Tokyo cityscape
Updated 11 months ago

Tokyo. The Japanese capital city attracts and fascinates as it gathers, within itself, everything to please the largest number of people. It offers a wide range of career prospects, accommodation, security, a beautiful heritage and mixed neighbourhoods with many developed open spaces which are natural sources of fresh air in the urban landscape. Many Japanese and expatriates choose Tokyo for the incredible openings it offers.

Tokyo's geography and demography

The Tokyoite urban density is at all-time high, with more than 6,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. Tokyo (meaning 'The Greater Tokyo area, the Tokyo megalopolis") only represents 2% of the Japanese territory. The capital, with a population above 37 million inhabitants, holds nearly 28% of the population. It is one of the most densely inhabited urban areas in the world.

The capital city's name is written as 京 (tôkyô), literally meaning 'The capital of the east".

Governor: Yuriko Koike, since 2016. She is the first woman to hold this post.

The Greater Tokyo area: 37,468,302 million inhabitants (2018 stats).

The City of Tokyo: 13,843,403 million inhabitants (2018 stats)

Area: 2,190 km²

Population density: 6320.70 inhabitants/km²

Tokyo has 23 "åº/ku" special wards:

  • Shinjuku-ku
  • Shibuya-ku
  • Nakano-ku
  • Toshima-ku
  • Bunkyo-ku
  • Chiyoda-ku
  • Chuo-ku
  • Minato-ku
  • Koto-ku
  • Sumida-ku
  • Taito-ku
  • Arakawa-ku
  • Kita-ku
  • Itabashi-ku
  • Nerima-ku
  • Suginami-ku
  • Setagaya-ku
  • Meguro-ku
  • Shinagawa-ku
  • Ota-ku
  • Adachi-ku
  • Katsushika-ku
  • Edogawa-ku

What are the boundaries of Tokyo? The megalopolis is constantly expanding, sucking up the surrounding cities to the extent of concealing the nearby territories.

Tokyo'¦before: a fishing village

Does the capital of Japan really exist?


In the middle of the Second World War, the military government cast aside the city of Tokyo leaving only its 23 special wards. Therefore from an administrative perspective, the city of Tokyo no longer exists since 1943; we talk about 'capital prefecture" or "metropolitan-prefecture". A change that has no impact on the daily lives of the inhabitants, but which describes why it is so difficult to quantify the population: the city of origin no longer being existent, Tokyo continues spreading. It has become an area with a single urban-administrative division. When we talk about Tokyo, we consider the "Greater Tokyo", as the megalopolis.

This unique urban division is a legacy from the past. Back to the 12th century: Edo Shigenaga, a member of the clan of the same name, decided to set up his fiefdom in a small fishing village to which he gave his name: "Edo" (æ±æ¸), 'The River's gate".

It has a poetical meaning that reminds you that the village is crossed by the Sumida River. Edo grew to become one of the most important cities in Asia in the 17th century. In 1868, new changes took place: the beginning of the Meiji era, industrial revolution, Japan and the rest of the world stood opposite each other. Edo became Tokyo, "the capital of the East".

The climate challenge

Tokyo's humid subtropical climate offers relatively mild winters. Summers are scorching and humid. The heat wave tends to worsen over the years. Summer 2018 has been one of the hottest summers, with temperatures exceeding 35°. The summer of 2017 was already particularly hot too, with records set at 40°. This situation has steered the organisers of the next Olympic Games in 2020 to be extremely focused. There are talks about adjusting some events regarding the country's temperature. For example, starting the marathon at dawn.

The two most pleasant seasons are spring and autumn. Spring is mild, and it is at this time that the sakura (æ¡), the Japanese cherry blossoms, to the great joy of the locals. Autumn is also a very popular season; the weather is pleasant, and you get the chance to enjoy the beautiful show of the Momiji (ç´è) the Japanese maple flowers.

Japan has four seasons of which two are rainy ones. The first, (June-July) falls in the middle of summer. Violent rains can fall continuously for several hours. The second takes place in September-October. These two periods also bring cyclones and tropical storms, as if to remind you of the fragile side of Japan.

Japan is situated in one of the world's most dangerous and active seismic zones. The island is located on three tectonic plates: the Philippine plate, the Eurasian plate, and the North American plate. When these plates collide, they cause earthquakes: in Japan, there are slight earthquakes every day. While some of these daily crackles are not very serious, on the other hand, some have had tragic consequences, for example, the 2011 disaster.

Japan, particularly Tokyo, lives in fear of the Big One, an 8 or 9 magnitude earthquake that could destroy the whole capital. On June 18, 2018, when a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Osaka, experts rekindled their fears, and this brought them to take preventive measures. Thus, Japan is at the forefront in terms of anti-seismic constructions. The country has chosen to go into debts to finance research and build safe housing.

All the expenses made to improve the living conditions eventually burden the household budgets. As a result, Tokyo remains at the top of the most expensive cities in the world. In 2018, it ranked second (after Hong Kong), and this can be of great concern to soon-to-be expatriates. However, by detailing expenditure items, it indicates that living in Tokyo is entirely conceivable.

Living in Tokyo

The average monthly salary is 2,120â¬, which is about 10% higher than the average monthly salary in some Western countries. While rents and transport remain significant expenses, food is generally affordable ' except for fruits, which are often expensive. An essential step towards living on a budget would be to adopt the Tokyoite lifestyle.

Shopping: seasonal vegetables are financially beneficial, and shopping is done once a week.

Transport: Get yourself a bike! Tokyo has done a lot to make everyday life easier for cyclists and pedestrians.

Housing: The best real estate deals are the ones far away from the Tokyo hyper-centre (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato).

Many Tokyoites live in the districts near the city centre (Bunkyo, Nakano, Toshima, Itabashi, etc.) where rents are cheaper. Others have moved even further away, and settled in neighbouring prefectures: Saitama, Kanagawa (and its capital, Yokohama), Chiba, etc. Again, the cost of living is lower than in Tokyo. However, the Japanese capital city remains prominent: more work, more opportunities.

Nature in Tokyo

Most wards have their own urban open space. In Bunkyo, the Kôrakuen garden is a real national treasure. In Shinjuku, you can relax in Shinjuku-gyoen, one of Tokyo's largest parks.

While access to these gardens is not free of charge, you can still find others that are as beautiful as the paid ones. Yoyogi and neighbouring Meiji-jingu, both located next to Harajuku Station, offer a restful break from the city's hustle and bustle.

The contrast is remarkable. Harajuku, the fashion district and temple of pop culture, is full of unconventional boutiques, with tastes of rock, punk, retro, "kawaii" (meaning cute, in Japanese). And at the same time, Harajuku hosts two of the most beautiful Tokyoite-style gardens. Walkers and joggers flock there, especially in the morning, to avoid the tourist inflow. In these gardens (the one in Meiji-jingu hosts the Shinto shrine of the same name), you will find peace and serenity without any doubt. The capital of Japan has a thousand faces and each of them has a thousand different aspects. That's another characteristic of the Tokyo miracle.

Additional information

If Tokyo was a tree...

It would be a Ginkgo biloba (ichô/ã¤ãã§ã¦). Growing all over the city, the tree takes a beautiful amber colour in autumn (during the kôyô season along with the Momiji, Japanese maples).

Good to know:

The TOKYO METRO company has adopted the ginkgo leaf as its logo.

If Tokyo was a flower...

It would be a cherry blossom (æ¡/sakura) specifically, a "somei yoshino" (æäºåé). It is the country's most favourite flowers: 80% of Japanese cherry trees are somei yoshino. They have been there since the existence of Edo, and carry in their own way, a little bit of Japanese history.

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