Roots of Japan


Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, forming wide-area local public entities. Tokyo is a “to” (metropolis), Hokkaido is a “dō” (a circuit or territory), Kyoto and Osaka are “fu” (urban prefectures) and the other 43 areas are “ken” (prefectures proper). Let's take a trip around Japan, starting with Tokyo.

Tokyo tops the list as the most popular destination for foreign tourists. The city is filling with more and more excitement as the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics / Paralympics draws near. Its total population is approximately 14 million. The area is approximately 2,190 ㎢.

In 2016's Global Power City Index, Tokyo claimed the No. 3 ranking, with London in first place and New York coming in second. In Then, the World's Top 25 Most Liveable Cities, Tokyo is placed second, after Copenhagen! Tokyo ranked first in the statistics announced for Gross Regional Product (GRP) in 2015. Tokyo is also said to have the largest city economy in the world. The economic scale of Tokyo is 1.4 times that of New York, which comes in at Number two.

With regards to public safety, in the "Safe Cities Index” published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Tokyo received a score of 89.80 out of 100, making it the number one safest city in the world. Tokyo is often divided into three areas; wards, a Tama area and island areas. Made up of 23 special wards, if these are viewed as one municipality, it becomes the biggest city in Japan.

Kyoto was the country's capital until the establishment of the Edo Shogunate in 1603. Since that time, Edo (now Tokyo) became the political and administrative center of Japan. However, as the imperial palace and judicial / administrative / legislative organizations were still located in Kyoto, it wasn't really the “Capital” until these core functions moved to Tokyo in 1868. Now the heart of Tokyo is lined with high-rise buildings and bustles with people.

The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 left 100,000 people dead or missing and in 1945, 70,000 people were reported dead or missing in the Great Tokyo Air Raids, reducing downtown Tokyo to ashes. Excluding the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the death toll was the highest of any air raid in history. As we walk through Tokyo, not simply seeing its brilliant rapid growth but also feeling this part of its history, we will be able to see a different side to the city.

Remote islands with stunning natural scenery are a part of the Tokyo area too. The Izu Islands, with 18 islands, and the 16 islands of the Ogasawara Islands are called the Island areas of Tokyo. However, the islands you can actually set foot on are 9 Izu Islands - Ōshima, To-shima, Nii-jima, Kōzu-shima, Miyake-jima, Mikura-jima, Hachijō-jima, Shikine-jima and Aogashima plus Chichijima and Hahajima of the Ogasawara Islands, making a total of 11 islands.

Some islands may require a long trip by plane or high-speed ferry but the islands welcome us with rich nature, time to relax and depending on the island, a warm climate. Whether it's an island where you can swim with the dolphins or an island where you can get a close up view of a lava flow, the remains of an eruption which happened 2,000 years ago, each of the 11 islands has its own distinct character so we recommend you visit them all!

With so many sides to Tokyo, what places do foreign visitors choose to visit? Here we'll introduce 15 classic spots!

1/ Sensoji Temple
2/ Tokyo Tower
3/ Tokyo Skytree
4/ Akihabara
5/ Imperial Palace (former site of Edo Castle)
6/ Nihonbashi / Ginza
7/ Meiji Shrine
8/ Tsukiji Market
9/ Edo-Tokyo Museum
10/ Ameya-Yokochō
11/ Shibuya Crossing
12/ Harajuku / Takeshita street
13/ Tokyo Station
14/ Ueno Onshi Park / Ueno Zoo
15/ Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

From modern sights, such as the Tokyo Skytree or Takeshita street, the home of "Kawaii" culture, all the way to Meiji Shrine with its traditional and majestic atmosphere, Tokyo is a city which blends together a variety of elements. There are also many areas of the city that can be enjoyed according to the season. For example, in spring we can go on cherry blossom picnics to such famous places as Meguro river, Chidorigafuchi, Yoyogi Park, Sumida Park or Shouwakinen Park etc.

In Fall, we can enjoy autumn-leaf viewing in parks or in mountains rich in nature. For example, Hamarikyu Gardens, Koishikawa Koraku-en garden, Hibiya Park, Meiji Shrine Outer Garden or Mt. Takaosan. You may also get the chance to see illumination displays created in collaboration with high-rise buildings or with famous places, lit up against the night scenery.

Activities such as cherry blossom picnics or autumn-leaf viewings are known in Japan as “kouraku”, which means “outing” or “excursion”. What began in Edo as a form of entertainment, is even now a beloved part of Japanese culture. Other well-known forms of entertainment that originated in Edo are Kabuki and Edo Rakugo.

Kabuki is one of Japan's traditional performing arts. As a form of theatre unique to Japan, in 2005 UNESCO declared it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In 2008 it was put on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza opened in 1889 and is dedicated solely to Kabuki performances. Even after fire and wartime damage it remains today a famous Kabuki theatre.

However, it has been rebuilt 4 times since it was originally constructed. Meanwhile, Edo Rakugo refers to a classical form of Rakugo, or traditional comic storytelling, that focused on performing in Edo (now Tokyo) during the Edo period (1603 - 1868) / Meiji period (1868 - 1912) and the Taishō period (1912 - 1926). In contrast with “Edo Rakugo”, there is a form of rakugo performed mainly in Osaka and Kyoto called “Kamigata Rakugo”. You might enjoy discovering the differences between them!

Not simply in the area of entertainment but several art forms also came from Edo. “Nishiki-e”, multi-colored woodblock printing, “Ukiyo-e”, woodblock prints and “haikai”, a seventeen-syllable verse. Ukiyo-e is extremely popular even now, both inside and outside of Japan, and the works of Ukiyo-e print artists can command high prices.

In the Edo period, Ukiyo-e prints were made cheaply, and were even used as packaging or wrapping paper when pottery was exported overseas. This was most likely the reason why this Japanese art form spread overseas. Entertainment and culture that started in Edo.

Also, Edo gave us some of the Japanese food that we still love today!

1/ Edomae-zush
2/ Buckwheat noodles
3/ Tempura
4/ Takuan or Pickled daikon radish
5/ Unadon / Grilled eel rice bowl
6/ Ochazuke / Japanese rustic soup of rice with tea
7/ Monjayaki
8/ Pork cutlet
9/ Dojo-nabe (Yanagawa-nabe, Dozeu-nabe, deep-fried food)
10/ Dorayaki / Imagawa-yaki cakes
11/ Polished white rice
12/Tsukemono / Japanese Pickles
13/ Negima-nabe
14/ Fukagawa-meshi / Rice topped with clams and Japanese long onions cooked in miso

Have you tried any of these dishes? "Chanko-nabe", which was created at the end of the Meiji period (1868 - 1912), is also a famous local specialty of Tokyo. For those of you who haven't had a chance to eat any of these 15 dishes - why not give some of them a try??

Whether it's tourist attractions or food culture, Tokyo is a city that combines cutting-edge technology with old traditions. No wonder so many people are drawn here! You, too, can discover the charm of Tokyo's mix of old and new.

It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.