Best Sight Seeings:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tokyo "The world's most populous metropolitan area"

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and is located on the eastern side of the main island Honshū. The twenty-three special wards of Tokyo, each governed as a city, cover the area that was once the city of Tokyo in the eastern part of the prefecture, totaling over 8 million people. The population of the prefecture exceeds 12 million. The prefecture is the centre of the Greater Tokyo Area, the world's most populous metropolitan area with 35 million people and the world's largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$1.191 trillion at purchasing power parity in 2005.

Tokyo was described by Saskia Sassen as one of the three "command centres" for the world economy, along with London and New York City . This city is considered an alpha+ world city, listed by the GaWC's 2008 inventory and ranked fourth among global cities (first in the eastern world) by Foreign Policy's 2008 Global Cities Index. In 2009 Tokyo was named the world's most expensive city for expatriate employees, according to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting and Economist Intelligence Unit cost-of-living surveys and named the third Most Liveable City and the World’s Most Livable Megalopolis by international lifestyle magazine Monocle.

Tokyo is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family.

Ueno Park
Ueno Park is one of the most popular attractions in the city of Tokyo. It is criss-crossed by gravel paths. On the reed-fringed Shinobazu Pond Boats can be hired for trips around a little island with its Bentendo Temple. Hot-dog sellers advertise their wares with loudspeakers, and there are many cinemas and amusement centers in the vicinity.

It is the largest park in Tokyo (212ac; 85ha). With its zoo and aquarium it is a real park for the people, but it is also a cultural center with a number of museums, many temples, shrines and pagodas and some important public buildings. Once part of a Daimyo's residence, the park came into the possession of the Tokugawa in the early 17th C. In 1924 it was handed over to public ownership

In 1868 Kannei-ji, which had been built by the Tokugawa as a domestic temple, was the last stronghold of the troops remaining loyal to the Shogun. In the course of the fighting everything was destroyed except for a five-story pagoda. There is a memorial to the fallen who fought for the Emperor and a bronze statue of Saigo Takamori (1827-77), one of the leaders of the Meiji Restoration. As a general of Emperor Maiji's troops he conducted the war against Korea, but came into conflict with the central government. Consequently he became a leader of the Kagoshima Rebellion. When it was put down he committed "Seppuku"(ritual suicide) in accord with the Samurai code of honor. Nowadays he is, however, revered as a national hero. A flight of stone steps with many cherry trees on either side leads up to the memorial and inscriptions. (The cherry trees are in blossom in early April.)

On the left-hand side lies the Kiyomizu Temple, modeled on the temple of the same name in Kyoto.

Tsukiji Fishmarket

In Japan much fish is eaten. But where does it come from? Much of it is imported. But whether deep-frozen or freshly caught, together with oysters, crayfish, ink-fish and crabs, all this mouth-watering food ends up being displayed on Tokyo's famous fishmarket.

The market covers an area of 50ac (20ha). It lies 210yd (200m) south of the Tsukiji-Honganji Temple. Sales on this wholesale market commence at four in the morning every day. Accordingly it is best to visit the market between 4:30am and 8pm. Wear watertight shoes and don't forget to take spare film for your camera.

Imperial Palace

The chief attraction of the Marunouchi district is undoubtedly the Imperial Palace with its parks surrounded by walls and moats (which date from 1613). It is the residence of the Imperial family. The Imperial Palace stands on the site where in 1457 the Feudal Lord Ota Dokan built a first fortress, which served as the focal point from which the city of Tokyo (or Edo, as it was then) gradually spread outwards. After capturing the fortress in 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu rebuilt it, making it the strongest in the land. Subsequently it was burnt down in a disastrous fire in 1657 and only partially restored. Until 1868 the splendid palace was the residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns. With the restoration of Imperial authority and the transfer of the
seat of government from Kyoto to the city which had now been renamed Tokyo, it became the Imperial residence. After destruction in 1873 and again in 1945, the palace has been rebuilt in traditional "flat" style.

The Nijubashi Bridge leads into the interior. Its name, meaning "double bridge", refers to its appearance as reflected in the water. The wall surrounding the palace, which is 7ft (2m) thick, is pierced by gates. Of these the S Sakurda-mon was formerly the main Chamberlain's Office, and the Ote-mon, Kirakawa-mon the Kita-Hanebashi-mon are three gates which give access to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace which is open to the public.

Up until the end of the last war it was customary for all passengers on buses passing the palace walls to obey the conductor's order "Kyojo ni!" (Bow!)

The individual buildings of the Palace are the Main Building (Kyuden), the Residential Building (fukiage-gosho) and the three Palace Buildings (Kashikodore, Koreiden and Shinden). Within the Palace are to be found a hospital, an air-raid shelter, tennis courts, stables for horses, a cemetery, a paddy field, a kitchen garden, a hen house and a silk-worm farm. Emperor Hirohito also has had a large laboratory installed here for his own research and experiments. The 245 families, which make up the Imperial household, live in the Palace. Incidentally Hirohito is pronounced "Hero-heeto"but by the Japanese he is also called tenno heika and the Emperor's name is never used. The Palace is not open to the public; the Palace Gardens are open to the public only on two days in the year, on 2 January and on 29 April (the Emperor's birthday). On these days people flock past in order to catch sight of the Emperor - who lets himself be seen several times in the course of the day - and to wish him good fortune. On other days permission for a visit must be obtained from the Imperial Chamberlain's Office (Kunaicho).

The East Higashi-Gyo-en Garden (or Imperial Palace East Garden) can however be visited regularly. It has a few old buildings, which are worth seeing.

Formerly the Kinomaru Park formed part of the Palace grounds. It is now cut off by the motorway.

In April and October the Togakudo (Music Room) of the Palace is open to the public for the Bunraku and Gagaku performances. To obtain an entry ticket a postcard, with a stamped reply envelope, must be sent to the Imperial Chamberlain's Office (Kunaicho), which is housed in the Sakashita-mon Gate. The exact dates of performances are announced in the newspapers.

Rikugien Park

This entrancingly beautiful park is only eight minutes' walk from the Railway Station. It is a characteristic example of 18th C landscaping, with a knoll, called Tsukiyama, a lake and an island. What is unusual is the fact that the various landscape features are all connected with literary themes. The park was laid out for a counselor of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Since 1938 it has been in the ownership of the City of Tokyo. Nearby is the Gokukuji Temple.

Tokyo National Museum

(Local Name: Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan) The National Museum of Tokyo houses more than 100,000 works of Japanese, Chinese and Indian art, including more than 100 of Japan's National Treasures. Its main building comprises 25 exhibition galleries (of which 20 are normally open to the public). It was built between 1932 and 1938 to replace the Imperial Museum, which was seriously damaged in the 1923 earthquake, and presented to the Imperial House. The latter ceded all proprietary rights over the building and its artistic treasures to the state in 1947. Until 1868 the Kan-eiji Temple stood here; it was at the time the most important

Buddhist temple in Edo. In 1875 the temple was rebuilt close by, just outside the

On the right hand side of the main building lies the Museum for East Asiatic Art, with 15 exhibition galleries. It was opened in October 1968. The objects on display are changed from time to time.

Rooms 1-3: Buddhist sculptures from the Asuka period (552-645) to the present, as well as examples from China.

Room 4: Old textiles, especially valuable examples from the Asuka period.

Room 5: Metalwork, especially Buddhist sacred vessels, etc. (6th-16th C.)

Room 6: Historical weapons and military equipment.

Room 7: The art of the swordsmith is illustrated with exhibits from different centuries.

Room 8: Historic Japanese clothing. Ceramics from Japan, China and Korea.

Room 9 and 10: Japanese, Korean and Chinese pottery from various periods.

Room 11: Japanese painting from the Nara Period (645-794) to the kamakura Period (1192-1336).

Room 12: Japanese painting from the Muromachi Period (1392-1573) including masterpieces by the monks, Josetsu, Shubun and Sesshu.

Room 13: Japanese painting from the Momoyama (1573-1603) and Tokugawa (1603-1868) periods, including works of the Kano, Tosa, Sumiyoshi, Korin and Maruyama schools.

Room 14: Coloured xylographs from the Tokugawa Period.

Rooms 15 and 16: Japanese and Chinese masterpieces of lacquer-work of various centuries, including examples of lacquer-carving, gold lacquer, lacquer with mother of pearl.

Rooms 17 and 18: Japanese painting of the Meiji Period.

Rooms 19 and 20: Masterpieces of Japanese calligraphy, examples from the nara Period to the Tokugawa Period.

There are two other galleries near the main building: Hyokeikan: objects excavated from graves, settlements, etc., reveal the prehistory of Japan. The so-called Haniwa, pottery figures which were buried with the dead, are especially worthy of note. Toyokan: objects from China and Korea.

Behind the main building there is a typical Japanese landscape garden. Three pavilions have been brought here, and they give it the character of an open-air museum. The Tein Teahouse (Rokuso-an) dates from the 17th C. In the Okyo Pavilion (Okyo-kan) pictures with plant motives by the famous landscape artist Maruyama Okyo (1735-95) are on show, while pictures by Kano School painters are displayed in the Kujo Pavilion. There is also a storehouse from the Kamakura Period.

Horyuji-homotsukan, the Treasure of the Horyuji Temple near Nara which was completed in 1964, lies nearby. It is, however, open only on Thursdays when the weather is good.

Kabuki-za Theatre

Kabuki is traditional Japanese theatre. It is well worth going to see this medieval, highly skilled and often burlesque theatrical form even if you do not understand one word of what is said. The greatest Kabuki theatre is in Ginza. Performances are given throughout the year.

Inside the theatre the scene resembles some enormous family get-together; many of the 2,500 spectators bring something to eat, although there are some restaurants around the great auditorium, because the performances last for hours. The spectators stay just as long as they wish - or as long as they bear to sit - and it is not considered rude to come at any time or to go away when you feel like it.

The word "Kabuki" means roughly "song and
dance". In magnificent sets and splendid, valuable costumes the actors perform every sort of emotion with total expression. The stage is often transformed into a cauldron of unbridled passions. After seeing the passers-by on Tokyo streets who bow pleasantly and also seem so restrained, visitors can hardly imagine what explosive forces lie hidden beneath the polite masks. The public shares every emotion, weeping, laughing and applauding its heroes thunderously. Shouts of encouragement are forever ringing out. In times gone by the Kabuki theatre served for the up and coming middle classes as a sort of newspaper and gossip-sheet. Scandals and murders were enacted here in epic grandeur. The actors often performed even without a script, with the result that the plot often departed considerably from the reality that had been envisaged. Even nowadays the women's roles are all played by men. Kabuki has nothing in common with the bourgeois culture of European theatre.

In 1645, women were prohibited from performing in the theatres. However, it was reputedly a priestess who made Kabuki popular by her comic improvisation.


Ginza is Tokyo's most famous shopping center. Lined by exclusive shops and imposing palatial stores which sell literally everything that can be obtained anywhere in the world, in the area there are many tea and coffee shops, cáfes, bars and restaurants. At weekends, when everything is open, it is a shopper's paradise because traffic is barred. Gigantic advertising panels on many buildings bathe Ginza in bright light in the evenings. The crowds of moving people carry the visitor along with them, and the din is almost frightening.

Here lie - within the precinct of the shopping street - the Kabuki-za Theatre in which Kabuki performances take place, as well as the Shimbashi Embujo Theatre in which the traditional Azuma-odori dances or
Bunraku performances may be seen. The Ginza district was the commercial center of the country in the Edo period. It was here that the Chonin, craftsmen and merchants lived. In 1612 Tokugawa Ieyasu had the silver mint (in Japanese "ginza") moved to Edo. At that time Nihombashi was the point where five highways led out into the countryside - the Oshu Road to Sendai, the Nikko Road to Nikko, the Tokaido Road to Kyoto, the Koshu Road to Kofu and the Nakasendao Road to Nagano.

Asakusa Kannon Templea

The temple is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion. It has been here since the foundation of the city. Although the buildings have been destroyed several times, they still retain their original appearance because they have been restored authentically after each catastrophe. Examples of this are the main hall and the scarlet pagoda. According to legend the Temple was founded in 628 (or more likely in 645) by three fishermen who had found a statuette of the goddess in their nets when they hauled them. In its honor they founded the Temple.

The main entrance is the Kaminari-mon Gate, with a 10ft (3.3m) high red paper lantern, weighing 220lb (100kg), with an inscription on it meaning "Thunder Gate"

The Asakusa Shrine, known as Sanja-sa-me, was founded by Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-51) in memory of the three fishermen. In the courtyard in front of the main temple stands the famous and much-loved Incense Vat, which is reputed to drive away ailments. Sick people need only to cup their hands around the smoke and apply it to the part of their body, which is unwell.

The temple doves are considered to be Kannon's sacred messengers. Nowadays they also tell fortunes if that is what the visitor desires. With its beak a dove pulls out from a heap of cards the one which foretells the enquirer's future.

Asakusa Kannon Temple is one of the most popular in Tokyo. Accordingly the annual festival of Sanji Matsuri (19 and 20 May) is the largest in the city, others being the Sanno Matsuri at the Hie Shrine and the Kanda Matsuri at the Kanda Myojin Shrine.

Tokyo's City Hall

Tokyo's City Hall stands just a few minutes' walk away from the Main Railway Station. Built by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, it is the seat of Tokyo's municipal government. In front of the building there stands a bronze statue of the feudal Lord Dokan Ota (1432-86) who built Chiyoda (Edo) Castle, now the Imperial Palace, and who is considered the founder of Tokyo.

The Yasukuni Shrine

The Yasukuni Shrine is in the Marunouchi District northwest of Mizugami Park. It was built in the Shinto style in 1869 and is dedicated to Japan's war dead. The entry to the outer precinct is through two immense Torii. At the south entrance stands a 39ft (12m) high granite Torii, and at the entry to the inner precinct there is a bronze Torii 74ft (22m) high. Both of these were put up in 1933.

The bronze statue on the left hand side of the entry represents Shinagawa Yajiro (1843-1900), a leading political figure of the Meiji period.

The grounds of the Temple are beautiful with gingko trees and ornamental cherries. This gave rise to the usual farewell of soldier departing for the war: "We'll meet again under the cherries on
Kudan Hill."

The spring festival at the shrine takes place between 21 and 23 April, the autumn festival from 17 to 19 October.

Yasukuni Shrine, in as much as it is a sanctuary for state Shintoism, still gives rise to political contention. It was here that with great secrecy the urns containing the remains of the men condemned to death by the International Military Court in 1948 as war criminals were laid to rest. By this act of burial they acquired the status of "hotoke", that is beings who were god-like and deserving of reverence. For some time now the ministers of the right-liberal government have been visiting the Shrine.

Shinjuku Park

Japanese garden design, with what strikes foreigners as a completely different style of artistic arrangement, is an unfailing source of delight. The Shinjuku-Gyoen National Garden is a park that combines everything which is expected of Japanese gardening. It is situated only five minutes' walk from Shinjuku Railway Station.

The grounds of the Park cover some 145ac (58.5ha). Formerly most of it belonged to the Naito family of Daimyos. Towards the end of the 19th C it came into the possession of the Imperial house which transferred ownership to the state after the Second World War.

As the Park is also a botanical garden, with botanical specimens from all over the world, it is divided into two main sections, one European and
the other Japanese. The models for the European section were the French parks and the English landscaped garden. The Japanese section, with its pretty pavilion in the Chinese style, attracts crowds of visitors particularly in April when the cherry trees are covered in blossom. At that time of year 1,100 trees comprising 34 different varieties may be seen in all their glory. Those who prefer chrysanthemums wait for November when chrysanthemum shows are held in the Park.

Ueno Park Zoo

Near the Shinobazu Pond lie the extensive grounds of the zoo; another section of it is to be found between the Toshugo Shrine and the Tokyo Arts University, and the two parts are linked by a monorail. The zoo was opened in 1882, which makes it Japan's oldest zoo. It cannot perhaps be said to come up to the highest international standards, but it has two famous pandas. These are the gift of the People's Republic of China. When from time to time one of them dies, a replacement is sent over from China as a gesture of friendship. The death of a panda is always a matter for great sadness among school children, but then there is great rejoicing when the new mascot arrives.
The Aqua-Zoo on the north shore is one of the largest
aquaria in the Far East.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland, opened in April 1983, has behind it the proven expertise of more than 28 years of Disney experience in the theme park industry. Many of the most popular Disneyland attractions and restaurants found in the USA are incorporated into the Tokyo project, as well as several entirely new attractions, such as "Pinocchio's Daring Journey", "The Eternal Seas" and "Meet the World". In addition, there are up to 300 entertainers appearing daily in stage shows, musical performances and parades; an of course Mickey Mouse and all the other Disney characters can be found greeting visitors and signing autographs. There are more than 27 places to eat ranging from snack bars to elaborate gourmet restaurants.

In contrast to
"Main Street USA"of Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland has a "World Bazaar", which is totally under cover and fully protected from the weather. It features a main street, courtyards, shops, boutiques, restaurants and entertainment - all reminiscent of America at the turn of the century. Visitors will pass through the World Bazaar on their way to other attractions: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Westernland, Toontown and Critter Country.

Adventureland has a mixture of attractions based on Disney's Academy Award winning "True-life Adventure" films; the "Jungle Cruise" is a trip along a winding river amid lush vegetation. Visitors sail past a safari camp, the ruins of an ancient temple guarded by monkeys, through the rain forests of the Amazon and into the Congo along the rapids of the Nile complete with hippos and crocodiles. It is a trip far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa, using the "wonderland of nature's design."

One of the most popular Disney attractions, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" is also here. It is a twenty-minute trip through a pirate raid on a Caribbean seaport, including singing, rowdy sailors and the firing of cannon to port and the splashing of water off the starboard bow.

Westernland has Americana and the "wild west" themes with adventures designed to give visitors a feeling of having lived during the pioneer days of America. The "Mark Twain Riverboat" lets visitors sail on the waters of the Rivers of America in a sternwheel paddle steamer, or if they prefer a more primitive way, they can conquer the river in an authentic Indian war canoe.

The Rivers of America surround an authentic "Tom Sawyer Island" complete with Injun Joe's Cove, Tom Sawyer's Treehouse, Fort Sam Clemens and suspension and barrel bridges.

Visitors will encounter cowboys, cancan dancers, gold miners and other inhabitants of the Old West.

Fantasyland is where one will become part of the famous Disney stories and films. Visitors will ride through "Snow White's Adventure" in the Seven Dwarfs' mining car; fly through the air with Peter Pan to Never Never Land; and experience "Pinocchio's Daring Journey."

"It's a Small World" is an enclosed water cruise through a hundred nations, represented by some five hundred dolls with songs in their native language.

Another attraction of note is the "Haunted Mansion" complete with leaded windows, mahogany paneling and inhabited by "999 ghosts and goblins." Visitors' board specially designed omnicars of the Mansion incorporating special lighting effects, details of which are unbelievably real.

Tomorrowland gives a glimpse into the future and explores the possibilities of progress. "Space Mountain" is a simulated ride through space, complete with multi-colored strobe lights and holographic asteroid shower. This realistic space trip is housed in a cone shaped superstructure which can be seen from the heart of Tokyo. If visitors prefer to experience a more "down to earth" flight, they can board "Star Jets" and control their own altitude.

Also in Tomorrowland are two original attractions one is called "Meet the World", a unique presentation covering Japan's history and the impact in the world; the other "The Eternal Sea", enables visitors to explore man's newest frontier through Disney's unique 200° theater.

Tokyo Disneyland will never be complete; Critter Country is one of the newer areas. It is a land of small animals inspired by the Disney film Song of the South. The critters have built fanciful homes throughout the area. Their homes can also be seen on the banks of the Rivers of America and the slopes of Splash Mountain. The other is Toontown, where Disney characters live, work and play. Attractions include Mickey and Minnie's House, Chip and Dale's Treehouse, Donald's Boat and Goofy's Bounce House.

Toshogu Shrine

The Toshogu Shrine is situated in the southwest portion of the Park. A pathway with 256 bronze and stone lanterns on either side leads up to it. These were the gifts of various Daimyos. The Shrine was founded in 1627 in memory of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The present buildings date back to 1651.

The most important things to see here are the richly decorated Main Shrine and the five-story pagoda of the Kannei-ji Temple. The latter was transferred here as the only building to survive the fighting which has been mentioned above. The Kara-mon Gate in front of the Main Shrine is said to have carvings by the famous sculptor Hidari Jingoro (17th C.)

The National Museum of Western Art

(Local Name: Kokuritsu Seiyo Bijutsukan) The National Museum of Western Art is found in Ueno Park just three minutes' walk from Ueno Station. It was built in 1959, to plans by the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The exhibits - works of French artists for the most part - come mainly from the collection made by Kojiro Matsukata during his visit to Europe early in the present C.

In the courtyard works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin are on show, together with canvases by the Impressionists Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Visitors who have already visited the great art collections in either the capital cities of Europe or in the United States will not need to visit this
exhibition of Western art in Tokyo, they will be disappointed, for masterpieces are not represented here.


Tokyo, as the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, is Japan's largest domestic and international hub for rail, ground, and air transportation. Public transportation within Tokyo is dominated by an extensive network of clean and efficient trains and subways run by a variety of operators, with buses, monorails and trams playing a secondary feeder role.

Within Ōta, one of the 23 special wards, Tokyo International Airport ("Haneda") offers mainly domestic flights. Outside Tokyo, Narita International Airport, in Chiba Prefecture, is the major gateway for international travelers.

Various islands governed by Tokyo have their own airports. Hachijōjima (Hachijojima Airport), Miyakejima (Miyakejima Airport), and Izu Ōshima (Oshima Airport) have service to Tokyo International and other airports.

Rail is the primary mode of transportation in Tokyo, which has the most extensive urban railway network in the world and an equally extensive network of surface lines. JR East operates Tokyo's largest railway network, including the Yamanote Line loop that circles the center of downtown Tokyo. Two organizations operate the subway network: the private Tokyo Metro and the governmental Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation. The metropolitan government and private carriers operate bus routes. Local, regional, and national services are available, with major terminals at the giant railroad stations, including Tokyo and Shinjuku.

Expressways link the capital to other points in the Greater Tokyo area, the Kantō region, and the islands of Kyūshū and Shikoku.

Other transportation includes taxis operating in the special wards and the cities and towns. Also long-distance ferries serve the islands of Tokyo and carry passengers and cargo to domestic and foreign ports.

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