One of the largest cities in the world Tokyo today counts more than 35 thousand inhabitants. Its historical background has made it a very peculiar city, different area by area. It was originally called Edo, and started as a fishermen village built around a castle by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Through its economic and social growth it gradually became the center of Japanese urban culture. It was in 1868 that the Royal family left Kyoto to move to the newly named Tokyo (the oriental capital), since it was the fastest modernizing Japanese city. Not much is left of the old Edo and Tokyo, due to the natural disasters and bombings in WWII. Today it has been rebuilt into a very western looking city, but in some corners of the city you can still find some fascinating sanctuary or temple. The city is always changing and it’s impossible not to fall in love with its energy and vibe.
The heart of Tokyo is the Imperial Palace, where the emperor and empress reside since 1888. The area of the palace is vast and surrounded by gardens, stone walls and moats, but unfortunately there is not much to see for tourists walking around. There is the possibility to book same day guided tours, which leave at 10:00 and 13:30 every day. You can also apply online through this link: http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/index.html The inner grounds are open to public only on January 2 and December 23 (the emperor’s
birthday). If not you can walk around the gardens and chill in the Wakadura Fountain Park, and take a picture in front of the Ote-mon Gate or the Nijubashi Bridge. You can also walk in the East Gardens, where you can find a dreamy japanese pond with a waterfall (closed only on mondays and fridays).
Around the area other sights are the Tokyo Station, which was built in 1914 with a very European style with its red brick facade and dome (exit from the Marunouchi side). The station has since expanded and now also holds a gallery, where exhibitions are organized. Close to the station there is the Marunouchi building that, from its 36th floor offers a wonderful view over the Imperial Palace area.
When you walk around this area you’ll feel like you are walking in the financial district of a western city, and it isn’t a coincidence that you can also find the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Bank of Tokyo (the first western-style building designed by a Japanese architect, in 1898). It is also the largest office area in the whole country!
North of the station you can get to Nihonbashi bridge, the point from which the streets of Japan originate. Unfortunately for the 1964 Olympics an expressway was built on top of the bridge, obscuring the landmark.