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Last updated : Nov 2009
Tokyo Travel Guide
Tokyo Travel Guide and Tokyo Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
Tokyo, symbol of the Japanese success story, is a huge megalopolis situated on the Pacific coast of Honshu, the largest island of the Japanese archipelago. In 1590, the city was established as Edo, the capital of the shoguns, the series of hereditary absolute rulers of Japan and commander of the Japanese miltary. Edo enjoyed its own vibrant culture, the famous ‘floating world’ of pleasure quarters, theatres and cherry blossoms, immortalised in the Japanese woodblock prints of the time. After the decline of the shoguns in 1867 (and the restoration of the power of the Emperor), the city was renamed Tokyo, the Eastern Capital, proclaiming its new beginning as a dynamic modern city and the example of an increasingly modernised country. In spite of the catastrophic 1923 earthquake and near total obliteration during World War II, Tokyo began to rise from the ashes to host the 1964 Olympics and went on to preside over the Japanese economic miracle.

That this perplexing amalgamation of neighbourhoods and districts is able to function as whole is largely due to the uniquely efficient network of rail and underground lines that crisscross and surround the city. These are Tokyo’s arteries, transporting masses of businesspeople, office workers and students from the suburbs and placing them in vast stations. Over 2 million people a day travel through Shinjuku Station alone. The towering business districts are swarming with soberly dressed businesspeople and the demure young secretaries known as ‘office flowers’. The architectural anarchy and sheer crush of humanity attacks the senses. Among the frenzied consumerism, brash electronics outlets are stacked next to sophisticated upscale boutiques and hordes of giggling schoolgirls swooning over pop idols and the latest fashions in glitzy emporiums.

Tokyo has a temperate climate, with warm but sometimes muggy summers and mild, dry winters. The balmy warm spring days of April to May are the best times to visit the city.

Downtown, old neighbourhoods are dotted around antiquated shopping arcades and the clatter of the temple bell echoes over the rooftops. Here, the rhythms of the seasons are observed. Tokyoites flock to ring in the New Year at the revered Shinto shrines and in springtime there's a flurry of flower-viewing parties and picnics under the cherry blossoms. Lively, traditional festivals punctuate the humid summers and the spirit of the old Edo also flourishes in the neon-bathed entertainment districts: modern-day ‘floating worlds’ complete with karaoke and cinemas, bathhouses and shot bars. Traditional kabuki theatre thrives along with opera, ballet and symphonic shows, and Tokyoites are passionate about sumo, baseball and today– in the wake of Japan’s co-hosting of the 2002 World Cup – football. Food, an additional obsession is well catered for in this city of 60,000 restaurants and the largest fish market in the world. From bowls of steaming ramen noodles to slices of sashimi, chefs compete to provide the freshest produce, and food `presentation is elevated to an art form.

The focal point of Japan’s highly centralised government, business and financial institutions, Tokyo has been seriously affected by the country’s continuing recession, bank collapses and financial scandals. Many certainties of the past appear to have vanished, however, opinions vary widely as to the extent of the damage and what lies ahead. Surprisingly little of this trepidation is apparent to visitors, as – on the surface, at least – Tokyo and its people are still prosperous and forward-looking.