mine to be able to visit there and now I definitely have some wonderful tips thanks to you.

  • Japan is on my bucket list. I would love to visit and see all those beautiful buildings

  • Lynndee says:

    Robots as servers? That sounds so interesting and fun. I would love to experience that. Here’s wishing we get to visit Tokyo someday. Well, actually we did but only at the airport.

  • Bonnie @ wemake7 says:

    Wow, there is so much to do there. Great looking food and pretty lights. If I had my kiddos with me I would take them to the Hello Kitty Cafe.

  • Amby Felix says:

    I can’t WAIT to visit Tokyo. A lot of my hobbies, fashion and food preferences are Japanese related. Such a beautiful culture and it’s subcultures.

    • Beth Williams says:

      It IS such a beautiful culture– and country! Most of my hobbies and interests are Japanese related as well. :)

  • Jenny says:

    Love the photos, makes me feel like I’m actually there! My husband and I want to take a trip over there one of these years, hopefully we’ll get around to it.

  • I would love to visit Japan one day. It looks like such a fun place with so much to see and do. I love the photos, especially the Rainbow Bridge.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Rainbow Bridge is a lot of fun. I only hope one day I can actually see it lit up in rainbow colors! :)

  • Krystal says:

    I had no idea there were wards and different cities within Tokyo! Talk about overwhelming! Anyway I love all the bright colors and the busy streets. That is exciting to me!

  • This is such an excellent post with so much great information. I’ve always wanted to visit there since I was a kid and I’m hoping to go in the next couple years or so. It would be such an amazing trip!

  • It was nice to know more about the place – I have always had interests with Japan itself.

  • Ann Bacciaglia says:

    I have always wanted to visit Tokyo. I would love to go to the electric world of Akihabara. These are great photos.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Akihabara is one of my favorite spots in the city! There’s always something exciting to see or explore there :)

  • Chene says:

    Oh my goodness this looks like so much fun! I’ve always wanted to visit Japan.

  • michele d says:

    Love all your pictures. It seems like a wonderful place to visit.

  • Your photos are absolutely awesome! I love the idea of visiting Tokyo, but in reality, I am very claustrophobic and start to panic just looking at the crowds.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Haha well, it’s not as crowded as you might think! Of course if you go during holiday time it is, but normally it’s just like any other city.

  • Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    I will probably never get to Japan in my life, so this was fun to read. I loved all of your pictures.

  • Tokyo looks absolutely amazing!!! I hope to be able to travel there one day to visit! The architecture of their buildings is beautiful!

    • Beth Williams says:

      I agree! The architecture there is incredible. And to think that some of it dates back to the early 1100s!

  • Natalie says:

    What a jammed pack blog post! The food looks so cool and creative & all the views and sights to see are simply amazing!

    • Beth Williams says:

      Jammed packed post for a jammed pack city! There’s just so much to do there… you could spend a lifetime!

  • Rosey says:

    No doubt about it, I would love to visit Tokyo. Your pictures here are crystal clear. Very nice!

  • I would love to visit Japan! We have friends that are stationed there and love it. I would eat tons of sushi and take in the sights! Beautiful pictures.

  • Erin says:

    Tokyo seems like such a fun place to visit! I would love to make that happen one day!

    • Beth Williams says:

      It’s incredibly fun! Especially if you know where to go. It’s too large of a place to just show up and wing it. But so long as you plan your trip, it’ll be one in a lifetime! :)

  • Paula Schuck says:

    I would love to go to Tokyo and explore the culture and the food. I had no idea that Tokyo was not a city. I would love to go to the Tsukiji Market and try the fresh sushi.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Tsukiji Market is one of my favorite parts of Tokyo! Always so exciting… and of course the sushi is the best!

  • Thank you for this guide! I always prefer traveling based on recommendations. I would love to visit Tokyo!

  • I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. They have such a unique culture and approach to everything. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  • Carra D says:

    This is my kind of scene. Thanks for sharing these photos. I love that cute dessert & soba noodles are really good. I made a ginger glazed salmon over soba noodles soo yummy.

  • R U S S says:

    I have nothing but love for Tokyo, Japan. This place has left me speechless when I was there and I’ve set my mind to visit the country every year. I agree that Tokyo is the place to go to for anything futuristic. I don’t have anything not nice to say about the place, in fact, I was telling friends that I could retire here. I’ll be back in Tokyo most likely next year coz in October, I’m going to explore another side of Japan ( Osaka & Kyoto ).

    • Beth Williams says:

      That’s awesome that you’re trying to visit every year! Enjoy Osaka and Kyoto, that’s where I used to live. I’ve got guides on those cities as well, but if you need recommendations, let me know! :)

  • Carmy says:

    those desserts look YUM! I would LOVE to try some.

  • Jeanine says:

    Wow these photos are all so amazing. I’ve never heard of the skytree tower – it reminds me of our CN Tower here in Toronto! Very cool. All the food looks amazing, I would absolutely love to visit Tokyo at some point in my life. I think it would be such an amazing experience! This is a great write up!

    • Beth Williams says:

      I haven’t heard of the CN Tower, but I’ll be heading to Toronto this summer. Will have to look it up!

  • Japan is really beautiful place and most I’m interested in Japan is all about food, I want to taste their foods.

    • Beth Williams says:

      Their food is AMAZING! I’ll be releasing my first ebook soon all on Japanese food ;)

  • Elizabeth O. says:

    I’m more excited for my trip to Tokyo! So many things to see and try!

  • Donna Ward says:

    well – I did not know that Tokyo was the largest metropolitan area in the world – with so many visitors and divided up into wards – It does sound daunting – I think if we went, we would want to go with tour, and your images and things to do make it sounds spectacular! Very interesting

    • Beth Williams says:

      Tokyo has plenty of great tours, which of course would make it easier to travel. Even if you just did different day trips around the city with different tour groups, it would be a lot of fun!

  • CourtneyLynne says:

    Omg you just made me miss Japan so bad!!!! I spent a few months in Japan afew years ago and loved every minute of it!

    • Beth Williams says:

      That’s awesome that you got to spend so long there! I love every minute of my time there as well :)

  • Ooh I’d love to visit Japan!
    Of course I’d want to be with someone who knew their way around since I”m geographically challenged.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Nina Say says:

    I cannot wait to visit Japan someday. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

  • It must be neat to see robots serving food, I have never seen one. I love Japanese’s presentation of foods, it makes you want to eat even more.

  • Japan is on my bucket list. I would love to eat fresh made sushi. The metro looks daunting

    • Beth Williams says:

      It’s not so daunting when you get the hang of it! You really only need to ever use one line… just look for green! ;)

  • Jenn says:

    The Japanese Culture is truly amazing! I never realized that Tokyo wasn’t a city! 26 cities! That is amazing!

  • I would love to see modern Japan. After living in one area for almost all of my life, I want to travel and see what all I’ve been missing.

  • I am so thoroughly enjoying this series. I’ve always been fascinated by the culture of Japan – both past and present. It’s such an interesting location with interesting people and history.

    • Beth Williams says:

      It is! It’s so different from anywhere else– which is why I love it! Glad you’ve been enjoying this series!

Comments are closed.