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Things to Know Before Going! Basic Facts About Tokyo

2017.09.07

Knowing an area makes visiting it much more fun. Here are some basic facts on Tokyo, the capital of Japan. Be sure to read this before you go!

What Kind of Place is Tokyo?

History

Tokyo-to is located right around the middle of Honshu, at the southern end of the Kanto Region. It has functioned and developed as the capital of Japan since the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, formed the Edo Shogunate in 1603. The name was changed from Edo to Tokyo in 1868, and in 1943, two sections (Tokyo-shi and Tokyo-fu) were combined into Tokyo-to. Much of the city was burned in air raids during World War II, but it has since been reconstructed and developed, boosted by events such as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Although Tokyo-to is the third smallest prefecture in Japan with a total area of 2,187 square kilometers, it is by far the most populated, with approximately 13 million people living there. It is famous as one of the world’s most metropolitan cities.
A group of volcanic islands on the Pacific called the Izu Islands (e.g. Oshima and Hachijojima), as well as the Ogasawara Islands, are part of Tokyo-to and offer beautiful natural scenery that strongly contrast the large metropolis.

Climate

The average annual temperature in Tokyo is 15.4℃. It is relatively pleasant in the spring and fall, but in the summer, it feels hotter than in other areas (e.g. 30-35℃) because there are many air conditioners and the heat is trapped by the asphalt that covers the city. In the winter, the highs are near 5℃ and the lows can go below 0℃, but because the infrastructure is well-developed, there is good heating and the area feels more comfortable than in snowier regions.

Disposition

People who are born and raised in Tokyo are called “Edokko” and are said to be straightforward, moral and compassionate. The vast majority of people living in Tokyo today are from other regions, so the percentage of people that can truly be called Edokko has dwindled. Since people in Tokyo today come from many different places, they tend not to meddle in each other's business. Such aloofness perhaps characterizes the Tokyo citizens of today.

Dialect

The words used in Tokyo are considered as part of the standard language of Japan, so you will not find many unique accents or expressions. What would pass as a dialect in Tokyo is the “Edo-ben” spoken by the Edokko mentioned earlier. For example, they tend to consolidate words that have consecutive vowels (a, e, i, o, u); so "ai" and "ae" become "ee" and "ui" becomes "ii".

Example: “Nai” (don’t have or doesn’t exist) becomes “nee”; “Omae” (rough expression for “you”) becomes “omee”; “Samui” (cold) becomes “samii”.


Transportation

Getting to Tokyo

There are two international airports that are gateways to Tokyo from abroad: Narita International Airport (approx. 1 hour to Tokyo Station) and Tokyo International Airport (commonly known as Haneda Airport; approx. 30 minutes to Tokyo Station). There are many ways of getting from these airports to the center of Tokyo, such as trains and express buses. There are also many shinkansen (bullet trains) that go in and out of Tokyo Station, so it is easy to get to Tokyo from various regions around the country, such as the Tohoku, Akita, Tokaido and Sanyo areas.

Transportation Within Tokyo

Tokyo has one of the most developed transportation systems in the world, consisting of various modes such as trains, monorails and buses. The convenience of the trains (e.g. JR and the subway) is unusual even in Japan, with an extremely large number of trains running from early in the morning to late at night. The Tokyo 1-Day Ticket (Adults 1,590 JPY; Children 800 JPY), with unlimited rides on Tokyo Metro subways and JR lines within a certain area, is recommended if you are going to take a train.


Major Tourist Destinations

Tokyo has much to offer in the way of sightseeing and entertainment, including famous historical and traditional sites, as well as state-of-the-art cultural and commercial facilities. There are many famous spots, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, from which the city is governed; Japan's largest brick structure, Tokyo Station; the world's highest freestanding broadcast structure, Tokyo Skytree; the otaku cultural center, Akihabara, which is packed with electric appliance and anime shops; and Harajuku, the source of “kawaii culture” and fashion trends.


Specialty Gourmet Food

One of Tokyo's charm points is that it has gourmet food from around the world, ranging from casual fast food restaurants to exclusive restaurants serving high-class cuisine. The fact that it has more Michelin star restaurants than any other city in the world is testament to the quality of gourmet food in Tokyo. Although sushi, unagi (eel), and soba (buckwheat noodles) are well-known Japanese dishes, monjayaki (pan-fried batter consisting of flour, cabbage, seafood, etc.) is another famous Tokyo dish that is popular among the working class.

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Recommended Souvenirs

There are many souvenirs that can only be purchased in Tokyo, such as cosmetics, the latest fashion items, gorgeously beautiful sweets, and limited offer items related to popular anime. At the same time, traditional crafts are also popular souvenirs. Some examples include folding fans and tenugui towels that represent the skills of the craftspeople. Edo Kiriko glassware with beautiful geometric patterns are also hugely popular among foreigners. Enjoy browsing through Tokyo, where anything ranging from traditional to innovative goods can be found!


Tokyo is full of places that sell the latest fashions and gourmet food. If you are travelling to Japan, it is an area you cannot miss!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

Writer: nakamura

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