Is Tokyo an overrated city


Tokyo (also: Tokyo, jap. 東京, Tokyolisten?/) is located in the Kantō region in the east of the island of Honshū in Japan. Since 1603, the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the formerly insignificant fishing village of Edo has been the center of politics and administration in the country. Since 1868 Tokyo has also been the capital of Japan and, with the Tokyo Imperial Palace, the seat of the Tenno.

The 23 boroughs of Tokyo (jap. 23 区Nijūsan-ku) have 8,483,050 inhabitants (2005 census). 34,471,652 people live in the metropolitan area (2005). This makes Tokyo the largest metropolitan area in the world. The region is the financial, industrial, commercial and cultural center of Japan with numerous universities, colleges, research institutes, theaters and museums. Tokyo is also the seat of the United Nations University (UNU).

Three definitions of Tokyo

Headquarters of the Tokyo Prefectural Administration in Shinjuku (1991)

It is not clear to many western observers that there is no city of Tokyo in the administrative sense. The "City of Tokyo" as a political entity was dissolved in 1943. Tokyo has three different definitions in the western languages ​​today, all of which have different names in Japan itself.

  1. The 23 boroughs of Tokyo (Japanese 23 区Nijūsan-ku) are located in the area of ​​the former city of Tokyo, i.e. the core area. Each city district is administratively treated as an independent municipality and on a par with a city. Officially, the capital districts are called in English as City (Shinjuku City, Shibuya City).
  2. The agglomeration of Tokyo-Yokohama, which includes the city districts and all suburbs in the catchment area in a total of four prefectures (including the megacities of Yokohama and Kawasaki).
  3. Tokyo Prefecture (Japanese 東京 都Tōkyō-to), which, in addition to the 23 districts of the capital, also spreads over the western part of the metropolitan area, foothills of the Japanese Alps and even remote Pacific islands.

This article treats Tokyo as an organic urban structure, i.e. in the sense of definitions 1 and 2. Political, economic and geographical information about Tokyo can be found in the article Tokyo Prefecture.

In Western reporting, the lack of a “city of Tokyo” has caused some errors. The 12 or 13 million people often mistakenly named in the media as the population of “Greater Tokyo” are actually the population of Tokyo Prefecture including the mountain villages and remote Pacific islands, but not including the rest of the metropolitan area in other prefectures.

The governor of Tokyo Prefecture (都 知事, Tochiji), currently Shintarō Ishihara, is also known as the “Mayor” of Tokyo, since the Tokyo Prefecture has combined some administrative competencies of a city with those of a prefecture since 1943. The seat of the prefecture administration, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, built in 1991 by Kenzō Tange in the style of a cathedral, can thus be described as the "City Hall".


Geographical location

Tokyo is located on the Tokyo Bay on the island of Honshū, the largest of the four main islands of the Japanese archipelago, in the Kantō plain (Kantō-heiya) an average of six meters above sea level. The 23 autonomous districts of Tokyo city have an area of ​​621.45 square kilometers.

The entire metropolitan area with a floor area of ​​13,556 square kilometers extends over the prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Tokyo. In Japan, the Tokyo area (東京 圏, Tōkyō-ken), Capital area (首都 圏, Shuto-ken) or Südkantō (南 関 東, Minami-Kanto) called.

Kantō is the area that lies in a wide arc around Tokyo Bay. The name Kantō means "east of the barrier" - a historical name. (Kansai, meaning “west of the barrier”, is the area around Osaka.) “Barrier” refers to the mountains in the Chūbu region.

Kantō is the largest plain in Japan. Due to earlier, massive volcanic eruptions of the Fujisan, which was rather quiet in the last centuries, almost the entire plain was covered with fertile, volcanic ash - the so-called kantō rōmu sō. Then there is the large Tokyo Bay, which is deep enough to function as a harbor and shallow enough to wrest larger areas from the sea


Landsat image of Tokyo and its environs

Tokyo is located in one of the most active earthquake zones in the world. Small earthquakes are not unusual in the city. During the very active phases, small, noticeable earthquakes can occur almost daily. Despite all their efforts, scientists have not yet succeeded in making an effective earthquake forecast.

One of the best-known theories comes from Kawasumi Hiroshi, President of the Institute for Earthquake Research at the University of Tokyo. He has analyzed all earthquakes in Tokyo since 818 with a magnitude of over 5 on the Richter scale and found that on average one major earthquake occurs every 69 years. According to this, the next big quake should have taken place in 1992. However, this is a purely statistical calculation that does not take geological conditions into account and is therefore completely unsuitable for forecasting. Professor Ishibashi Katsuhiko from the University of Kobe took a much more differentiated view. According to him, the earthquakes always occur in a certain cycle. At the beginning there are several smaller quakes; a big tremor then always marks the end of this cycle.

One of the most severe earthquakes was the Great Kantō earthquake on September 1, 1923. Other severe earthquakes occurred in 1615 (magnitude 6.4), 1649 (7.1), 1703 (8.2), 1855 (6, 9) and 1894 (7.0). The Genroku earthquake on December 31, 1703 destroyed Tokyo and other cities in the area. Around 200,000 people were killed in the region.

City structure

Map of Tokyo prefecture with the 23 capital districts

Tokyo is divided into 23 capital districts (区-ku):


The city is located in the area of ​​the subtropical east side climate (after Neef). According to the Köppenscher climate classification, the city belongs to the warm temperate climate zone. That is why the temperatures are relatively mild and pleasant all year round. The summers are hot and humid (30 ° C during the day and 20 ° C at night), the winters dry and sunny (10 ° C during the day and around 0 ° C at night); sometimes snow also falls. The rainy season (Tsuyu) with daily rain showers lasts from late June to mid-July. It is caused by damp trade winds from the western Pacific. Afterwards - from mid-July to the end of August - it is consistently hot with high humidity.

Typhoons threaten in September or October, but rarely last longer than a day. They usually arise in summer or early autumn in the North Pacific west of the date line and north of the 5th parallel north on the edge of the Kalmengurtel and then mostly migrate first northwest towards Vietnam, the Philippines and China. If they fail to reach the mainland, they will turn northeast and haunt Korea and Japan. In Tokyo, typhoons bring strong gusts of wind and rain, but then gradually weaken the further they penetrate inland, as they no longer absorb water.

The average annual temperature in Tokyo is 15.6 ° C, the annual rainfall averages 1,410 millimeters. The warmest month is August with an average of 27.1 ° C, the coldest is January with an average of 5.2 ° C. Most of the precipitation falls in June with an average of 186 millimeters, the least in January with an average of 45 millimeters.



As archaeological finds show, the urban area was already settled in the Stone Age. Originally, Tokyo was under its previous name Edo a small fishing port. Around 1457, the then daimyo Ota Dokan had a castle built near the village. The settlement only gained importance in 1590 when it passed into the possession of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616).

Modern times

Historical map of Tokyo from 1888

Tokugawa Ieyasu made Edo the capital of the shogunate, the real power in Japan, in 1603, while the powerless Tennō (emperor) continued to reside in the official capital, Kyoto. The Edo Castle was restored and expanded during his reign.

Tokyo has often been hit by devastating earthquakes and large fires. In 1657, for example, a major fire claimed several thousand lives and destroyed more than 60 percent of what was then the city. The shogunate used this opportunity to reorganize the city structures, which mainly served to prevent fire and to strengthen the defenses of Edo Castle. During this phase, shrines and temples were systematically transported to the outskirts and townspeople were relocated to newly built outskirts.

Tokugawa Ieyasu's order to his daimyō to build his own residences in Edo, where their families were practically held hostage (Sankin-kōtai disposal), led to a faster growth of the city. Numerous craftsmen and merchants who were needed to supply the court settled in Edo at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1868, at the instigation of Meiji Tennō (Mutsuhito, 1852-1912), the imperial court was moved to Edo and the city in Tokyo ("Eastern capital", more precisely: "Imperial residence city in the east") renamed.

In 1872 a major fire destroyed the districts of Ginza and Marunouchi. The reconstruction and the associated modernization of the cityscape were carried out according to the western model. The planning for this was entrusted to an English architect who wanted to shape the cityscape with a mixture of European styles (streets based on Paris and the construction of houses based on the London model). Despite a certain ambivalence among the population about the completely new, western buildings that conveyed a more closed feeling of living, the then governor Yuri Kimimasa had craftsmen and builders come to Tokyo to start the work. In the Ginza district in particular, the reconstruction should begin as soon as possible, as a railway line between Yokohama and Shinbashi was to be inaugurated there. Moving traditional homes and warehouses to side streets made room for the new architecture.

Panoramic photo of Edo from 1865/1866 by Felice Beato


The worst natural disaster in the recent history of Tokyo was the Great Kanto earthquake and fire of September 1, 1923, in which much of the city was destroyed. The reconstruction, which was completed in 1930, resulted in over 200,000 new buildings, including many based on western designs, as well as seven reinforced concrete bridges over the Sumida River and some parks.

During World War II, the United States began bombing Tokyo on November 24, 1944, and American bombers also carried out heavy air raids on February 25 and March 10, 1945. Entire parts of the city with buildings built using traditional timber construction were destroyed by flames, and over 100,000 people died. The historic imperial palace was also destroyed.

During the occupation, Tokyo was occupied by American troops from September 1945 to April 1952. After that, the city experienced a period of rapid growth.

From October 10 to October 24, 1964, the XVIII. Summer Olympics take place.

On March 20, 1995, members of the Ōmu Shinrikyō (Aum sect) perpetrated a sarin attack on the Tokyo subway. Twelve people died and over 5,500 were injured.

outlook into the future

For the near future, seismologists predict a devastating earthquake in Tokyo on the scale of the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. This and the exorbitant land prices are the reasons why a relocation of the capital away from Tokyo has been discussed and planned since the 1990s - capital relocations have often occurred in Japanese history for religious and political reasons. Based on a law from 1992[1] three candidate regions were identified by 1999: Tochigi-Fukushima in the northeast, Gifu-Aichi in Tōkai and Mie-Kiō. No activities have taken place so far.

Tokyo is the official Japanese candidate city for hosting the 2016 Olympic Games.

Population development

Population development of Tokyo between 1870 and the present
Tokyo population pyramid. With an average fertility rate of 0.98 (2006), Tokyo is one of the cities with the fewest children in all of Japan. The rate is lowest in Shibuya at 0.73 and highest in Edogawa at 1.33. (cf. Germany 1.33; Berlin 1.22)

Tokyo has had more than a million inhabitants since the 19th century.

Since the late 1940s, the Tokyo metropolitan area has grown rapidly again, both in terms of area and population. About a quarter of the total population of Japan lives in it. Its outer limit is between 40 and 70 kilometers from the city center. In contrast, the population of the 23 inner districts has decreased since 1965, but is currently increasing again due to reurbanization.

The 23 districts of the capital have a total of 8.5 million inhabitants (2005 census). The Tokyo metropolitan area, together with the neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, forms the largest contiguous urban area on earth (megaplex) with 34.5 million inhabitants (2005). The metropolitan area is home to 27 cities with populations over 200,000, 17 cities with populations over 300,000, and eight cities with populations over 500,000.

Tokyo has three more metropolises as suburbs: (Yokohama, Saitama and Kawasaki). About 900,000 people live in the eastern suburb of Chiba. With 3.6 million inhabitants, Yokohama in the south of Tokyo has about the same number of inhabitants as Berlin or Madrid.

The following overview shows the population of the core city, i.e. in the area of ​​the 23 capital districts, according to the respective territorial status. Up to 1914 these are estimates, from 1920 to 2006 they are census results.

Year / dateResidents
October 1, 19202.173.201
October 1, 19251.995.567
October 1, 19302.070.913
October 1, 19355.875.667
October 1, 19406.778.804
February 22, 19446.558.161
November 1, 19452.777.010
April 26, 19463.442.106
October 1, 19474.177.548
August 1, 19484.555.565
October 1, 19505.385.071
October 1, 19556.969.104
October 1, 19608.310.027
October 1, 19658.893.094
1st October 19708.840.942
1st October 19758.646.520
October 1, 19808.351.893
October 1, 19858.354.615
October 1, 19908.163.573
October 1, 19957.967.614
October 1, 20008.134.688
October 1, 20058.483.050
October 1, 20068.535.792


Tokyo (Tokyo) is the only prefecture with the designation to in Japan. The Japanese government translates the term Tōkyō-to in English with Tokyo Metropolis, so "Metropolis Tokyo". The administration based in Shinjuku will officially become English with Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), German "Tokyo Metropolitan Government", designated. As a direct translation, Tōkyō-to In analogy to the other prefectures of Japan, usually rendered as “Tokyo Prefecture”. After the abolition of the provincial division the forerunner existed in 1868 Tōkyō-fu, an urban prefecture like Osaka and Kyoto, made up of a number of cities that had grown together. The largest of these was the city of Tokyo, which was divided into 15 boroughs.

In 1943 the city of Tokyo was dissolved and Tōkyō-fu in Tōkyō-to renamed. Tokyo's boroughs were now directly subordinate to the prefecture and, like other municipalities, each received its own assembly (kugikai). Your Mayors (kuchō) were now subject to more direct supervision by the central government. At the time, there were 35 such boroughs, which also included the suburbs and small towns around Tokyo.

In 1947, Tokyo was divided into the 23 autonomous boroughs that existed to this day due to the population declines caused by the effects of World War II. These received a status that is unique among the municipalities nationwide as "special districts" (tokubetsu-ku), which enables the prefecture to take on additional tasks for the whole of Tokyo in exchange for some of the municipal funds. The mayors of the districts and the governor of the prefecture were henceforth elected by the people.

The growth of the Tokyo megaplex after the war resulted in it growing into other prefectures. There are some differences in terminology between Tokyo and the other prefectures. This is mainly due to the fact that Tokyo is the capital of Japan on the one hand, and a huge megaplex on the other. For example, the police and fire stations are called chō instead of hombu designated. The main difference between Tokyo and the other prefectures is that each part of Tokyo is a separate city. Today these boroughs have nearly the same degree of independence as other Japanese cities, which they did not in the past.

Culture and sights


Tokyo has many theaters that perform both traditional forms of theater - such as Nō and Kabuki - and modern plays. Several symphony orchestras and many smaller orchestras have Western and traditional Japanese music in their repertoire.

Theater lovers can choose between the Opera House, the Tokyo Globe Theater, the Kabuki-za Theater, various Nō stages and the Takarazuka Grand Theater, where revues and musicals are performed.

The Nō is a traditional Japanese theater that is only played (danced) and musically accompanied by men. Usually the main actor wears a mask. The traditional themes mostly concern Japanese or Chinese mythology or literature. Some Nō plays deal with contemporary issues.

Kabuki (Singing dance) is the traditional Japanese theater of the merchant class of the Edo period. Kabuki is an essentially secular art form and a little less formal than the older, Buddhist Samurai no-theater. Basically, a kabuki consists of singing, pantomime and dance.


Ueno Park is home to the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of Western Art, the National Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. The National Museum of Modern Art is located near the Imperial Palace. Japanese and Western art of the 19th and 20th centuries is on display at the Bridgestone Museum of Art.

The largest museum in Japan is the National Museum. Around 2,500 exhibits on Japanese history and culture are permanently on display there, including national treasures and important cultural assets of the country. Sometimes special exhibitions on specific topics are also presented, so that a full day is not enough to view the entire range of the museum.

The Edo-Tokyo Museum is located near the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the great sumo wrestler hall, south of Asakusa and east of the main train station. There, the old Tokyo has been recreated in miniature, individual houses also in their original size. The Fukagawa-Edo Museum is just a few hundred meters south of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, along the Oedo subway line. It also houses many old houses from the Edo period.


Nowadays Tokyo is one of the fastest-paced and most modern cities in the world and, on the one hand, is constantly creating new trends in many areas such as fashion and entertainment electronics, but on the other hand, is also closely linked to Japanese tradition.

The center of the urban area is dominated by the Imperial Palace in the middle of a large park. Meiji Shrine to the west is a magnet for tourists and devotees from all over Japan. In the Kasumigaseki district to the south and west of the palace there are numerous government buildings, including the Kantei, the prime minister's seat, the parliament building, the Supreme Court and the state ministries.

Further south, in Shiba Park in the Minato district, is the 333-meter-high Tokyo Tower, one of the city's landmarks.

Sensō-ji in Asakusa, Taitō is the oldest and most famous temple in Tokyo.

To the east of the imperial palace is the Marunouchi district, the country's most important business district. Many of Japan's major corporations and a large number of financial institutions have their headquarters here. In 1914, this district gained great importance after the opening of the main train station. Tokyo's largest shopping district is to the east of Marunouchi. It stretches from the Nihombashi district in the north to Ginza in the south. Many department stores, international fashion brands, traditional specialty shops, entertainment venues and restaurants have settled along the streets of these districts.

A second city center and another high-rise district is the Shinjuku district around the Shinjuku train station, where important company headquarters and the prefectural government are also located.

Many foreign companies have their headquarters in the Roppongi district.

Other major city centers and attractions are Akihabara, also called Electric City (電 気 街, denki-machi) known, a large electronics and computer shopping district and meeting place for the otaku), the Tsukiji fish market (largest fish market in the world), the Tokyo Dome, the Ueno Park with the monorail Ueno Zoo, the Mitsukoshi department store and the Rainbow Bridge.


Even if the impression of a dense urban landscape with little green predominates in Tokyo, there are over a hundred public parks in the urban area, although a playground with a few trees is considered a park. The largest inner-city parks in Tokyo are Ueno Park in Taitō, Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku Gyoen, followed by Shinjuku Chūō Park, Hibiya Park and the green spaces around the Imperial Palace (namely Ni-no-Maru-Park , Kita-no-Maru-Park, Chidori-ga-Fuchi-Park and Soto-Bori-Park).

Other parks include Inokashira Park in Mitaka City, Koishikawa-Gorakuen, a landscaped garden on the site of a former daimyo property right next to the Tokyo Dome, and Odaiba-Kaihin Park, a popular meeting place for couples with a view of the Bay of Tokyo.

The most famous amusement parks in Tokyo are Tokyo Sea Life Park, Hanayashiki, Toshimaen, Tokyo Disney Resort, Tama Zoo and Ueno Zoo.

The Tama Zoo (Tama dōbutsu kōen) is the largest zoo in Tokyo. It was opened on May 5, 1958 and covers an area of ​​52.3 hectares. The zoo is divided into three ecological areas, the Asian garden, the African garden and the Australian garden. He also owns an insectarium. In the respective gardens, typical animals of the respective continent are shown. He is in front of the train station Tama Dōbutsu Kōen the Keiō-Dōbutsuen lineage and the Tama monorail.

The Ueno Zoo is the oldest animal park in Japan. It is smaller than the Tama Zoo and is located in Ueno Park in the middle of downtown Tokyo. The zoo is divided into two parts by a road in a cut, which is connected by a bridge and the Ueno-Zoo Monorail.

The "Hama Rikyū Garden" at the mouth of the Sumida, originally the garden of the imperial villa, is known for its seawater pond, which also has ebb and flow, and its bridges overgrown with wisteria. The “Kiyosumi Garden” got its present form from Baron Iwasaki in 1878. A small pond with around 10,000 carp is surrounded by large rocks that come from all over Japan. In 1924 it was donated to the city of Tokyo.

The parts of the beautiful mountainous landscape of the Chichibu-Tama National Park located further to the west, behind the suburbs, are also worth seeing.


In addition to the sport of sumo, whose tournaments take place in Tokyo in January, May and September, baseball and soccer are very popular in Japan. The fixtures are published in the daily newspapers.

The traditional sports such as aikidō, judo, karate, kyūdō and kendō can mostly only be visited in the respective schools at certain times. If you want to jog in Tokyo, you will find many like-minded people at the moat around the Imperial Palace.

Several Olympic buildings, including the Olympic Stadium, are located in Yoyogi Park near the Meiji Shrine. The sports facilities were built on the occasion of the Olympic Games in 1964 according to plans by the architect Kenzō Tange (1913-2005).

Regular events

Every year at the beginning of April, the cherry blossoms open in Tokyo (sakura no hana). They symbolize beauty, perfection, but also transience at the height of fame. The people in Japan therefore revere the pale pink splendor as a symbol of a short but fulfilled life. The cherry blossom is also the official plant of Tokyo.

During the approximately two weeks in which the cherries bloom in the city, the Japanese meet for a picnic (hanami, literally flower show) in the parks with friends, colleagues and family. The cherry blossom is also an occasion to travel to parks and areas that are particularly famous for their cherry blossom or to experience new well-known sights. Ueno Park and the Park of the Imperial Palace are famous for their cherry blossoms.

Culinary specialties

Shop window display with plastic models in the restaurant

There are more than 50,000 restaurants to choose from in Tokyo. From a culinary point of view, the city is exciting and adventurous when you try the local specialties. These offer a surprisingly large selection from inexpensive noodle soups to aristocratic kaiseki. Fish, rice, soybeans and vegetables play the main roles in traditional Japanese cuisine. The best known is sashimi (raw fish).

Kaiseki stands for haute cuisine in Japan. This elaborate pleasure experience consists of a multitude of small delicacies and embodies the three ideals of local cuisine: elaborate preparation, decorative serving and exquisite ambience. It is considered the culmination of Japanese culinary art and only absolutely fresh and natural foods are used. Kaiseki, which developed from a snack to a tea ceremony, is now served in posh restaurants and hotels.

The Japanese have also experimented with beef, poultry and pork and developed delicacies such as teppanyaki, shabu-shabu and sukiyaki. The marbled local beef, the most expensive brand of which is Kobe beef, is particularly tasty. The numerous noodle restaurants, the udon, soba or ramen, offer a simple lunch or dinner for every day. Many of the small noodle shops in Tokyo are open even at night and can be found on almost every street.

National specialty restaurants, called “ethnic food”, are just as popular. The Japanese use this term to mean anything that is not Japanese or Western cuisine. Mainly Chinese, Korean (Yakiniku), Indian (Curry), Thai and Vietnamese restaurants can be found here. There are also a significant number of German restaurants in Tokyo. Fashion waves bring something new every few years ethnic food to Japan, the latest trends were Bali food and Okinawa cuisine. Tokyo as a cosmopolitan city also gathers a large number of national and international fast food restaurant and café chains, including MOS Burger, Royal Host, Yoshinoya, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Starbucks.

Economy and Infrastructure


Many factories, universities, hospitals and other facilities have moved to the outskirts of Tokyo since the 1930s. This process accelerated from the mid-1950s, when Japan experienced a remarkable economic boom. Due to the population growth, sub-centers emerged in the (then) peripheral areas such as Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Shibuya. Various service companies - including retail and finance - have settled there. Meanwhile, the city of Tokyo (首都 圏, shutoken; literally: capital area) grown into the surrounding prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Yamanashi.

The city's major modern industries are concentrated on the shores of Tokyo Bay. Japan's largest industrial area is located there between Tokyo and Yokohama. The dominant branch of the economy is heavy industry, which generates more than two thirds of the total production value. The light industry is diversified: chemical products, cameras, machines, metal goods, food, optical devices and textiles as well as a large variety of consumer goods are manufactured.

The city's economy is highly efficient; its strengths lie particularly in international trade and research-intensive high technology. Due to the high wage level, Tokyo companies began to outsource their production, particularly to Southeast Asia, as early as the 1970s. However, the infrastructure created in these countries has also allowed local companies there to grow into full-blown competitors for Tokyo’s industry in recent years.

Land prices rose sharply in Tokyo in the 1980s. There was a real estate boom (bubble economy), with the land being used by companies as collateral for ever larger loans. At the same time, the value of shares and the value of the yen against the US dollar rose, but so did the country's national debt. The companies had a great deal of capital available, some of which was used to acquire companies outside of Japan, particularly in the United States, but which also resulted in a large waste of money.

The situation became risky when the banks began to issue counter-financed loans through the overvalued properties. In 1990 the bubble burst. Land prices fell by a quarter, the value of stocks collapsed, and the banks sat on their "bad loans". Since then, the Tokyo economy has been in a phase of economic downturn and deflation, and the 1997/1998 Asian crisis also prevented a recovery.

At the beginning of this millennium, the government cabinet around Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi made efforts to privatize state-owned companies and to deregulate the Japanese economy, sometimes in vain. The China boom that has started in recent years and advances in robotics research provide indications of an improvement in the situation. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the banks have also succeeded in writing off a large number of “bad loans” and in stabilizing the sector through mergers. Today Tokyo is one of the three global financial centers alongside New York and London.


Long-distance transport

Train of the Shinkansen network in the main station

With the beginning of the Meiji period between 1868 and 1912, a railway network was built in Japan, with Tokyo in the center. The city is connected to all parts of the country via main lines and a well-developed network of branch lines runs through the nearby hinterland. Several million commuters are transported daily from the city's main train stations - Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Shinjuku, Tokyo (main train station) and Ueno, and the Ueno Zoo Monorail is also nearby. Since the existing main connections were soon overloaded, new express lines (Shinkansen) have been opened. Today, high-speed trains run between Tokyo and Fukuoka, covering a distance of around 1,070 kilometers in around five hours.

Haneda Airport on Tokyo Bay south of the city center served both international and domestic air traffic for a long time until the new Tokyo Narita Airport opened 55 kilometers east of the city center in Chiba Prefecture in 1978. A second runway was put into operation on this in April 2002, which is intended to be used for short and medium-haul operations within Asia. Today, mainly domestic flights are handled via Haneda Airport. A second runway is also planned for Haneda Airport in order to meet the growing demand for domestic flights.

Narita Airport is served by almost all international and domestic airlines. It can be reached via two railway lines. These are the JR Narita Express with stops in Tokyo, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Yokohama and the private Keisei line with the Skyliner and Limited Express trains that connect Ueno Station with Narita Airport. Haneda Airport is connected to the Yamanote Line by the Tokyo Monorail.

The port of Tokyo forms a unit in Tokyo Bay together with the west of Yokohama and the east of Chiba. 25 percent of all industrial goods are shipped here worldwide. The annual cargo turnover is over 360 million tons. Most of the industries are located at the port, which explains the rapid expansion of the structural measures.

Local transport

Metro train on the Ginza Line

The construction of a modern road network turned out to be particularly difficult, as the streets of the old capital of Japan were very narrow and winding and completely unsuitable for car traffic. Before the Summer Olympics in 1964, however, main roads and city highways were built radiating out from the city center. They connect the center of Tokyo with a system of eight wide ring roads.

Since the 1960s, private car traffic has gradually been reduced in favor of public bus transport. Road traffic is still restricted today by the mostly narrow streets and the lack of parking spaces.

Since the opening of the first section of the Tokyo subway on December 30, 1927, a network with twelve lines and a total length of 292.6 kilometers, one of the largest in the world, has been built. The commissioning of a further line with a length of 8.9 kilometers is planned for 2007.

The Tokyo Subway is one of the most heavily used subways in the world. In contrast to most metros in other cities, vehicles with different gauges, pantograph systems and voltages are used on the various lines of the Tokyo subway, so that these vehicles can only run on their lines. The metro is run by two companies, the Tokyo Metro and the Toei (Tokyo Prefecture Transportation Office).

The city is also criss-crossed by a dense network of JR East S-Bahn trains and private suburban railways such as the Keiō Line and Odawara Line. The most important suburban trains are the Yamanote Line and the Chūō Main Line.

Public transport is also handled by urban and private buses as well as the Toden Arakawa line (tram) and various alternative rail systems such as the Yurikamome. Over 80 percent of the people transported in Tokyo are transported on the rail network. Even so, there are still major problems in Tokyo due to the high volume of traffic.

Because space is limited, some driving schools are on roofs. The oldest, in northern Tokyo, since 1966 on an ("Ito-Yokado") supermarket, has 35 cars there, each with a driving instructor, on imitation intersections and crosswalks. The motorcycle lessons were canceled due to the risk of falling. Other Japanese cities have long since taken up the idea.


Tokyo University, Akamon (Red Gate)

Tokyo is the center of education in Japan. The metropolitan area's numerous state and private universities make up a quarter of all universities in the country and about a third of all students in Japan are enrolled.

The University of Tokyo (Tōkyō daigaku, known by the abbreviation Todai) is the oldest and most prestigious state university in Japan. It has five campuses - four in the Tokyo metropolitan areas Hongo, Komaba, Shirokane and Nakano, and one in Kashiwa in Chiba Prefecture - as well as ten faculties with a total of around 28,000 students, 2,100 of whom are foreigners. Though just about every academic branch in the Todai It is probably best known for its law and literature faculties. Many important Japanese politicians are graduates of the Todai. The main campus is located on the former property of Kaga Yashiki, a feudal lord of the Edo period. A prominent boundary of the university campus there, the Akamon (Red Gate), is a holdover from that time.

The Keiō University (Keiō gijuku daigaku) is Japan's oldest and one of the most prestigious institutions for higher education. It was founded in 1858 by the famous educator and author Fukuzawa Yukichi as a private school for Western studies and established its first faculty in 1890. Although Keiō was the first progressive school in Japan, its importance quickly faded alongside the government-sponsored Tokyo University. One reason for this may have been the clouded relationship between Fukuzawa Yukichi and the samurai who supported the Meiji government at the time. Keiō is still vying for second place in the ranking with Waseda University. A famous former student of Keio is Junichirō Koizumi, who was Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006. The main campus is in the Tokyo district Mita. There is also the campus Hiyoshi, Shonan-Fujisawa and New York Keiō.

Waseda University (Waseda daigaku) is located in the north of the Shinjuku borough. The school was founded by the learned samurai Ōkuma Shigenobu in 1882 and declared a full university in 1902. Much of the campus was destroyed during the bombing of Tokyo in World War II, but the university was rebuilt and reopened in 1949. Waseda's literary branch is particularly famous and has Haruki Murakami and Machi Tawara among its graduates. Some famous politicians, such as former Prime Minister Mori Yoshirō and former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, are also former Waseda students. The university was also involved in the development of the WL-16, a walking robot.

Other universities are Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo University of Technology, Chūō University, Hosei University, Rikkyō University, Sophia University, Tokyo Woman's Christian University, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, the Musashino Art University and Tokyo Agriculture University (Tōkyō nōgyō daigaku). The State Library of the Lower House and the State Archives are located near the Imperial Palace.


Numerous well-known personalities were born in Tokyo. These include the American singer Nikka Costa, the American film actresses and sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, the painter Takashi Murakami, the American Japanese scientist Edwin O. Reischauer, the Japanese princess Takamatsu, the Norwegian actress and Director Liv Ullmann and the journalist of German television and presenter Ulrich Wickert.

See also:List of personalities of the city of Tokyo


  • Elke Hayashi-Mane: Day laborers and homeless people in Tokyo, Iudicium, 2005, ISBN 3-89129-181-7
  • Matthias Eichhorn: Commuter traffic in Tokyo. Problems and Perspectives, Holos, 1997, ISBN 3-86097-426-2
  • Martin Lutterjohann: Tokyo with Yokohama and Kyoto, Reise Know-How Verlag Rump, 2004, ISBN 3-8317-1251-4
  • Evelyn Schulz: City Discourses in the Records of Tokyo Prosperity (Tokyo hano ki), Iudicium, 2004, ISBN 3-89129-775-0
  • Dusan Simko: Tokyo residents and pollution. Case Study: The Ojima Neighborhood in Koto-ku., Birkhäuser-Verlag, 1990, ISBN 3-7643-2539-9
  • Gottfried Wohlmannstetter: Tokyo financial center, Knapp, Frankfurt am Main, 1998, ISBN 3-7819-1167-5

Individual evidence