Geography and Administrative Divisions - Tokyo Travel Guide

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Geography and Administrative Divisions

Shibuya, Tokyo

Tokyo Metropolis consists of three major parts: the twenty-three special wards (constituting the former Tokyo City); Tama area; and the islands.

The mainland portion of Tokyo lies northwest of Tokyo Bay and measures about 90 km east to west and 25 km north to south. It borders Chiba Prefecture to the east, Yamanashi Prefecture to the west, Kanagawa Prefecture to the south, and Saitama Prefecture to the north. Mainland Tokyo is further subdivided into the special wards (occupying the eastern half) and the Tama area (多摩地方) stretching westwards.

Also within the administrative bounaries of Tokyo Metropolis are two island chains in the Pacific Ocean directly south: the Izu Islands, which are almost parallel to the Izu Peninsula; and the Ogasawara Islands, which stretch more than 1,000 km away from mainland Japan.

Under Japanese law, Tokyo is designated as a to (都, often translated "metropolis"). Its administrative structure is similar to that of Japan's other prefectures. Within Tokyo lie dozens of smaller entities, most of them conventionally referred to as cities. It includes twenty-three special wards (特別区 -ku) which until 1943 comprised the city of Tokyo but are now separate, self-governing municipalities, each with a mayor and a council, and having the status of a city. In addition to these 23 municipalities, Tokyo also encompasses 26 more cities (市 -shi), five towns (町 -chō or machi), and eight villages (村 -son or -mura), each of which has a local government. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is headed by a publicly-elected governor and metropolitan assembly. Its headquarters are in the ward of Shinjuku. They govern all of Tokyo, including lakes, rivers, dams, farms, remote islands, and national parks in addition to its famous neon jungle, skyscrapers and crowded subways.


The twenty-three special wards
The special wards (tokubetsu-ku) of Tokyo comprise the area formerly known as Tokyo City, usually simply known as "Tokyo". In July 1, 1943, Tokyo City was merged to Tokyo Prefecture (until June, 1943) (東京府, tokyo-fu), lost municipality status and was divided into wards.

Each ward is a local municipality with its own elected mayor and assembly, differing from an ordinary city in that certain governmental functions are handled by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and, for most, also differing in having no particular center and little cultural or similar distinctiveness from the immediate surroundings.

As of September 1, 2003, the official total population of the special wards combined was about 8.34 million, with a population density of 13,416 persons per square kilometer.

The term "central Tokyo" today may refer to the special wards, the areas largely within the Yamanote Line loop (Shinjuku, Toshima, Bunkyo, Taito, Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, and Shibuya), or to the three "central wards" of Chiyoda, Chūō and Minato. While the generally-accepted center of Tokyo is the Imperial Palace, as a rail-centric city, there are a number of major urban centers where business, shopping, and entertainment are concentrated around major train stations. These include:

  • Shinjuku
    Location of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The area is best known for Tokyo's early skyscrapers, erected in the 1970s. Major department stores, electronics stores and hotels can also be found here. On the east side of Shinjuku Station, Kabuki-cho is notorious for its many bars and nightclubs. Shinjuku Station moves an estimated three million passengers a day, making it the busiest in the world.
  • Marunouchi and Otemachi
    The main financial and business district of Tokyo has many headquarters of banks, trading companies and other major corporations. The area is seeing a major redevelopment with new buildings for shopping and entertainment constructed in front of Tokyo Station's Marunouchi side.
  • Ginza and Yurakucho
    Major shopping and entertainment district with department stores, upscale shops selling brand-name goods, and movie theaters.
  • Shinbashi
    An area revitalized by being the gateway to Odaiba and the new Shiodome Shiosite complex of high-rise buildings.
  • Shinagawa
    In addition to the major hotels on the west side of Shinagawa Station, the former sleepy east side of the station has been redeveloped as a major center for business.
  • Shibuya
    A long-time center of shopping, fashion and entertainment, especially for the younger set. Shibuya is also home to some of Tokyo's largest and newest nightclubs.
  • Ikebukuro
    The busiest interchange in north central Tokyo, featuring Sunshine City and various shopping destinations.
  • Ueno
    Ueno Station serves areas north of Tokyo from where many people commute. Besides department stores and shops in Ameyoko, Ueno boasts Ueno Park, Ueno Zoo and major national museums. In spring, Ueno Park and adjacent Shinobazu Pond are prime places to view cherry blossoms.
  • Odaiba
    A large, reclaimed, waterfront area that has become one of Tokyo's most popular shopping and entertainment districts.
  • Nagatacho
    The political heart of Tokyo and the nation. It is the location of the Diet, government ministries, and party headquarters.
  • Akasaka
    A district with a range of restaurants, clubs and hotels; many pedestrian alleys giving it a local neighbourhood feel. Next to Roppongi, Nagatacho, and Aoyama.
  • Aoyama
    A neighborhood of Tokyo with parks, an enormous cemetery, expensive housing, trendy cafes and international restaurants. Includes the Omotesando subway station.
Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower is a tower in Shiba Park, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan. It is 333 m (1093 ft) tall, making it one of the world's highest self-supporting steel towers and the tallest man-made structure in Japan.
Tokyo Tower Information
Ueno Zoo, Tokyo

The Ueno Zoo is a zoo, owned by the government of Tokyo, and located in Taito Ward, Tokyo, Japan.
Ueno Zoo Information
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