Tokyo Travel Guide

Tokyo at a glance

Tokyo is Japan’s capital and its biggest and most important city. It has a population of just under 13 million and is one of the largest cities in the world. The greater Tokyo area, including Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba prefectures, has 35 million people and has been the world’s most populous urban area for 40 years.

Greater Tokyo comprises more than 25% of the entire population of Japan and accounts for a quarter of the country’s GDP.

tokyo photo-akasaka

Tokyo is located on the east coast of Honshu, almost exactly in the center of Japanese archipelago. The city borders Saitama Prefecture, Chiba Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture and Kanagawa Prefecture in the north, east, south, and west respectively.


Tokyo was known as Edo until 1868. Originally a small fishing village, Ieyasu Tokugawa made Edo the seat of his government after unifying Japan and declaring himself Shogun in 1603. Although the emperor still lived in the former capital of Kyoto, Edo quickly became the country’s most important city and one of the largest in the world.

In 1868, the Tokugawa Shogunate was defeated by Emperor Meiji’s imperial forces during the Meiji Restoration and the Imperial Palace and capital were moved from Kyoto to Edo. The city was renamed Tokyo, which means Eastern Capital in Japanese.


Map of Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is the largest of Japan’s 47 prefectures, each of which has its own governor. Although most prefectures are called ken, Tokyo is referred to as a to or metropolis. All together, there are 43 ken, two fu (Osaka and Kyoto), 1 do (Hokkaido) and one to (Tokyo). They are commonly referred to as todofuken in Japanese.

Tokyo has 23 special wards, called ku, which are home to 8 million people and make up the center of the metropolis. Each special ward has a great deal of administrative independence and can be thought of as their own cities. Together, they give Tokyo the highest GDP of any city in the world.